If you’re involved in a toxic relationship with a narcissist (or even a person with NPD or narcissistic personality disorder), then you have probably been the victim of gaslighting at some point.
The term “gaslighting” comes from a 1944 movie called Gaslight in which a husband tries to slowly drive his wife insane to cover up a big secret. There are three primary stages of gaslighting, as it applies to the psychological term.
The 3-Ds: The Stages of Gaslighting
Gaslighting Stage One: Disbelief
“The process of gaslighting happens in stages – although the stages are not always linear and do overlap at times, they reflect very different emotional and psychological states of mind,” writes psychoanalyst Robin Stern in Psychology Today. “The first stage is disbelief: when the first sign of gaslighting occurs. You think of the gaslighting interaction as a strange behavior or an anomalous moment. During this first stage, things happen between you and your partner – or your boss, friend, family member – that seem odd to you.”
So, in layman’s terms–that means you’ll find yourself wondering what just happened. You’ll think the person just “sort of snapped” and that the behavior might be out of character.
You’ll be shocked at some of the things the narcissist says to you–and you’ll find yourself going “huh?” when he reacts or responds to you. A gaslighter almost seems to go out of his way to make you wonder–but he’s not really trying to do that.
He’s just being himself–a narcissist.
Gaslighting Stage Two: Defense
“In the second stage, defense, the gaslightee has begun to second-guess himself,” writes TheWeek.com’s Shannon Firth.
This means that you start to wonder if maybe the narcissist is right–maybe you are the one to blame. You find yourself being constantly criticized by the narcissist and you being to think that you are really as slow, stupid, bad, lazy or whatever other rudeness is being spewed your way.
Again, often the narcissist doesn’t even see what he’s doing here–but you won’t miss it. You’ll feel almost exhausted by the constant barrage of insults and digs being thrown your way, and you might even vow to make personal changes in order to become whatever it is the narcissist says you’re not. You lose a bit of yourself, really.
Gaslighting Stage Three: Depression
“By the time you get to this stage you are experiencing a noticeable lack of joy, and you hardly recognize yourself anymore. Some of your behavior feels truly alien,” according to Marriage Advocates. “You feel more cut off from friends – in fact, you don’t talk to people about your relationship very much – none of them like your guy. People may express concern about how you are and how you are feeling – they treat you like you really do have a problem.”
At this point, you’re probably in need of a serious life overhaul. Whether you get professional help or you simply take your power back by recognizing the serious nature of the situation and taking appropriate action to make it change–you’ve got to do something.
Staying in a gaslighting situation is clearly dangerous for you as a person, but in some cases, it can become even more serious since some narcissists will abuse their victims physically too.
- Toxic Narcissism in Relationships: Top 10 Warning Signs You’re Being Gaslighted
- Toxic Relationship Hacks: 10 Shocking Facts About Narcissistic People
- Narcissistic Rage and Narcissistic Injury: What You Need to Know
- Are you being gaslighted? 10 things you need to know if you love a narcissist
- Help for Victims of Narcissism and Gaslighting
- How Self-Proclaimed Narcissist Sam Vaknin Gaslighted Me on Facebook
- This is the Only Way to Communicate With a Narcissist Effectively
- Queen Bee QT: 7 Keys to Being Diplomatic in a Difficult Conversation
Angela Atkinson is a Certified Life Coach and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic relationships since 2006, Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed coaching and has certifications in life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy. In her life coaching practice, Atkinson’s clients enjoy her personalized approach that allows and encourages them to become the best possible versions of themselves and to succeed in doing what they love most. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online and NarcissismSupportCoach.com.