“The truth hurts,” they say.
Instead of accepting reality, people tend to apply avoidance strategies—hoping that doing so will magically erase roadblocks in the long run. When you navigate the world using a fragile ego as a compass, the truth doesn’t set you free; it propels you into a state of fury or even leaves you trapped in an abyss of endless, internal agony. For some, acknowledging the truth’s affiliation with characterlogical imperfections is unbearable and evokes extreme avoidance; the truth about the self becomes too much to stomach—so much so that these folks repeatedly repel the shame and guilt connected to the flaws, and, essentially, vomit them onto someone else. Narcissistic folks tend to do this in their sleep without remorse, and, for them, the truth becomes an ingested toxin that triggers severe bouts of chronic food poisoning.
When narcissistic folks fail to authentically take accountability for their destructive behaviors, gaslighting tends to be one of the first items that they select from their shelves stocked with stacks of relentless, emotionally abusive tactics. Gaslighting refers to comments, questions, and even gestures that narcissistic folks use to target the victim—gaslightee—in order to manipulate them, making them seriously question their perceptive abilities or gut instincts. Gaslighting presents itself in explicit and passive aggressive forms, leaves the gaslightee on the verge of insanity, and evokes a nearly diminished self-confidence. Those who are gaslit by narcissistic folks also become at risk for eventually gaslighting themselves. When this happens, the gaslightee strays from the actual truth and, instead, adopts the narcissist’s distorted reality.
Narcissistic folks often use the passive aggressive silent treatment with accompanying gestures—such as visibly greeting others versus the gaslightee—to evoke inappropriate guilt. They may also use direct communication as a way to feign innocence or adopt the victim façade:
“You can’t take a joke?”
“You’re too sensitive.”
By using this type of verbal communication, the narcissist pretends to be harmless. However, we know that their behaviors are actually harmful, persistent, pervasive, and repetitive. Narcissistic folks tend to have several tricks up their sleeves. Despite this, gaslightees can empower themselves and learn how to detect the gaslighting by referring to the acronym DARVO, which highlights the series of manipulative mechanisms that the narcissist uses to emotionally abuse them and others:
Deny: The narcissist deflects, denies, and refuses taking accountability for their harmful, manipulative intentions and behaviors.
Attack: The raging narcissist lashes out or becomes verbally abusive after the victim confronts their undue behaviors; they may also falsely accuse the victim of being unreasonable.
Reverse, Victim, Offender: The narcissist attempts to feign innocence, suggests that the victim is the actual offender, and continues spewing false accusations in order to distort the victim’s perception of reality.
If you’ve been grappling as a gaslightee and would like formal support with navigating narcissistic abuse, trust your gut and consider reaching out to a licensed therapist today.