These 7 gaslighting techniques are important narcissistic traits to recognize, especially if you are a highly empathic person. This way, you can try to avoid internalizing it as a fault within yourself and avoid losing yourself to stress, depression, and anxiety – ultimately complex PTSD.
Narcissists gaslight for power
Especially as a spiritually interested person, it is important to be aware of these danger signs. Leaders of any kind often have more narcissistic traits than other people, but it is exceptionally easy to be a leader within a field based on personal experiences, beliefs, and faith. The much-vaunted gut feeling is often the reason things go wrong, as by trusting heavily manipulated feelings, one ends up going the wrong way. Knowledge and mentalization are therefore the way forward in any relationship with a narcissist. This article is aimed at those who believe they are in a relationship with a narcissist, or who participate in communities with one or more narcissists.
What is gaslighting?
The term gaslighting covers a wide range of manipulation techniques and methods, which especially people with unhealthy high narcissism use to gain control over their victim. It happens both unconsciously and consciously and helps narcissism maintain its artificially inflated self-image.
Both people with the well-known grandiose type of narcissism and the lesser-known covert narcissism use gaslighting techniques.
7 gaslighting techniques you should know
Below, I will go through 7 gaslighting techniques that are surprisingly common and therefore important to recognize.
1. The narcissist builds you up and tears you down alternately
When the narcissist alternately tears you down or builds you up, it is to gain control over you. Being around a narcissist is a very confusing experience because they will always use this technique. You can feel infinitely loved by a person with unhealthy high narcissism, but you will also be made aware of a lot of flaws that you supposedly possess. Whether the feedback you get in a given situation is positive or negative is solely based on the narcissist’s feelings at the time or how scheming they are.
As a relative of a narcissist, it is normal to become dependent on positive building feedback. All the breakdown that also occurs makes the positive part of the game vital. It is a very unhealthy situation (for both parties) that causes chronic stress in the victim, who never really knows if they are in good graces or a complete idiot. The dependency and familiarity of the victim are the reasons why many go from one narcissist to another.
Examples of ways the narcissist tears you down:
- Anger and malice
- Ignores you
- Non-constructive criticism/degradation
Examples of positive feedback you may receive from the narcissist:
- Pride in you (primarily towards others, so it’s about the narcissist again)
2. Breadcrumbing: Giving a little to get a lot
Breadcrumbing means throwing breadcrumbs, and narcissists keep relationships alive by giving small “crumbs” of themselves. The purpose is to keep the other party interested and searching for more. It can be seen in small messages like “Do you want to see me?” Here, it is not enough for the victim to say yes because it is beneath the narcissist’s dignity to be the one arranging the actual meeting. The idea is that you should start asking when it suits them and what the narcissist wants to do.
Breadcrumbing often occurs between building up and tearing down (as described in point 1).
3. Knowledge about vulnerability is used against you
If a narcissist knows something about you that you don’t like or that has the potential to deeply hurt you, it will be used against you as bait to start unpleasant feelings in you. The narcissist usually acquires this knowledge quite quickly in a relationship that is often close and intimate very early on.
The purpose of starting unpleasant feelings in you is likely to:
start an argument that makes the narcissist forget their own bad feelings and make it about you give the narcissist a sense of power over you and make you appear as the fool who is out of control.
4. Intellectual dominance
Narcissists often use speech to make others doubt themselves and gain adoration. Often it is an extremely long stream of speech with no real content or coherence. The words also come without regard for whether the listener or listeners are interested in the topic. It’s about building up the narcissist and maintaining the impression that he is important. If you try to ask questions along the way, you often get flying opaque answers or disproportionate anger if the question is critical.
One can become very overwhelmed by intellectual condescension, such as being bombarded with knowledge about a single topic, which is a technique many salespeople and politicians use. You reach a point where your brain shuts down, and you have to take their information at face value.
Triangulating in this context means to play people against each other. Something that may seem unconstructive at first, but gives the narcissist a feeling of power. The victim can be put into competition with people they have never met, such as former partners or others in the narcissist’s life. This often happens very subtly, as the narcissist speaks incredibly highly of them, but disparagingly about you. However, direct comparisons also occur.
Other examples of triangulation:
Narcissists often do not like their partner to have others in their life besides themselves, as it poses a risk of them becoming less significant to the victim. Therefore, they often try to make their partner’s surroundings appear less positive or make their partner look bad to their friends and family.
When parents are narcissists, they often have a favorite child or switch between who they give positive attention to. Often with the purpose of making the non-favored child feel less worthy and thus appear powerful themselves, as both children will strive for positive attention. However, the favored child receives hollow love, as the primary goal of the child is to make the parent look good.
If someone in your social circle badmouths others in front of you, it’s likely that they also talk poorly about you behind your back. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a sign of narcissism, but it is a red flag.
A person with too much narcissism is almost always really good at exaggerating. We see it primarily in two ways:
in the form of exaggerating their own good deeds or accomplishments blowing others’ opinions and feelings out of proportion A narcissist will often entertain themselves for a long time about themselves, or about how terrible others are. Deep into a relationship, it can appear extremely pompous, self-aggrandizing, and relatively comical. However, in American culture, it’s quite normal for men to emphasize their own worth a bit, so many potential partners don’t see it as a warning sign, even though it is.
Discussing with a narcissist becomes, among other things, an absurd game due to the exaggerations, as arguments are blown way out of proportion – which one often can’t argue against without coming across as condescending or know-it-all: two things that victims of narcissists feel uncomfortable with, which may well be due to the fear of the anger that lies just below the surface of the narcissist.
Exaggerations are usually easier to spot than outright lies, although lies are also part of the arsenal that narcissists often use.
7. Mirroring of others
Mirroring is a part of our human nature. It’s the way we learn as very young children and something that happens throughout our lives. We may unconsciously start to resemble those we spend a lot of time with, share the same tone and way of speaking, and so on. Usually, the people we get very close to are the ones we can mirror ourselves in.
Manipulative people unfortunately know this and use it in a more conscious form, where they take over your interests and opinions – almost without limits. It can therefore seem as if this person is perfect for you – you simply have everything in common. Mirroring is therefore an incredibly effective method of attraction, especially in the early stages of a relationship.
There are many more ways to spot narcissism, but the above 7 are a good place to start.