“You’re unreasonable, over-sensitive, forgetful, and prone to irrational thoughts and over-the-top reactions.”
If any of these phrases sound familiar, you could be the victim of gaslighting.
Gaslighting is a manipulative technique often employed by narcissists and psychopaths. It’s designed to make you doubt your reality and sanity and buy wholeheartedly into their version of events.
Gaslighting causes the victim to question everything, providing self-doubt and uncertainty so consistently that they start to experience anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.
The trouble with gaslighting is that it’s meant to confuse you, so can be challenging to identify, especially when used consistently.
I’ve come up with the following examples of narcissistic gaslighting to show you what to look out for and to help you identify this manipulative tactic when it’s used against you.
How do you know the Narcissist is Gaslighting You?
You can tell a narcissist is gaslighting both from their behavior and your own. For instance, if you’re experiencing any of the following issues, it could be because you’re being gaslighted:
- Do you have trouble making decisions, even simple ones, like what to have for breakfast?
- Do you find yourself constantly making excuses for the narcissist’s behavior?
- Do you find yourself second-guessing yourself and your memories?
- Do you blame yourself for your narcissistic partner’s behavior?
- Do you try to convince yourself that the narcissist’s behavior isn’t that bad and that you’re simply overreacting?
- Do you think you’re over-sensitive and react too strongly to things?
- Do you doubt your memory and sanity?
- Do you feel lonely and trapped?
- Are you constantly questioning your own feelings and observations?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you could be the victim of gaslighting. If you suspect that to be the case, take a look at the following behaviors and see if they ring any bells:
Does the narcissist in your life refuse to admit something or deny it even when you show them evidence?
Does someone you know insist that an event never happened, even though you witnessed it?
Does your narcissistic partner change the subject when you confront them about a lie?
Does someone you love blame you for everything that goes wrong, insisting that if you didn’t behave the way you do, none of this would happen?
Does your narcissistic partner say one thing and then do something else entirely?
12 Examples of the Narcissist Gaslighting
Narcissists use gaslighting to manipulate and control those around them. Here, I’d like to explore some narcissist gaslighting examples to give you a clearer idea of what it looks like and how it works.
#1 “You’re making a big deal out of nothing.”
This is a classic example of a narcissist minimizing the other person’s feelings and experiences. They use this tactic to downplay the significance of the victim’s emotions or concerns, making them question their reactions and judgment.
For instance, you complain to your partner that they expect you to do everything around the house, even though you both work full-time.
When you confront them about it, they respond by saying, “You’re making a big deal out of nothing. My mom and sister seem to manage just fine.”
With this response, the narcissist dismisses your concern by implying that your feelings are exaggerated or unwarranted. They make you question your feelings and doubt the validity of your complaint.
Gaslighting, through minimization, invalidates the victim’s emotions and shifts the power dynamic in favor of the gaslighter.
You may start to doubt yourself, feel guilty for speaking up, and may even avoid addressing similar issues in the future, perpetuating the gaslighter’s control over the relationship.
#2 “I’m just worried about you. You’re so sensitive it’s starting to affect our relationship.”
This form of gaslighting makes the victim question their emotional responses and overall mental state. Such comments invalidate your emotions, making you feel as though you’ve overreacted to the situation.
By shifting the focus away from themselves and onto your perceived sensitivity, the narcissist deflects responsibility for their behavior and blames you for the problem.
Over time, such behavior may make you reluctant to express your emotions, fearing that your sensitivity will continue to be a source of conflict in the relationship.
#3 “You’re imagining things. This paranoia has got to stop.”
Narcissists use this type of gaslighting to make you doubt your perceptions, experiences, and sanity. It attempts to control your reality by making you question your version of events.
By labeling your concerns as “paranoia” and suggesting that you’re imagining things, the narcissist dismisses the validity of your feelings and downplays your experience and emotions, making you question your response.
It also shifts the blame onto you, protecting the narcissist’s image and allowing them to avoid responsibility. It gives them control over the narrative, isolating you and making it more difficult for you to speak up in the future.
#4 “You’re the one who’s always trying to control everything.”
In this gaslighting example, the narcissist is projecting their own desire for control onto you, making you second-guess yourself and question your motives.
By accusing you of trying to control everything, the narcissist projects their behavior onto you, attempting to make you feel guilty for something they’re doing. This approach also allows the narcissist to play the victim and portray you as the aggressor.
You may find yourself questioning if your concerns are valid or if you are actually being too controlling.
#5 “I don’t remember saying that. You must have misunderstood.”
I had an employer who used to gaslight me like this and then ridicule me for completing tasks she’d specifically asked me to prioritize.
Her behavior not only made me doubt my memory but also made me feel less competent in my role.
She used this tactic consistently to undermine my confidence, deflect responsibility, and avoid being held accountable for her words or actions.
I often doubted my recollection of a conversation and apologized for misunderstandings, even though I knew I’d accurately followed her instructions.
The more her gaslighting distorted my reality, the more I lost confidence and doubted my abilities.
This type of gaslighting can also occur in relationships, especially when a narcissist accuses you of misinterpreting their intentions or distorts your perception of events.
#6 “I wouldn’t have done that if you hadn’t provoked me.”
Narcissists use this tactic to manipulate the victim into feeling responsible for the gaslighter’s negative actions or emotions.
Imagine you’re arguing with your narcissistic partner about whose turn it is to do the housework, and the argument escalates to a point where your partner starts being verbally aggressive.
Rather than admit to their mistake, they shift the blame onto you, saying, “I wouldn’t have done that if you hadn’t provoked me.”
This gaslighting tactic allows the narcissist to avoid taking responsibility for their actions and emotions and makes them out to be less hurtful than you implied.
This approach can create doubt in your mind, and even make you feel guilty for pushing the narcissist to such a point.
You might start to doubt whether your concerns about your partner’s behavior were valid or whether you were indeed responsible for their outburst.
Over time, repeated instances of blame-shifting can erode your self-confidence and enable your partner to maintain control over the narrative of their relationship.
#7 “I didn’t tell you because I thought you couldn’t handle it.”
This form of gaslighting involves withholding information and manipulating the victim’s perception of their own capabilities and emotions.
Narcissists use it to undermine the victim’s confidence and create a sense of dependency.
Imagine you receive a final notice from your utility company stating that your electricity bill is overdue and close to being disconnected.
When you broach the topic with your partner, however, he responds with a classic gaslighting tactic: “Yeah, I knew about it, but I didn’t tell you because I thought you couldn’t handle it.”
By deliberately withholding the information, the narcissistic is putting themselves in a position of control and power. Their comments suggest they think you’re less capable than they are, promoting themselves to a position of superiority.
The narcissist is also making you dependent on them because they control the information and can make informed decisions that are currently beyond your understanding.
Ultimately, gaslighting through withholding information can create a power imbalance in the relationship or situation.
Victims might feel dependent on the gaslighter’s approval or guidance, leading to a sense of confusion, self-doubt, and decreased confidence in their decision-making abilities.
#8 “Let’s not talk about me. Let’s focus on your issues.”
Narcissists use this gaslighting tactic to avoid accountability, minimize the victim’s concerns, and create a false sense of imbalance in the relationship.
Imagine you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, and you tell your partner they’ve been distant recently, which has caused you to feel lonely and neglected.
They respond by saying, “Let’s not talk about me. Let’s focus on your issues.”
This is an instant deflection. The narcissist, who always wants to talk about themselves, is gaslighting you to avoid addressing your concerns and taking responsibility for their actions.
They also imply that your feelings or observations are unimportant or exaggerated, suggesting that these are merely your “issues” rather than legitimate points of contention.
The narcissist’s comment also suggests that your feelings are the root cause of the issues, further eroding your confidence in your own perceptions.
Gaslighters often seek to establish or maintain a power imbalance in the relationship, and this approach enables them to suggest that your problems are more significant, positioning themselves as the more stable or rational party.
#9 “I don’t remember ever doing that to you.”
Imagine you have a narcissistic sibling who you confront about a hurtful incident from your childhood.
You recall how they used to mock you in front of your friends, causing you emotional distress, but the only response you get is, “I don’t remember ever doing that to you.”
By claiming not to remember the hurtful actions, the narcissistic sibling attempts to cast doubt on the accuracy of your memory, making you wonder if you’re mistaken about the incident.
The narcissist also manages to avoid responsibility for the hurt caused by denying any knowledge of the event, thereby sidestepping the need to apologize or make amends.
By making you doubt yourself, the narcissist asserts control over the narrative and minimizes the importance of the incident, protecting their precious self-image and preventing any acknowledgment of wrongdoing.
#10 “You’re just being overly critical. You’re lucky to have me.”
Your partner has been increasingly distant, constantly texting on his phone and making secretive plans. You summon up the courage to say something and ask him if anything is going on.
He responds by saying, “Come on. You’re just being overly critical. You’re lucky to have me as your partner.”
By responding this way, the narcissist dismisses your concerns by labeling them “overly critical.” He downplays the significance of your suspicions and attempts to make you doubt the legitimacy of your feelings.
Such a response also asserts their control and superiority in the relationship. By making you feel fortunate to have them, they attempt to manipulate you into overlooking their questionable behavior.
This gaslighting tactic makes you doubt your intuition and judgment and may cause you to question whether your suspicions are justified.
#11 “You’re crazy.”
This is the ultimate gaslighting phrase, and narcissists use it to invalidate your feelings and make you doubt your state of mind.
For example, you’ve noticed your partner flirting with other women and feel uncomfortable about their behavior, but when you confront them about it, they respond by saying, “You’re crazy. I can’t believe you would even think that. I’m just friendly and open with everyone.”
Not only does such a response invalidate your feelings, but it also undermines your credibility and makes you doubt your own perceptions.
It enables the narcissist to shift the blame onto you and away from themselves, making them seem blameless.
#12 “You’re just projecting your insecurities onto me.”
In this gaslighting scenario, the narcissist turns the tables on their partner, accusing them of having trust issues and insecurities that undermine their relationship.
Let’s say you challenge your partner over their behavior, saying they’ve been distant and secretive. They respond by saying, “I’ve tried to be patient with you and work through your trust issues, but you keep projecting your insecurities onto me.”
In this scenario, the narcissist uses gaslighting to manipulate your perception, deflect attention away from their own behavior and redirect the blame onto you.
By saying you have trust issues, they imply that the problem lies with you rather than them, making you question yourself and your commitment to the relationship.
Gaslighting thrives on creating confusion and doubt. This response is designed to confuse and make you question whether your concerns are valid, leaving you uncertain and vulnerable.
Recognizing gaslighting tactics is vital for maintaining open and healthy communication in relationships and reducing the potential damage of such emotional manipulation.
Consider reading: Is Unintentional Gaslighting a thing?