Gaslighting, Part 2- What Gaslighting Looks Like in Real-Life

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I’m grateful that there are websites out there that aim to educate the victims of narcissistic abuse, as to what is being done to them, and what I’m about to write is not, in any way, intended to take from their work. (The angels who devote their time & resources to educating, and helping the victims of abuse, are held in my highest regard). I felt called to write, what I’m about to write, because of my own, personal experience, at that time in my life, and the emotions that I dealt with, as I was searching for answers.

It is my intention to help other women (or men, as the case may be), who might be built somewhat like me, to avoid further pain and confusion, as they seek out answers, due to the sometimes unclear, ambiguous, generalized, and/or vague information that is out there. See, a lot of those websites I mentioned, do indeed have some great info about gaslighting, and the signs/symptoms of it. BUT, having said that, I found that most of the info was repeated from another site, and just as unclear. Because of the general nature of the information I found online, I spent a long time wondering… so many weeks and months agonizing over WHO the abuser actually was!

I won’t lie. It is a really shitty thing to have to deal with, when a person is already in excruciating pain

So I want to give you some real-life examples of how gaslighting can manifest… and some actual actions and phrases that a narcissist uses, to get the better of you. My hope is that, after reading this series, the attempts of your narcissist, to gaslight you, will be severely diminished, if not vanquished altogether.

Some Common Examples of Real-Life Gaslighting

  1. The Stir & Twist Tactic
    This first example of gaslighting is probably the most common form of gaslighting… at least, this seems to be the go-to tactic, of my narcissist. This is a very simple, yet extremely effective means, of turning you on your head. In this tactic, the narcissist will create a situation, where he is almost guaranteed to illicit a negative reaction from you, then proceed to twist your negative all around, and use it against you. A narcissist can do this in several ways.

    1. He can use your negative reaction, after the fact, as though it is the justification for his actions. As in, your reaction is what forced him to behave the way he did beforehand. (Yes, I know that doesn’t make any sense).
    2. He will tell you your anger/depression/offense/hurt/suspicion/etc. limits him from making better choices. Meaning, because he already knows that you will react negatively in this situation, he was afraid of doing (or saying, etc.) anything other than what he did.
    3. He will use your negative reaction to exit the conversation (leave the room, or the house, etc.), and not give you an opportunity to resolve the issue later on.
    4. He will claim that, by reacting in such a negative way, you are just being vindictive and trying to “punish him”. He will make you feel like your (totally normal) reaction is, basically, you being “abusive” to him. (THAT is a fun one, huh?)

What this looks like in real-life

You guys both decided on New Year’s Eve that you were going to quit drinking alcohol. Then, at some point thereafter, he decided to get drunk, without telling you. He just shows up in front of you, drunk. You ask him if he has been drinking. He says no. He tries to convince you that it is his mouthwash you are smelling on his breath. You don’t buy it… obviously. Finally, you get him to break down and tell the truth. He admits to drinking. You are feeling deeply betrayed…and more than a little pissed.

He mutters his usual, sarcastic “sorry, but…”, and you go ballistic. You’re so pissed at him, you can barely see straight. How dare he lie to your face like that…and then try to EXCUSE IT?!

He pretends to take responsibility for his lying. “You’re right. I lied, and I’m sorry. That was wrong of me.” And now you think, Thank God…Finally! He’s taking responsibility for his crap. But no…wait…because in the same breath he continues on… “but you really gave me no choice. You get so upset with me, and just assume all sorts of bad things, that you basically drew a line in the sand and forced me to lie, if I just wanted to have a beer.” (Example B)

You try to counter this by reminding him that you guys discussed this and made an agreement, TOGETHER, and that he does not get to try to blame you for his crap behavior. So, now he takes still another route. He blames YOUR anger for his drinking in the first place. “See? THIS is why I feel I even NEED a beer. You just insist on being miserable all the time. You always have to have to create some reason to be mad at me.” (Example A)

Of course, you respond by telling him that you are not responsible for his betrayal. His drinking is the only reason you are upset right now. You were perfectly fine, until he decided to act like a big lying liar. At last, he breaks down (there may even be tears here). He tells you that you can “Go ahead, let me have it. You obviously feel the need to punish me!” (Example D)

While you’re standing there, fuming and so mad that you’re practically shaking…and wondering if you should just let him have it, as he so eloquently put it, or give up, seeing as how, if you DO let him have it, he will only use anything you say as evidence that you really ARE just trying to punish him…. GRRRrrr… It’s infuriating. At best. You think, I know! I will try to gently and calmly reason with him…. but after you get, maybe, two sentences out (if they’re really short sentences), he just gets up, indignantly states that he doesn’t have to sit there and be your ‘whipping boy’, and walks out of the room. (Example C).

The ‘It Wasn’t Me’ Tactic

This is a pretty straightforward tactic. I alluded to it, in the Stir & Twist Tactic, wherein you asked your narcissist if he had been drinking, and he responded with “I just swished out my mouth with mouthwash. Maybe that is what you’re smelling” Or perhaps, he just flat out said “Nope. I wasn’t drinking”. 

Basically, this tactic is just boldly lying straight to your face. A narcissist will do this with the utmost seriousness. He will look you in the eye. He will cry, grab your hands, hold you close. swear on the lives of his children, even as he takes a swig from the beer can as he’s holding… It’s crazy.

The Poltergeist Tactic

I call this the Poltergeist Tactic because it has to do with the manipulation of your physical environment. Moving items, and claiming that you must have forgotten that, in fact, YOU  were the one who moved it. Inducing fear, or anxiety by constantly looking out the windows, as if someone might be “after you”. OR, as was the case with me, your narcissist might claim to hear “Strange noises” in the house at night, when he’s alone. This bad behavior might just so happen to coincide with a time when you tell him he is going to have to leave, if he doesn’t clean up his act, that way, you might get freaked out enough, about being alone in your house, that you keep him around.You know, if for no other reason than, at least the poltergeist won’t get you.

I Never Said That Tactic

This is a really frustrating tactic. This is when you are trying to explain how, or why, what your narc did, was highly inappropriate, or inconsiderate, and you refer back to something he said, to corroborate your point. But…he comes back with, “I never said that! in response, and the whole argument switches over to whether, or not, he said what you said, he said, or not. Which is exactly what he wanted. the heat is off his behavior, and now onto something he could care less about….honoring his words.

He may or may not, have said what you claim, but the truth is that if you do not quote him, verbatim, he will insist that he NEVER said what you claim he said. AND, he will also insist that you completely misunderstood what he was trying to tell you, because you said, that he said, he was “bummed out because it raining” (for example), and what he really said was that “the rain was really bumming him out”.

Do you see how you got it all wrong? (NOT!)

I Know How You REALLY Feel Tactic

Ok, I’m not going to lie. This one REALLY messed me up for a while, and totally had me thinking that I might be the narcissist, after all.

In this tactic, the narcissist, accuses you of saying/doing certain things, or bringing up certain issues, or whatever, for a motive that is something other than what your actual motivation is. And his accusation is always much nastier than your true intentions are. It sucks because this is where you start to realize how badly this person thinks of you (or himself…but that’s a whole other post). An example of this:

  1. He trashes your car, every time you let him use it; or he returns it with an empty tank, or whatever. You tell him that he can’t use your car anymore, if that how he is going to return it you. You have given him about 100 chances to correct the behavior, all to no avail. So, finally, one day he asks to use your car, and your answer is ‘No’. He then begins to tell you how you are really only doing that to control him, or because you’re jealous that he wants to go out with his friends… or whatever (fill in the blank). His accusations are ridiculous, but basically he is trying to tell you that since he obviously shouldn’t have to face the consequences of his actions, the only possible answer is that you’re motivation is somehow sinister…

There are a lot more examples of gaslighting, and I will continue to come back and add more, over time… but for now, those are the main, “everyday” gaslighting techniques (as I call them). At least, these are the most common, often daily, occurrences, in my experiences with a narcissist & gaslighting.

{What examples of gaslighting have YOU experienced? Comment below, and let’s collect a really good, comprehensive list… With your permission, I will add any examples of gaslighting that are repeated often, to the list in this post, along with the people who suggested it.}

**SIDE NOTE: The I Know How You REALLY Feel Tactic, when I first read about it, really messed with my head, because this is EXACTLY what I do…to him. I thought, for sure, that I must be the narcissist, because I’m always telling him what his “real motives” are. My husband was kind enough to point this out to me one time… LOL…

Here is what finally got me clear- for those of you who, like me, see that some of those nasty narc symptoms are things you do, too. I hope this helps ease your mind: 

Narcissists exhibit these actions as a consistent pattern of behavior. Not a one-time, or even dozen-times, occurrence. They aren’t once in while things. That was my first clue. Clue #2- Who is telling lies…compulsively? Is it you? Then you might be the narc in the relationship. If you are not telling lie, after lie, after lie…then chances are you’re the victim.

Clue #3- I started secretly recording our conversations on my iPhone. Not to show anyone, or use against him…but, for my own sanity. After the fact, I would go back and listen to the recordings, and be the meanest, most strictest “morality judge” ever. I listened to every single sentence. Was it positive? Truthful? Defensive? Was the person showing empathy? Or were they continuously trying to change the subject?

After dissecting two entire arguments, and mapping out on paper exactly who said what, and in what tone, and every other detail… I realized that, Yep, HE is DEFINITELY the narcissist. And, if you are having any similar doubts, then I encourage you to do the same. Frankly speaking, it’s a tedious, and grueling, hours-long process. But, the peace of mind it brings you, once all is said, and done (judged- LOL), is truly priceless.

Hi. I’m Story Lynne, (a.k.a. The Narcissist’s Wife). Nice to meet you. I’m the mother of 4 amazing kids, the (soon-to-be-ex) wife of a narcissist, and the author of this blog. I’m also a teacher, a healer, an intuitive empath, and Angel Card Reader.
I love fairies, angels, the color pink, anything sparkly, and Legos. (the Elves are my absolute favorites). I also love fixing cars, building shit, and shooting my bow (as in, bow and arrow).


  • a

    edit: the new years example, said he’d gone with a friend to see a friend’s mum for her birthday in another town. I wanted to spend new years together. Told me he’d got a ride back and would arrive back at 5am. I went into town with friends. I saw him drunk as a skunk in town. I texted him that I could see him. He saw me. He got angry and started demanding to know why I was there and who I was with. At 2am.

  • a

    Crazymaking then suggesting I need psychological help.
    Frequent nasty comments/name calling then making out I have a psychological problem because I’m too sensitive.
    Saying he’ll be home at 5am at new years, finding him drinking at 2am, then he gets mad at me as if its somehow my fault.
    Organising his birthday party and putting out a public FB invite, not telling me then blaming me because he knew I’d get upset. Ditto for drinking. Ditto for drugs. Ditto for drinking binges because if I’m unhappy at something in the relationship I make him so unhappy he can’t cope, it’s me making him binge. Ditto for spending much time with the one woman I can’t stand as she tried to break him up and get him stabbed in her own narcissistic games. I could go on.

  • anonymous

    I have a gaslight example, and it’s pretty extreme. My ex narc (in our early 20’s at the time) had found new supply and she was pay off my smear campaign. I couldn’t understand how he went from wanting me one day to thinking I was too sensitive, dramatic and crazy for him. I couldn’t understand how he could just calmly discard and torture me.
    Here it is: Ex narc had been smearing me and I wanted to confront him about it. Of course he didn’t respond to any calls or emails, so I went to his house to talk to him. He had his friend answer the door and tell me I HAD THE WRONG HOUSE. I’d been there severally times before. My reaction to that was just so dramatic according to him (I sobbed really bad in my car.)

    How’s that for gaslighting!?

    Maybe one day I’ll send you my story of my teenaged narc (to almost 30 years old). For now, my heart goes out to you for all that you have had to go through.

    Thanks for reading.

    • Thank you for sharing… I’m actually working on a new gaslighting post now. From the vantage point of being in the middle of the discard stage. It’s absolutely excruciating, the things he does…. It completely boggles the mind.
      I hope that you are in a much better place now, and living abuse free. You’re in my heart, sister.

  • Id like to add one I’ve experienced… You have a valid dispute about something the narcissist partner wishes to do whether you like it or not. For example, going across the other side of the world with an ex-fling on holiday. They will then detract from your point of concern by referring to something less offensive.. ie. you just don’t want me to go and see my brother out there. No matter how many times you re-state that this is not the reason, not the case, that its a little unfair to be spending two weeks in a hotel with an ex-fling, they will take the argument back to the straw man.

You know you want to say something. Go on....

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