When it comes to gaslighting, you can have all the facts in the world, but it won’t do you any good, if you don’t have the two, most vital pieces of info… how to know if it’s happening to you, and if it is, knowing how to survive it.
In this post, the conclusion to my gaslighting series, I want to talk about what you can do to lessen the degree to which the narcissist’s gaslighting affects you.. This is CRUCIAL, because gaslighting can destroy your emotional stability and your sanity. I’ve met women who have had total psychotic breaks/ episodes, and have needed to be hospitalized, all because of the severity to which their narcissist was gaslighting them.I, myself, have experienced gaslighting to such an unrelenting degree, that my mental and emotional distress actually caused me physical harm.
It happened on a completely normal day, where nothing out of the ordinary was going on. I can’t even remember if this was a day where I had perhaps “provoked” him in some way… and by “provoked”, I mean that I may have asked him to help around the house (instead of laying around in bed, or on the couch, all day long, watching South Park, or playing Angry Birds on his phone), or perhaps I confronted him about his most recent lie- who knows? It does NOT take much for a narcissist to feel attacked, or provoked… but I digress.
Whatever the issue, it started an argument. I can remember thinking to myself How the HELL did we get HERE? This is insane! Why does EVERYTHING have to be a fight with this man?!! But that’s how it is, when you live with a narcissist. They can’t be responsible for ANYTHING they do, or say, so they have to fight you over every, single, last thing. Everything will become an argument, or fight, if you’re not willing to take responsibility- i.e. the blame- for all of their failures, wrong behavior, bad choices, irresponsibility, selfishness, et. al. Their disturbingly intense need to “win” takes over, and until they feel like they have, indeed, “won”, they will stop at NOTHING… not even your personal safety, or the safety/well-being of your children. DO NOT delude yourself into believing, for ONE second, that “they wouldn’t do that”. THEY ABSOLUTELY WOULD… if it means “winning”, they would do ANYTHING.
So, on this particular day, my husband was in all-out “Win Mode”, and nothing- not even my obvious distress- was going to get in his way of “the win”. To be honest, I don’t remember much about the incident, but it had reached a point where I was having a full-blown panic attack. I had gone outside, so the kids wouldn’t see me crying, and my husband came out and started pretending that he wanted to “help me”. He kept asking me “What can I do to make you feel better? I’ll do anything. Please! Just tell me how to make it better!”. (It sounds like he’s so concerned, right?) Well, he wasn’t. It’s just an act- a very good act.
What drives you crazy, when you’re being severely gaslighted, is something called cognitive dissonance. That’s when something someone is saying, or doing, is completely out of line with what you know, or experience, to be true in reality. In other words, when something in your world does not match up with what you believe to be true, it creates dissonance. In this case, my husband’s false concern, absolutely did NOT match up with the fact that HE was the one intentionally causing my distress.
He would ask his question, and I would respond with, “I would just like to say one sentence, without you interrupting me. I have been trying to say one thing, for 20 minutes now, and you keep interrupting me.” (Of course, he had to keep interrupting with an “innocuous” little, ‘Ok’, every few seconds). He would then respond by saying, “Of course, go ahead. Whatever you need. I want to make you feel better.” I would then begin my sentence. After about getting four words out, he would interrupt, loudly, with some rude comment, such as “Could you just spit it out?”, or “Could you just hurry it up? I’ve got things to do.” If I tried to just keep talking, but louder, so I could be heard over him, he would get loud enough to where I couldn’t be heard.
Now, I can tell you that, this doesn’t seem like a big deal. And with gaslighting, THAT is EXACTLY what is so insidious, and dangerous, about it. When you try to explain to someone, what is being done to you, it sounds ridiculous. YOU will sound like the crazy one. In my case, it wasn’t so much that I just had to say my piece. It was the fact that, as a human being, I had the need, and the right, to simply be heard. My husband was stripping me of my rights, my dignity and my humanity, and disguising it as “concern”. I was completely flooded. (If you don’t know that term, it is when you become so emotionally distressed, that your body goes into fight-or-flight mode, and you literally no longer have control over your emotions). And I couldn’t escape. It takes, at least, 20 minutes, to calm yourself down from being flooded, and regain emotional control. My husband made sure that I was not allowed that time.
Ultimately, after repeating the above sequence- “I’ll do anything to make you feel better.”, “Please, just let me finish my sentence.”, “Fine, go ahead”, I begin my sentence, he interrupts- about a dozen times, to the point where I was looking like a total lunatic, screaming just to be heard (Don’t kid yourself, it was unbearably humiliating), he finally acquiesced. He finally stopped speaking, so I could complete my sentence. And you would think that I felt immense relief from that… but no.
The ONLY reason he so kindly allowed me to speak an entire sentence, was because he had pulled out his phone, turned away from me, and began to play Angry Birds, completely acting as though I didn’t exist. Right then, in the face of such blatant dehumanization, something “popped” in my brain.
I can’t tell you what happened to me. I have no idea what happened. All I can say say is that, there was a slight pain in my head, for just a split second, and then everything was silent. It was like I could hear things, but only from very, very far away. Or like, as though I were behind a very thick pane of glass. I felt dizzy. Off-balance. I slowly sat down on the ground, right where I stood. My vision was white. Like I was seeing everything through a very thick, white fog. I couldn’t make things out clearly. It was frightening.
I couldn’t speak, and it felt like my heart was swelling too big for the space it occupied. I felt tightness in my chest. My body was limp. Heavy.Filled with lead, instead of blood. I couldn’t move if I wanted to. My husband came over, acting as though I was “just being dramatic”. (Incidentally, that is how they rationalize the pain they cause you. They tell themselves that you are just being dramatic. It’s definitely NOT that they are causing excruciating pain. Couldn’t be that!)
When my husband threatened to call 911, if I didn’t get up and “knock it off”, and my only response was silent tears, coursing down my face, and a hand placed on my chest (with massive effort), something must have clicked for him, because all of a sudden, there were arms under me, carrying me up the stairs. He placed me on the couch, pointed a fan at me, to cool me off- since I was drenched with sweat- and a cool rag was placed on my forehead and over my eyes.
Then I slept.
It couldn’t have been for more than 20 minutes or so, because when I woke, the cloth was still cool to the touch. I walked around in a daze for the next couple days, and strangely enough, I had developed a stutter that didn’t go away for about 2 weeks.
The only positive thing to come from this horrifying experience, was that my husband became aware of his narcissism, and the effects of his personality disorder. He felt true, actual remorse, for what he had done. And, the next three days, were possibly the best of my life.
But, then, the spell faded… as it always does for all narcissists who experience moments of self-awareness.
The experience taught me a lot though. Especially in dealing with his gaslighting behavior. It taught me what I had to do, in order to survive his psychological torture games. And I want to share my insights with you, but first, I’d like to warn that these tips are not to be thought of as long-term solutions. This won’t help you make a good life with a narcissist. Nothing will do that, until we find a way to heal this evil affliction. These tips are meant to help you get through the days, until you can get yourself away from the monster that lives disguised as your husband (or boyfriend, or parent, or sibling, etc.)
TIP #1– CHANGE THE WAY YOU SEE YOUR NARCISSIST
The first thing I would tell you is that, if you’re going to survive this season of your life, you are going to have to change the way you think about, and look at, your narcissist. You can’t think of them as your husband, or partner, or friend, or any of that. You must see these people for what they are- predators.
There is a dangerous beast living in your home, and the first thing to do is to realize that you’d be well-served to respect that. Think of it this way- if you came across a venomous snake, while walking down a path, would you poke at it with a stick? Of course, not. The same goes for the narcissist. DO NOT, under any circumstances, attempt to engage the narc in a conversation about anything to do with his behavior, his actions, his words, his moods, his laziness, irresponsibility, rudeness, selfishness, or etc.
Just leave him alone.
TIP #2- LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS. IN FACT, JUST GET RID OF THEM ALL TOGETHER.
You need to stop thinking of the narcissist as a mature, responsible partner/adult. This is the farthest thing from the truth. You need to drop the expectation that he will watch the kids, help around the house, or even consistently work, to provide for your family. If you are depending on him for these things, you are only asking for misery. He WILL NOT comply.
My husband made a habit of staying in bed until almost noon, then getting up just to spend 45 minutes in the bathroom, and go straight to lay on the couch and watch TV, or play games on his iPhone, all day long. He did this every, single day, for over a year! If I confronted him about this issue, or even tried to very lovingly, and gently, to broach the subject, he would unleash a tidal wave of defensiveness, criticism, entitlement, and inevitably, punishment- the likes of which you have never seen. After all, he spent the previous five years running a restaurant into the ground, and blaming me for it. He was exhausted, and entitled to a break!
Just get used to the fact that you are alone in this “partnership”, and start relying on yourself, and ONLY yourself. That way, when you narc decides that he’s too good to help with the housework, or the kids, or to even get a job, you will be neither shocked, nor angered. You will have already taken the initiative to get on with your life. His antics will have A LOT less effect on you, if you just expect them to come.
TIP #3- GIVE UP YOUR ROLE AS HIS MOTHER
I admit, I had a hard time with this one, because no one lives in a vacuum. His actions affect the people around him. His choices negatively affect his family. It’s way too easy to be tempted to “explain” (i.e. lecture) to your narcissist, why his behavior is lazy, irresponsible, destructive, damaging, inconsiderate, rude, selfish, hurtful, etc., but you have to realize that your words are falling on deaf ears.
HE DOES NOT CARE!
Not in the least bit. He won’t care if YOUR credit gets ruined. He won’t care if the electricity is shut off. He won’t care if the kids have to go without a decent meal. HE- WON’T- CARE!! And, no amount of your insightful explanations will change that. I’m sorry to say that you are deluding yourself, if you believe otherwise.
TIP #4- FOCUS ON YOU
If you’re with a narcissist, I think it’s quite safe to say that you’re very good at denying your own needs. I think it’s also pretty safe to assume that you are suffering from a severe lack of self-love. Hey- don’t beat yourself up- it has happened to the best of us. Time to start changing that though. Starting right now! Start taking time to LOVE YOURSELF, because ultimately, this is the ONLY THING that will EVER change ANYTHING in your life.
Do things that make you feel good. Start engaging in a morning ritual. (Check out my post on creating an awesome morning ritual here!) Something to help you start your days with peace, stillness, faith, strength and confidence. Take that time to let yourself feel good about YOU. Sit in the quiet darkness of the still morning, and empower yourself. Absorb the energy of the Earth, and “power up”. Release any garbage from the previous day. Give yourself a mani/pedi every Monday. Eat ice cream, straight out of the carton...and don’t judge yourself for it! Just savor the creamy sweetness, and LOVE YOURSELF for it.
This is also the perfect time to set goals for yourself, and start working toward accomplishing those goals. You’d be amazed at how much you can accomplish, with one hour of uninterrupted time each day… and how fast. Your first goal? ESCAPE.
TIP #5- HAVE FAITH- TRUST THE UNIVERSE
My dear sister, somewhere in the universe, in some parallel dimension, this whole mess has all already been played out. And, guess what? You come out on top! FOR SURE! So, now that you already know the outcome, you can let go of any worry, shame, or guilt, that you’re carrying around, and be grateful for the experience that will probably help you to grow, farther and faster, than any other experience in your life.
Be at peace, sister, knowing that you’ve already won this battle. You are safe to have this experience, and then, move onward and upward. I wish I could tell you that it won’t hurt, but that isn’t realistic. Encounters with narcissists are always very, very painful. But YOU SURVIVE IT. And you go on to have a much better, happier life than you ever could have imagined before. You can get through this.
You are indestructible…immortal…
TIP #6- LOVE, LOVE, LOVE…AND THEN, LOVE SOME MORE!
The last, yet most powerful, tip that I can give you is just to LOVE.
Look, whether you believe that there is something greater in this life, than what we can see with our human senses, or not, there is nothing on this planet that feels better than love. Loving ourselves. Loving others. So why not just do that? It just so happens that that is the best choice that we can make, for our highest good, and for the highest good for all.
When your narcissist says, or does, something that frustrates you, angers, depresses you, scares you, or gives you any other negative feeling… love them. Stop judging them, and their behavior. Realize that what they are saying, or doing, is NOT ABOUT YOU. You couldn’t make their bad behavior about you, if you tried! They are just showing you how they feel about themselves, how they treat themselves, or how someone else in their life made them feel. They are screaming out to be loved, and healed, and liberated from their pain. SET THEM FREE!
How do you do that? You love them. When they insult you, you compliment them. When they criticize you… when Mr. Snarky Narc tells you that you that you’re a shitty housekeeper, and the house looks like shit, you just say “Thank You for bringing that to my attention.” In your mind, just say to them, “I’m so sorry for your pain. I love you”. Bless them, and go clean the house better. And do it with a happy heart, knowing that with every shelf you re-dust, you are unraveling the false self of the one who has deluded himself into believing that he can oppress you! Watch him squirm!
When the narcissist says that you look like a slob, tell them “Thank you”. In your mind, again, repeat to them “I love you. I’m sorry for your pain.” And, since we acknowledge that everything in our experience is here to help us grow, you can take it even further, and think “Thank you for helping me”. You may not know what they are helping with, but then, you go back to Tip #6– and HAVE FAITH- know that all this has already been worked out for your highest good, and you are so, incredibly, safe and loved, and protected, that you can stand sure in the fact that this ridiculous person in your life IS, in fact, helping you, in some way…even if only to show you what part of yourself needs more love, or to give you evidence of what you have the strength to survive.
*As an aside: It’s not our job to judge who deserves love, or how much love they ought to get. When we love ourselves, unconditionally, then we love others, unconditionally. Not because they earned it, or deserve it… but because WE DESERVE IT… because we are worth everything!*
This isn’t some new age fluff. This IS the purpose of all existence. To LOVE, LOVE, LOVE…and then, LOVE SOME MORE!! When you meet darkness, with such powerfully intense light…the darkness MUST SCATTER! If you don’t believe me… go walk into a dark bathroom, and flip on the light switch, and tell me what happens. Did the darkness stubbornly remain in the room? Did the light bulb shine its light in only one square foot in its immediate vicinity? Did the dark push back against the light of the bulb? Of course NOT! The second you flipped that switch, the darkness scattered.
So turn on YOUR light! Shine the light of love so big, and so bright, that darkness runs shrieking in your presence. First shine that light on your own beautiful, perfect, innocent heart. Then, let it fill you to overflowing, so that your loving light just radiates from every pore of your being. You are the essence of God, in human form, and there is nothing that can take you down. There is NOTHING in all creation that can diminish you! The narcissist can say, or do whatever he wants… it has nothing to do with you! Free yourself from that self-made prison.
TIP #7- KNOW YOU ARE PERFECT
I’m going to repeat this again, because it’s such a vital thing for you to realize. YOU ARE PERFECT. Every choice you make is RIGHT. Every thought you think is purposeful. Again, you are the essence of God, in human form, and God does not make mistakes. Everything you do is in your highest and best interest. Every choice you make is the right one. Every situation you find yourself in is the perfect situation to help you grow. Stop judging yourself! If you can accept that YOU ARE GOD, in human form…then judgment vanishes, and you will love yourself unconditionally. Why? Because how dare you judge God?! How ludicrous an idea is that?! Can you imagine judging God??? (or whatever you want to call the Creator, Divine Source, etc.)
If you wouldn’t judge God, then don’t judge yourself, or the narcissist, or anyone, or anything else. Everything is OK!
YOU WILL GET OUT OF THIS SITUATION…YOU WON’T BE HERE FOREVER! FREEDOM IS YOUR DESTINY!!
In conclusion (to a post that turned out to be WAY longer than I thought it would), I just want you to know that abuse is not love. Love makes you FEEL GOOD! Love is warm, and comfort, and soft, and tender, and peace, and kind.
LOVE DOES NOT HURT!
Practically speaking, right now, start working on getting yourself out of your abusive situation. Loving yourself means that you don’t stay in places that do not feel good to you. Make plans…
But, in the meantime, LOVE YOURSELF. Love the shit out of the narcissist, too. Above all, STOP JUDGING YOURSELF, OR YOUR SITUATION. Stop berating yourself because you made a “bad” choice…because you didn’t! You made the perfect choice…even if you don’t know why.
Let go of guilt, and shame, because we will never get away from bullies… if we refuse to get rid of our biggest bully…OURSELVES!!
LOVE YOURSELF! LOVE YOURSELF! LOVE YOURSELF!!!!
This is the key to unlocking every dream you’ve ever had…and being amazed as you watch them all come true!
Until next time, I love you!
To you peace & freedom,
~The Narcissist’s Wife