Why Is Gaslighting One of the Favorite Tactics of Narcissists?

Gaslighting has been the buzzword of the day for the past few years and has often been used to describe the lies and deflections of politicians. It refers to the act of manipulating another person’s view of reality by denying facts and feelings, and despite the proliferation of articles about how the President is gaslighting the American public, it’s still much more common in romantic and familial relationships. Not all people who use this technique are narcissists, but there does seem to be some connection. Read on to find out about why narcissists so often use gaslighting to manipulate their victims and learn what to do about it.

Narcissists Love Control

Narcissists have an inflated sense of self-importance and, when others around them, especially their loved ones, don’t see things in the same way, it can cause problems. Often, the response is to change the narrative so that the narcissists are not only in charge but also both the savior and the victim. Gaslighting allows narcissists to convince others that their view of the world and themselves is correct and lets them exert more control over the way they feel and act.

Currently or formerly in a relationship with gaslighting narcissists? Visit Evolve In Nature Psychotherapy to get the help they need to better understand the complex role between narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) and emotional manipulation.

Narcissists Do Not Feel Empathy

Like sociopaths, narcissists do not feel empathy for others. They see others as tools to help them accomplish their own goals instead of as independent human beings. It’s this lack of empathy that allows them to cause devastating psychological harm by gaslighting their significant others, family members, or other loved ones. Interestingly enough, recent research shows that people with NPD can learn empathy, but it needs to be in their best interests to do so.

Inability to Handle Criticism

Since narcissists have an excessive need for admiration, they don’t handle criticism well. In many cases, they handle completely valid criticism by gaslighting the person who has called out bad behavior. There’s no way to hold a narcissist accountable for hurting others because any criticism just gets turned on its head and becomes another excuse for blaming the victim.

Sense of Entitlement

Narcissists feel entitled not just to others’ admiration, but to worldly success. When they don’t get their way, they find ways to blame others instead of accepting responsibility for their own actions that led to personal failure. Gaslighting offers them the perfect opportunity to blame others since there’s no need for anyone else to have actually done anything wrong. The narcissist will simply convince the person that it’s his or her fault using subtle emotional manipulation and denial of reality.

What to Do About It

The first step toward doing something about gaslighting is recognizing that there’s a problem, so congratulations on having figured that out. The next thing victims of gaslighting need to do is seek professional help. This emotional manipulation tactic can have devastating impacts on its victims and it’s hard to break the cycle once it has already started.

The Bottom Line

It’s difficult to change others’ behaviors, but victims of gaslighting still have control over their own actions, even if it doesn’t feel like it. Find a therapist who understands manipulative behavior. Trained therapists can help clients sort through the tangle of lies to better understand what is going on and what they can do about it.


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