Posts Tagged ‘Gaslighting’

When I realized that I had been the target for a Narcissist nearly 4 1/2 years ago
I went on-line and printed out everything I could get my hands on pertaining to this disorder. 
I would go through the stacks of paper with a yellow highlighter in one hand and a glass of red wine (it’s an antioxidant you know)  in the other….. 

Y’all have heard this story if you have followed my blog. 
3M recently emailed me, concerned that I had not made a yellow highlighter purchase, in sometime….

The time has come to shred.
Nearly 3 reams of copier paper…staples…paper cuts…I am torn whether to re-read some of the articles …or just to throw caution to the wind….and shred.

Hope I have enough trash bags.


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So – here you are. 
The usher didn’t help you to your seat, you found it yourself. 
You have your play bill, your cell phone is off, but you are NOT ready for this performance. 
You didn’t purchase tickets to this event; you didn’t even order season passes but once again you have been subjected to another performance of Devalue and Discard by the Narcissist. 

You weren’t in the audience, you were on stage.  You were unknowingly cast in this black comedy.  You didn’t audition; you were hand picked by the Narcissist and you just experienced what you hope is your last D&D.  How many times does this make now?  I know, I lost track myself.  You say to yourself, “I have been abused by the Narcissist for the last time!” 

An experience of Devalue and Discard at the hands of the Narcissist is like riding California Screaming (a roller coaster) but after 2 1/2 minutes the ride isn’t over… the ride operator says, “Let’s go again!”  (Comparing the Narcissist to a roller coaster is not original, but oh so descriptive.)

Right now you are raw with emotions. Your thoughts may not even be clear enough at this point to be glad that the relationship is over.  You may be thinking of ways to “fix” the situation, to “fix” him…you may be ready to go groveling back to him. 

Please don’t do it.  It will only give him more opportunities to devalue you.  You will make it easy for him, requiring little or no energy on his part.  I speak from experience, because I tried it.  
That’s why I will say again, “Don’t do it.”  The sadistic delight you will see on the Narcissist’s face will be evident while you try to make everything right…..because everything about the Narcissist is wrong. 

You may not even know that your friend, boy friend, girl friend…fill in the blank…was an N.  You may think that the abuse you suffered was warranted; that you did something to deserve this.  But trust me, you didn’t.  You didn’t deserve to have the stage curtain dropped on you. 

You may not have a clue what Narcissistic Personality Disorder is…but you will.  Believe me, you will…and when that light bulb goes off in your head, so many things are going to start falling into place.  Soon, when you go on line and start doing research, so many things are going to make sense…as much sense as an emotional disturbed Narcissist can make.   

While a part of you is dying to get the N back in your life, another part of you, perhaps your subconscious, is more grateful than you will ever possibly know that he’s gone.  I called this point of time in my recovery  “Missing Pretend Guy.”  It’s not original.  It’s a phrase and thoughts from an individual named Alexandra Nouri

You have started start to move on, making  connections with others who have been through similar circumstances.  Those connections will be a blessing to you.  Trust me.  You’ve figured out what the N is…and more importantly, what he isn’t…and you have begun the slow healing process. 

You cautiously believe that he is gone from your life for good.  Reaching this point of acceptance has taken a long time.  Some days, you might even feel “normal.”  Then, out of the blue….or more appropriately black….here he comes again…and you are hit with his one two punch of D & D. 

I call this “Narcissistic Curtain Calls.”  Just when you think he’s gone he appears at the side of the stage to take another bow….or give another blow to your fragile self esteem.  “Hoovering” is a similar phrase, but when he’s  “Hoovering” he’s trying to get back into your favor, for a time.   
Don’t worry, his nice behavior won’t last long. 

In case you have been fortunate enough to not have experienced an N at his full rage and power…here’s an example of how he spins his web of deception….personal experience…

The N befriends his target, his victim…usually female.  Sometimes the N has an adequate amount of supply, so he may have many little minor sources of supply….sources that he may choose at some point in time to cultivate into major supply.  Sometimes the N comes on slowly, maybe this is so we will be less suspicious of his true motives.  Maybe he actually learned from previous “relationships” that swooping in on his quarry gets him supply for a much shorter period of time.  Or, gets him nothing at all.  Scaring off his victims before they are under his ‘spell’ means more work for the N.  And, if there’s one thing that tires out the N, it’s having to cultivate fresh, new Narcissistic Supply.  He has to be on his best behavior, keeping his mask securely fastened…”Ho-Hum” this wears him out. 

I don’t know if anyone has ever figured out why the N starts cultivating his ‘minor’ supply into a major, perhaps his main source of supply.  I know in my case, the N had suffered the blow of losing, granted temporarily, his main source of narcissistic supply and comfort…I was in the wrong place at the right time.  Or – perhaps that should be worded…I was in the wrong place at the wrong time…..

We know that generally speaking, it is the N who does the abandoning, not the supply/victim.  The N must be careful in the beginning of the ‘relationship’ to have you reeled in before begining the D&D.  In the beginning the N will make you feel like you are the best thing since sliced bread…with or without the peanut butter. 

I would hate to see/or to have experienced what would have happened if I had been the one to abandon the Narcissist. 

The N idealizes his victim…for a while.  He brings out the best in his target.  He mirrors our good qualities back to us…I think the reason we think he is so fabulous…is because he is mirroring us!  We are seeing ourselves…Hey, what’s not to like?  The qualities we are seeing displayed…are us!  These character traits are sadly lacking in the N.  

We thrive for a time on his adulation.  What human being doesn’t want to be valued, treasured, recognized for doing a great job?  It is easy to be enticed by all the praise….what’s not to like about compliments?   And well, gosh darn it…we think to ourselves “you know, I really am quite a remarkable human being….” 

I admit to my fragility.  I wonder…..What was it about me, at that moment in time that drew the Narcissist to me?  Why did he target me?  What was it that made me so very vulnerable to his friendship? 
How can I be sure to never do it again? 

He is effusively complimentary of us at times.  He may have started to compliment and degrade us in the same sentence.  These underhanded verbal jabs can leave us confused…as confusing as the gaslighting. 

As time goes on, the compliments are less frequent.  The verbal put downs, the sarcastic comments and simply the body language, make us feel that we have done something horribly wrong to fall from grace in the eyes of The N. 

I’d like to know why we I valued the opinion of the N?… Why did I care about falling from grace in the eyes of one so evil?….Why did I care so much that I tormented myself into to thinking that it was me and not him?  Falling from the “grace” of the Narcissist was THE BEST thing that could have happened to ME!

The abuse continues.  As is the N’s protocol, he might throw his target a ‘bone.”  He might give us a ‘moment of value’ and maybe we’ll even get a glimpse of “Pretend Guy” (thanks again Angel Fire).  He is now constantly devaluing his victim….

…..as was my experience, this went on as long as it amused him.  It was sadistic… he devalued me time after time.  When I had been drained dry…it was time for the final Discard. 

Discard…..that word reminds me of playing a card game with friends…a pleasant evening, and you have an opportunity to discard.  Perhaps without even much thought, you throw those cards you no longer want into the pile…..the ones that don’t give you a ‘good hand’….without another thought. 

After the Discard comes the feelings of being worthless, when it is the N who is worthless.  We are weak and fragile, but we will call upon an inner strength that we didn’t know we had.  The N is a weak and fragile toddler, with no ability to grow any further. 

It is while you are feeling these things…weak, fragile, confused…that the ‘curtain calls’ start.  At least they did for me. 
Here you are trying to pull yourself together.  You are trying to fix the broken pieces of your self esteem and your life; when he returns to the stage.  

You think, maybe things will be okay…  Maybe he will let me apologize, maybe he will tell me what it was that I did wrong.  Once again-assuming all the blame…he adores that, since he is better than everyone and anything else.  We are mistaken, he isn’t  back for reconciliation, he’s back to twist the knife again. 

 The phrase Curtain Calls seems to be very appropriate for the Narcissist….with their flair for the dramatic, their mask and costuming…a wolf in sheep’s clothing…their repeated appearances in your life…I thought it was something I came up with on my own until I read a post by Dr. Sam Vankin…..

“But the narcissist is slow to abandon its victims. It is there, lurking, rendering existence unreal, twisting and distorting with no respite, an inner, remorseless voice, lacking in compassion and empathy for its victim. The narcissist is there in spirit long after it has vanished in the flesh. This is the real danger that the victims of the narcissist face: that they become like him, bitter, self-centred, lacking in empathy. This is the last bow of the narcissist, his curtain call, by proxy as it were.”

Fortunately for me and those around me, I did not become like the Narcissist.  I think his “curtain calls” would have continued, except I stopped attending his performances….when he left the stage…while he waited in the wings…waiting for the applause…the standing ovation….that never came…waiting for a narcissistic encore…
I left the theatre.

The house is dark….the Broadway tour is over….
I fervently hope there will not be a revival.

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This was originally entitled “Gaslighting: Doggy style. 2008_05_29-bertha7921

I was going to be able to use this great line:  “No, this is not going to be about sex.  Mind out of the gutter, please.”  But I thought if I had one more post about Gaslighting, my audience was probably going to go screaming off into the night. 

Really, this is going to be about being gaslighted by two canines. Specifically a Rhodesian Ridgeback and a Treeing Walker Coon Hound.  While I can’t cite specifics re: the abuses from the N;
I can tell the you about two dogs that made my life miserable for 45 minutes while on vacation. I do like dogs, but I’m sorry, cats are never this cruel. 

We were on vacation in the Emerald City; actually on an island, but close enough for this tale.  We had spent 3 wonderful weeks in the Pacific Northwest.  My husband and older sons returned home; leaving myself and our youngest son to follow a few days later.

I had carefully packed two memory cards for my camera in my carry on luggage.  I put them in a Ziploc bag with a few other small soft items.  I knew exactly where they were.  After three weeks I was re-packing, getting ready to go home.  I hate re-packing.  How is it that you can never get the same suitcase to close as easily as you did on the way up?  It’s like an old TV show where the heroine tries to wiggle into a girdle. 

One evening before we left, our friends and I were going to swap photos.  I had filled one memory card, with about 700 photos.  I sat down with my friend and we went through photos from our joint vacation the previous summer. There were close to 500 photos; I decided it would be easier to down load all of the photos from his lap top.  “Go get your memory cards,” he said.  I went into one of the guest rooms that my husband and I share when we visit……….

Moose and Petunia are very curious dogs.  (Hey, I didn’t name them, the kids did.)  The moment we arrived with our luggage they were in the guest room.  Sniffing the suitcases….”Hey, I smell cat!”  Climbing on the bed and laying on the comforter…”Hey, we’ll sleep with you guys tonight…”  It took five minutes to move 80 and 65 pounds of dog from the room. 

Early in the trip, the 1/2 pound of fudge from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, “disappeared” plastic wrapping and all.  Our friends never did find any ‘remnants.’  After that we were always careful to close the bedroom door so that we did not have a raid from any furry commandos.

……My carry on bag was sitting on the bed right where I had left it…except the door was ajar.  I reached in to get the Ziploc bag with the memory cards; the bag was gone.  I went back out to the main level….where could I have left it?  I retraced my steps, 4 or 5 times.  I looked in the bag again.  My friend called me from the living room…”Are you going to bring the memory card?”  The dogs were strangely absent. 

If I hadn’t felt like I had stepped back in time, standing my office, hunting for something that the N had taken, I might thought to see where the dogs were. Instead I kept searching the main floor of the house.  My friends joined in the hunt.  They both assured me that the dogs would have never taken a Ziploc bag from my bedroom.  My girlfriend started wondering, out loud, whether I had actually brought it with me on vacation. I had that horrible panicked feeling of thinking: Did I really bring the memory cards?  Am I imagining this?  I  was having flash backs to when the N was gaslighting me on a daily basis.  I had that same off centered feeling. 

I should have paid more attention to the dogs as they nonchalantly sat on the living room floor.  Petunia had THE most guilty look on her face.  She’d look at me and then look away.  To those of you who have dogs, you know “the look.”

After 45 minutes, it seemed like longer, of walking through the house, running my hands through my hair, looking under everything…we found about 30 dog bones or portions of them…my friend took the flashlight and went out into the darkness.  I stood on the porch, not wanting to commune with the raccoons, skunks and other furry woodland creatures.  “Is this it?” he called.  He found the bag at the edge of the wetlands.  Yes, the Ziploc bag that carefully held 2 2 GB memory cards the size of my thumbnail, was returned to the kitchen for inspection.  The cards were fine.  They were still in their individual cases.  I can’t say the same for the Ziploc bag or the tea bags; they were quite spitty.  Sorry Petunia, it wasn’t more fudge. 

Moose couldn’t look me in the eye, and went to his kennel.  Petunia was found upstairs in our friend’s bedroom, hiding under the covers.  The next day, I surprised Petunia by coming into the room from another direction, she took one look at me, and her back legs couldn’t move fast enough. She raced out the doggie door and ‘hid’ outside under the tire swing.


When I got home and started unpacking, the cats were very curious.  They kept sniffing the luggage, mouths open, with disgusted looks on their furry faces.  “Ewwwww!  Have you been around a Dog?!”  “How could you!!  Traitor!!!!”  I took another dirty load of laundry to the washer; when I returned to the family room, the cats were standing over something white on the floor.  It was a dog bone.  I guess Moose and Petunia were trying to apologize.

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To view the other articles in this series, click on the category of Narcissistic Personality Disorder on the right side of my blog.   Be sure to read Gaslighting:  The Narcissist’s Game.  Otherwise, as my friend Jan says, “It’s like coming in after the movie has started…” 

I had no idea that when I wrote “Gaslighting:  A Narcissist’s Game” that it would strike the ‘nerve’ that it has.  “The stories you have heard are true, the names were changed to protect the innocent…..” 

There were examples of the “gaslighting madness” inflicted on me that I have had to leave out; the situations were far too identifying.  There were many vague and truly odd things that happened while I was ‘friends’ with the N, while I was in the midst of D&D.  (Devalue and Discard)  I think many of those memories have been blocked by my subconscious.

I wrote the first post on “gaslighting” because I found very little information on this abuse.  I felt that if I needed information, maybe other people did too.  So I started doing research. 

The best article I’ve come across is entitled “Ambient Abuse” written by Dr. Sam Vankin.  I found Dr. Vankin’s site when I was researching Narcissistic Personality Disorder after the final D&D…(I have since figured out that there is no “final” where the N is concerned.)  Dr. Vankin has probably the best site for information on NPD, for very good reason:  Dr. Vankin is a narcissist. 

It was after first reading Dr. Vankin’s articles I realized what my ‘friend’ was.  I can hear you saying, “only a doctor can diagnose NPD.”  Seriously, what are the chances that the N is EVER going to darken the door of a therapist’s office??  Besides, after reading the DSM-IV, the “Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders”, the N has all 9 characteristics.  That realization was like “fingernails on a blackboard” for me.  If that isn’t scary enough for you, on the MSN groups Narcissistic Personality Disorder forum, there is a list of 20 behaviors/traits of a Narcissist.  The N had 18 out of 20.  The missing two characteristics?  He probably has those too, but I had not experienced those aspects of his personality.  Lucky me.

I was looking for specific examples of gaslighting on the Internet.  Was this comment or that behavior just a quirk of the N?  Or Was he really gaslighting me?  Dr. Vankin’s article on “Ambient Abuse” confirmed my fears, the N had been using these techniques to damage me. 

It was quite sometime after the N moved on to other, “less drained” sources of supply that his covert operations were confirmed.  Friends told me one evening that often they would see the N in my office, after hours.  After I had left for the day.  They wondered why he was there, but never wanted to confront the N.  Can you blame them?  Sadly, it never occurred to them to tell me what they had witnessed. 
If they had, it would have been validation for me – I wasn’t going crazy; there was a crazy individual in my life. 
(Bet you thought I was going to call him a person.)

Bear with me…as I finish my NPD posts.  Yes, these posts will eventually come to an end; I still have a few more things to say.  It was after I finished the “Mirror, Mirror” post that I felt “cleansed” from the abusive friendship.  Victims/targets of a narcissist rarely, excuse me, NEVER get closure; this is mine.

**Footnote…..On “Desperate Housewives” shown on October 26, 2008….one of the male characters had begun “gaslighting” the elderly woman who lives in the neighborhood.  What that character did, moving possessions…that is what the N did to me.  On the television drama, the male character admits to the elderly woman that yes, he was trying to drive her crazy as she lays in an ambulance, with no witnesses.  
We are left not knowing “why” at the end of the evening’s telecast.  I know the feeling; I used to occasionally wonder what The N’s real motive was with me.  I know now.  It was simply to abuse another human being.  Try wrapping your mind around that. 

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To see the other articles in my series, click on the category of Narcissistic Personality Disorder on the right side of my blog page.  For more articles on Gaslighting click on that link.

Be sure to read –  Gaslighting:  Epilogue.

Victims or “targets” of Narcissists are often nurturing, sensitive, forgiving human beings. It is precisely those character traits that make she/he (more often victims are females rather than males) more vulnerable to abuse from the Narcissist. As a result of their relationship, the victim or “target” can suffer from depression, drug/alcohol abuse and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Psychological abuse is very serious; it leaves emotional scars. Scars, that no one can see, but they are as real as any bleeding wound. 

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse. It involves an increasing frequency of systematically withholding factual information from, and/or providing false information to the subject, having the gradual effect of making the victim anxious, confused, and less able to trust his or her own memory, perception and judgement.  A variation of gaslighting, used as a form of harassment, is to subtly alter aspects of a victim’s environment, thereby upsetting his or her peace of mind, sense of security, etc.

The term was coined from the 1940 film Gaslight and its 1944 remake in which changes in gas light levels are experienced several times by the main character. The classic example in the film is the character Gregory using the gas lamps in the attic, causing the rest of the lamps in the house to dim slightly; when Paula comments on the lights’ dimming, she is told she is imagining things.  Paula believes herself alone in the house when the dimming occurs, unaware that Gregory has entered the attic from the house next door. The sinister interpretation of the change in light levels is part of a larger pattern of deception to which the character Paula is subjected.  

Altering My Environment –

In my “relationship” with the N, his gaslighting deceit started subtlety at first.  Occasionally a file would be missing from my desk.  Later I’d find it in another office.  The copies I had just made would be back in the copier, when I was sure that I had removed them from the tray.  Things in my office would be moved, sometimes briefly missing…not where I had left them.  After a few months, the frequency increased to nearly every day.  My only respite was during the summer.

There is a line of dialog in “Pirates Of The Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl” that I identified with.  When the character William Turner says…”not where I left you…” in regards to his sword…that was something I said nearly every day.

Sometimes the game took place when my shift was over.  I remember I had left something on my desk and the next morning it was gone.  Later that day, I returned to my desk to find it in the same place I had left it the night before.  It became very frightening.  I was afraid that maybe I was going crazy.

Often when I returned to work in the mornings, there was a sense that something was not right; in regards to my work space/ environment, but I could not pinpoint the cause.  I never reported this to anyone.  The brainwashing by the N was already damaging my ability to think for myself.  Dr. Sam Vankin calls this “Ambient Abuse.”  I didn’t think anyone in authority would believe my claims of someone removing things from my office.  Rather they would think that I was inept and incapable of doing my job.  Those were all ideas that the N planted in my head.

The few times that I voiced my frustrations to the N in regards to things being moved, things not where I had left them…his response was, “Well if you weren’t so stupid you’d know where you put them!”  I learned to not share my concerns with him, but it was too late, the damage had been done.  He would occasionally ask, “Lose anything today?”

I remember one late afternoon when I was frantically searching for a file.  It was information that I could reprint, but I was so confused that it was not where I had just left it.  The N appeared at the edge of my desk; the strange thing was I had not even heard him come in.  He had a smirk on his face when he said, “Looking for something?”  “No,” I lied, “just cleaning up.”  It was about that time that I started thinking that he had something to do with things being missing.  But I dismissed the thought.  I had been so brainwashed by him that I would never accuse my “friend” of sabotaging me.

At the end of the “relationship,” things were stolen; items that were in locked file cabinets were gone, cabinets, to which he had a key.  He denied ever having seen the missing items, denied that they even existed.  My only real proof that he was using this “technique” was that when he finally left my life, (because he stayed on long after the ‘major’ D&D,) it was only after he had finally been removed from my surroundings, did the gaslighting stop.

When he left, there were many things missing….my self esteem, self worth, confidence, my personality, my trustful nature and the thing I missed the most, the person I thought was my best friend…aka “Pretend Guy.”

Psychological Abuse

The N frequently questioned my ability to perform my job.  This was done covertly.  Often he would appear, supposedly coming to my rescue, while I was dealing with a situation well within my capabilities.  The following scenario happened repeatedly, it got to the point where I only felt capable of doing my job when he was around.  This was exactly what he wanted.

Once, as I tried to explain to an individual, for the third time what I needed her to do, she continued to look at me with a blank, confused expression.  The N stepped into my office and the conversation and said the EXACT thing that I just had.  Suddenly, the clouds parted, the sun shone, the angels sang, and this person understood the N’s instructions and left to take care of the task.  The N turned to me with a very smug expression on his face.  Stupidly, I was very appreciative, thanking him for helping me.  Never once did I wonder if these events were orchestrated by the N.

I have replayed events like this one in my head – as sick as it sounds, I am certain that the persons in the situations were his proxies.  They were all part of the game. This is a variation that Dr. Sam Vankin calls this “Incapacitating.”

Verbal Abuse –

N said some of the most bizarre and suggestive things to me.  Things that one friend would certainly not say to other.  Things that should not have been said in a working relationship.  I tried to excuse his abuse and bad behavior with the knowledge I had of his childhood.  Truthfully, I always excused his ‘bad behavior’.  I was very supportive of him…the need that I felt…my desire to protect him…this desire was ill placed.  I should have been protecting myself – from him.

Sometimes, he would actually admit to having said something strange or extremely inappropriate.  “Oh, that’s just something I say,” would be his response.  I know at some point in this insanity, my subconscious was screaming to be heard…”Really?! That’s just something you say?!  There are other people that you are this abusive to?  Maybe I should start a support group for people who have suffered from having any contact with you!!    

Sometimes he would make an outrageous comment or suggestion to me. Once, out of the blue, he said, “I know lots of people who are married, and they have affairs.”  After I was able to shake out the “fog” his words had put me in, I asked him, “What do you mean by that?  Are you seriously suggesting that our friendship take a different path?”  He looked at me and denied ever having made the statement.  Less than a minute had even passed!  My confusion at this point was beyond extreme.  I had no way to “take a step back” and see him for what he really was.

When the “friendship” finally reached its grotesque conclusion I didn’t know who or what to believe.  I didn’t trust anyone.  Looking back now, that was what he wanted.  He didn’t want me to trust anyone.  He didn’t want me to talk to anyone, to tell them the details of what I had suffered through…he didn’t want me to tell anyone about what kind of an alien life form he was…excuse me, is.  I call him an alien, because I can’t bring myself to say he’s a human being.  He’s not.

Read – Gaslighting:  Epilogue for the conclusion to this post.  Click on the link below


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