When it comes to avoiding, escaping, or healing from narcissistic abuse, knowledge is going to be the light that guides victims and survivors through the darkness of narcissism. Gaslighting is a fantastic place for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse to start because it can manifest in nearly every single narcissistic behavior pattern out there. If one were to grasp a comprehensive understanding of gaslighting, they’d be in a much better position to dismantle the seemingly unbreakable structure that narcissistic abuse creates.

There are six form of gaslighting that victims and survivors should be aware of: traditional, ultimatums, contradictions, diversions, minimizations, and mind reading. While gaslighting is usually spoken about when describing a interaction a narcissist has with their victim, it also comes from flying monkeys, narcissist enablers, and even the victim!

A flying monkey is a person that a narcissist manipulates into participating in their smear campaign of the vicim by spreading lies and gossip about them.

A narcissist enabler is someone who doesn’t understand narcissism so they approach the situation as they would a healthy relationship. Their ignorance causes them to accidentally gaslight the victim.

When a victim or survivor of narcissistic abuse rationalizes, justifies, and ultimately normalizes narcissistic abuse, they’re gaslighting themselves.

Gaslighting from a flying monkeys, narcissist enabler, and the victim of narcissistic abuse are hidden forms of gaslighting so it is really important to be aware of them as well. You can read our article Does Gaslighting Have to Be Intentional to learn all about it!

Traditional Gaslighting

When a narcissist either directly or indirectly denies their victim’s thoughts, emotions, feelings, and/or needs, it is called traditional gaslighting and it is one of the most lucid manifestations of a narcissist’s insecure need for power and control. 

When this type of gaslighting is combined with the other narcissistic behavior patterns that are commonly seen in narcissistic relationships the narcissist accumulates a significant amount of power and control over the victim because over time the victim will become dependent on the narcissist’s version of reality.

Direct Form of Traditional Gaslighting

It’s important to notice that the gaslighting in this scenario is coming from both the narcissist in the first photo and the narcissist enabler in the second photo. Gaslighting form a narcissist enabler is a hidden form of gaslighting and it is extremely dangerous.

Why?

After months, years, even decades of narcissistic abuse, victims and survivors could be manipulated into believing that expressing their thoughts, emotions, feelings, and/or needs is wrong. So, victims and survivors often confide in others to get their reality validated, not because they are sure that the narcissist’s behavior is wrong.

So, when a victim or survivor accidentally confide in a narcissist enabler or flying monkey and is met with hidden forms of gaslighting, it has the potential to contradict their reality so severely that they’re thrown back into the narcissistic abuse cycle indefinitely.


Indirect Form of Traditional Gaslighting

In this image, the narcissistic man didn’t respond at all. The silent treatment, a type of narcissistic rage, is yet another hidden form of gaslighting. Narcissistic rage is often depicted as an explosive, terrifying, and uncontrolled act but it can also manifest in very passive aggressive ways.

At its core, narcissistic rage is a manifestation of a narcissist’s emotional immaturity and inability to regulate their own emotions. Meaning that when they experience something that contradicts their reality, triggers their suppressed emotions or challenges their sense of specialness/uniqueness, they can either explode into a rage or clam up into a silent treatment.

It’s a form of gaslighting because they’ll remain in the silent treatment until their victim apologizes. It causes victims of narcissistic abuse to second guess themselves while invalidating their thoughts, emotions, feelings, and needs.


Gaslighting Through Ultimatums

When a narcissist uses ultimatums to coerce their victims into associating their thoughts, emotions, feelings, and/or needs with either fear or punishment, it is called gaslighting with ultimatums. 

This type of gaslighting is incredibly malicious because overtime the victim will develop an unhealthy belief that voicing their thoughts, emotions, feelings, and/or needs is wrong. Gaslighting with ultimatums forces victims into becoming the narcissist’s biggest enabler. 

Gaslighting Through Contradictions

When a narcissist contradicts their victim’s reality with lies it is called gaslighting through contradictions. This type of gaslighting usually circulates around the narcissist’s corrupted belief that the victim has a faulty memory. Gaslighting through contradictions will make the victim want to go through old text messages, voice memos, voicemails, diaries, photos, and videos searching for anything that can validate their version of reality.

Gaslighting With Diversions

When a narcissist uses diversions to either project their negative emotions onto their victim or create an overwhelming amount of guilt, pity, shame, and/or anger within their victim’s psyche to discredit their thoughts, emotions, feelings, and/or needs it is called gaslighting with diversions. 

This type of gaslighting is the narcissistic version of blowing an air horn every time someone speaks to drown out what they have to say. It doesn’t matter what the victim has to say, the narcissist will experience an ego injury, consider it as an attack on their identity, and use diversons to gaslight the victim into silence. 

Gaslighting Through Minimization

When a narcissist minimizes their victim’s thoughts, emotions, feelings, and/or needs it is called gaslighting through minimization. This type of gaslighting is designed to make the narcissist’s victim feel selfish, arrogant, guilty, ashamed, and/or ungrateful for voicing their thoughts, emotions, feelings, and/or needs. 

Gaslighting through minimization can either manifest in a very direct manner or a very indirect manner. This type of gaslighting is very good at making the narcissist’s victim second guess themselves.

This image was an example of a really tricky form of minimization. It’s no secret that victims of narcissistic abuse often stay in the abusive relationship WAY longer than they should, but it isn’t their fault. When a victim of an abusive relationship can’t bring themselves to leave the relationship, it is called a trauma bond.

A trauma bond is an emotional attachment a victim of abuse forms with their abuser because of a repeated cycle of abuse and intermittent reinforcement, the delivery of a reward at irregular intervals. Trauma bonds are to blame for the continuation of nearly all abusive relationships and they’re actually very similar to drug and/or alcohol addictions.

Suggested Read: Why Do Trauma Bonds Feel Like an Addiction?

The reason the image above is such a slick form of gaslighting through minimization is because his comment about staying in the relationship is going to force his wife to second guess herself. But because the trauma bond would be so difficult for her to unpack by herself, she’d likely resort to rationalizing, justifying, and ultimately normalizing her husband’s abusive behavior instead.

Gaslighting Through Mind Reading

The combination of a narcissist’s grandiosity, sense of specialness, sense of superiority, and egocentricity causes them to use a form of gaslighting called mind reading. No, narcissists cannot read their victim’s mind but their actions suggest that they expect others to know what they want, when they want it, and exactly how they want it done. 

Narcissistic mind reading is an incredibly dangerous form of gaslighting because it teaches the victim to subconsciously gaslight themselves as well. You can learn more about narcissistic mind reading in our article Do Narcissists Expect You to Read Their Minds?

What Should You Take Away From This Article

The best defense against narcissistic abuse is knowledge. It’s so important for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse to dive into the complexity of narcissism, preferably with the guidance of a medical professional, if they want to avoid, escape, and/or heal from narcissistic abuse.

Gaslighting can come in all different shapes and sizes. The versatility of gaslighting is unfathomable at times because it can manifest in every single narcissistic behavior pattern imaginable. It’s for this reason understanding the different types of gaslighting is so important!

As powerful as gaslighting is, it’s power can actually be turned against the narcissist! In our article Is It Possible to Gaslight a Narcissist victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse can learn all about how they can use a healthy form of gaslighting to escape the narcissistic abuse cycle!


All of the content that Unfilteredd creates is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for clinical care — please visit here for qualified organizations and here for qualified professionals that you can reach out to for help. This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policies.

References:

Vickie Howard; (Gas)lighting Their Way to Coercion and Violation in Narcissistic Abuse: An Autoethnographic Exploration. Journal of Autoethnography 1 January 2022; 3 (1): 84–102. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/joae.2022.3.1.84

Durvasula, Ramani S. ” Don’t You Know Who I Am?”: How to Stay Sane in an Era of Narcissism, Entitlement, and Incivility. Post Hill Press, 2019.