During our last support group meeting, one of our community members submitted a question we didn’t have time to answer: “Is it possible to gaslight a narcissist?”
It’s possible to gaslight a narcissist because they have many traits that make them more susceptible to gaslighting, such as fragile self-esteem, sensitivity to criticism, need for validation, proneness to cognitive dissonance, desire for control, paranoia, competitiveness, and an inability to accept responsibility.
Now, the person who asked this question wasn’t asking because they wanted to gaslight a narcissist; they were just curious about this topic.
In this article, I will guide you through the traits listed above to help you understand why it is possible to gaslight a narcissist.
1.) They Have Fragile Self-Esteem
Narcissists act very confident, but deep down, they often doubt themselves.
This self-doubt is one of the traits that make them susceptible to gaslighting.
When a gaslighter lies or denies things, the narcissist may start to doubt their memory or feelings because they already doubt themselves a lot.
This vulnerability makes it easier for gaslighters to control the narcissists’ reality.
2.) They Have a Sensitivity to Criticism
Narcissists are very sensitive to criticism.
In fact, they often take criticism, even constructive criticism, as a personal attack.
This sensitivity is another trait that makes them particularly vulnerable to gaslighting.
Suggested Reading: 7 Ways Narcissists React to Criticism
This is because a gaslighter can exploit a narcissist’s sensitivity to criticism by giving a mix of positive and negative feedback.
Over time, this mix can lead the narcissist to question their thoughts and rely more on the gaslighter’s version.
This makes it easier for the gaslighter to control the narcissist’s reality because the gaslighter becomes the primary source of approval for the narcissist.
3.) They Have a Need for Validation
Narcissists need a lot of validation from others to feel good about themselves.
This intense need for validation makes them more likely to believe lies that make them feel validated and, therefore, more susceptible to gaslighting.
You see, a gaslighter can exploit a narcissist’s need for validation by intermittently giving them the validation they crave.
The term “intermittently” means at irregular intervals, not continuously or steadily.
Over time, this dynamic creates a cycle where the narcissist depends on the gaslighter for validation, and the gaslighter uses this dependence to manipulate the narcissist’s reality.
4.) They Are Prone to Cognitive Dissonance
Narcissists often experience cognitive dissonance, which is a feeling of psychological tension that occurs when someone holds two conflicting beliefs or attitudes.
For narcissists, this often happens when there is a conflict between their grandiose self-image and the reality of their actions or situations.
This dissonance is a trait that makes them more susceptible to gaslighting.
Well, because they may be more inclined to accept false narratives that soothe the psychological tension (cognitive dissonance) in a way that is favorable to them.
A gaslighter can exploit this by presenting a narrative that aligns with the narcissist’s self-image, making the narcissist accept their version of reality, even if it is false.
5.) They Have a Strong Desire for Control
Narcissists have a strong desire for control over situations and people.
This desire for control is a trait that makes them more susceptible to gaslighting tactics that play into this desire.
Suggested Reading: 3 Reasons Narcissists Are So Controlling
You see, a gaslighter can manipulate a narcissist by making them feel like they are in control or giving them a sense of superiority.
This plays into the narcissist’s desire for control, making it easier for the gaslighter to manipulate them and their perception of reality.
Over time, this can lead to the narcissist becoming more dependent on the gaslighter to maintain their sense of control and superiority.
If this were to happen, it would make it harder for the narcissist to recognize the manipulation and break free from the gaslighter’s influence.
6.) They Struggle with Paranoia
Some narcissists can be overly suspicious of others’ motives, always thinking that others are out to get them or have hidden agendas.
This paranoia is a trait that may make them more susceptible to believing false narratives that confirm their suspicions.
A gaslighter can exploit this by providing narratives that align with the narcissist’s suspicions, even if these narratives are false.
This can lead to the narcissist becoming more paranoid and more susceptible to manipulation, as they may start to trust the gaslighter more than others.
7.) They Are Blindly Competitive
Narcissists have a strong desire to be the best or most important in every situation.
Similar to their desire for control, this competitiveness is a trait that can make them more susceptible to gaslighting tactics that play into this desire.
A gaslighter can exploit this by providing the narcissist with narratives that boost the narcissist’s ego or by subtly undermining their accomplishments.
This can cause the narcissist to become more dependent on the gaslighter for validation, which, as we discussed earlier, makes them highly vulnerable to gaslighting.
8.) They Have an Inability to Accept Responsibility
Narcissists often blame others for their mistakes or shortcomings because they are unable to accept responsibility for their actions.
This trait makes them more susceptible to gaslighting tactics that help them shift responsibility onto others.
What do I mean by this?
Well, a gaslighter can exploit a narcissist by providing narratives that align with their desire to avoid taking responsibility for their actions.
As you can imagine, this makes it easy for the gaslighter to manipulate the narcissist into accepting their twisted version of reality.
What Should You Take Away from This Article?
It is important to note that gaslighting, by definition, is an unethical and manipulative tactic, and under no circumstances is it okay to gaslight anyone, narcissist or not.
This article was for educational purposes only. I hope it brought you value and helped you better understand narcissism and narcissistic abuse.
About the Author
Hey, I’m Elijah.
I experienced narcissistic abuse for three years.
I create these articles to help you understand and validate your experiences.
Thank you for reading, and remember, healing is possible even when it feels impossible.