One of the reasons that addressing the trauma that abusive relationships create is such a daunting task is because of the terrifyingly intense impact that gaslighting has on victims of abusive.
When an abuser gaslights their victim on a regular basis it forces the victim to become depended on the abuser’s version of reality to develop a sense of self. This traps the victim within the abuse cycle because they feel incapable of conceptualizing a realistic sense of self without the abuser.
With that being said, the manipulative structure that gaslighting creates isn’t invincible. With the right approach, victims of abuse can overcome the power of gaslighting. But to start this process, they need to be able to identify core aspects of the gaslighting process that cause victims of abuse to become incapable of having a sense of self without their abuser’s reality.
A Deeper Understanding of What Gaslighting Does to Victims of Abuse
The most important thing to be aware of when learning about gaslighting is that just because someone says something that could be considered gaslighting doesn’t mean that they’re an abuser. This is an important warning to remember because many of the phrases that are considered gaslighting are things victims of abuse may say when defending themselves from their abuser.
For example, when an abuser says, “nothing I do is ever good enough for you,” they are gaslighting the victim with a comment designed to create guilt but when a victim of abuse says something like that, it is an entirely different story because more often than not, nothing is ever good enough for the abuser.
Suggested Reading:119 of the Most Common Gaslighting Phrases
The two core aspects of the gaslighting that cause victims to become incapable to conceptualize a sense of self without the abuser’s reality are the following:
- Gaslighting teaches victims to invalidate their own emotions, thoughts, feelings, and needs.
- Gaslighting plagues the victim’s mind with an overwhelming amount of ruminating thoughts.
Gaslighting Teaches Victims to Invalidate Their Own Emotions, Thoughts, Feelings, and Needs
It is very common for victims of abusive relationships to feel a tremendous amount of shame and/or guilt at the mere thought of leaving their abuser. One of the biggest reasons that this happens is because gaslighting is designed to manipulate the victim into believing that their well-being is insignificant in comparison to the narcissist’s well being.
5 Types of Gaslighting That Manipulates Victims Into Neglecting Their Own Well-Being
- Traditional Gaslighting
- Listen, at this point you’re lucky that I’m even talking to you. I mean, do you hear yourself? You’re so sensitive and paranoid, when will you grow up?
- Gaslighting By Contradicting Your Reality
- Let’s be honest, you rarely listen to my side of the story. You waste our time together just looking for issues. You act psychotic and all of my friends say so too.
- Gaslighting Through Minimizations
- Nothing I do is ever good enough for you. I mean you’re always victimizing yourself. I never asked you to do (blank) so the way that you’re feeling couldn’t possibly be my fault. Why do you do this sh*t to yourself?!
- Gaslighting With Ultimatums
- I’m so tired of your attitude. Bring that up one more time and see what happens. Like honestly, where do you come up with these insane ideas? I don’t want to hear another word come out of your mouth, do you understand!?
- Gaslighting With Diversions
- Are you seriously bringing up your “struggles” right now? Can’t you see how much pain I am in? You wouldn’t give two sh*ts if I just decided to commit suicide right now would you?! Honestly, you are by far the most selfish person in the world.
After months, years, and even decades of gaslighting, and many of the other narcissistic behavior patterns that plague abusive relationships, abusers are able to teach their victim to invalidate their own thoughts, emotions, feelings, and needs on both a conscious and a subconscious level.
As a victim, this is an extremely dangerous position to be in because it often causes them to neglect their own physical and emotional health. Narcissistic abuse has a devastating impact on one’s health which makes the victim vulnerable to many other narcissistic behavior patterns.
We spoke about this more thoroughly in our article How Do Narcissists Get Flying Monkeys but one of the ways that they do it is by destroying the victim’s perceived credibility.
The traditional concept of flying monkeys highlights a narcissist’s ability to spread lies and gossip about the victim to create flying monkeys which is a very common approach they use.
But oftentimes, especially in romantic relationships, the reason that people believe the narcissist’s lies is because the victim’s health has drastically deteriorated throughout the entirety of their relationship with the abuser.
What this means is that the friends and family of the victim see that their health is getting worse and worse but because victims of abuse are gaslighted into invalidating their own thoughts, emotions, feelings, and needs they naturally hide the abuse from family and friends.
This leaves everyone around the victim with no explanations which makes it extremely easy for the abuser to spread lies and gossip to fill that void.
Gaslighting Plagues the Victim’s Mind With an Overwhelming Amount of Ruminating Thoughts
It is really important to look at the grand scheme of things when trying to grasp a comprehensive understanding of the correlation gaslighting has to rumination.
A great place to start would be grasping a compressive understanding of narcissistic mirroring.
The term “narcissistic mirroring” is used to describe an abuser’s ability to absorb an extraordinary amount of information about their victim’s identity and use the information to create a falsified identity that is designed to fill the void in the victim’s life and essentially be the person that the victim needs.
It’s important to be aware of just how versatile narcissistic mirroring is because while it can be as glamorous and grandiose as it is usually portrayed as, it can also be extremely dark.
For example, children who have an unhealthy/abusive upbringing often have an extremely corrupted perception of a healthy relationship and equate the abuse they’re experiencing from their primary caregivers with genuine love.
If this level of trauma isn’t addressed with the guidance of a qualified professional, the child will carry their corrupted perception of healthy relationships into adulthood which will cause them to naturally gravitate towards abusive relationships.
If they were to cross paths with an abuser who uses narcissistic mirroring, their corrupted perception of a healthy relationship makes the abuser’s job really easy because the void in the victim’s life is an abuser.
On top of all of that, it’s very unlikely that they’d have the inkling to acknowledge that what they’re experiencing is abuse simply because their unhealthy/abusive upbringing has already normalized it for them.
The reason that narcissistic mirroring is such a powerful form of gaslighting is because it manipulates the victim’s perception of reality with the abuser’s falsified identity just long enough to feel as if they’ve developed a healthy, happy, and secure bond with someone then pulls the happy, healthy, and secure vision out from under them without warning which leaves the victim questioning their own sanity.
Where this takes a turn for the worst is when the abuser begins to be inconsistent and constantly invalidating, devaluating, dehumanizing and creating chaos with other forms of gaslighting and abuse. This is quite the predicament to be in.
The victim can acknowledge that what they’re experiencing is abuse, which would be rare to see because of how intense the manipulation that they’re experiencing is, or they can find some way to justify, rationalize, and ultimately normalize the abuse which is what the abuser often manipulates them into doing.
Narcissistic mirroring, is no joke. It honestly makes people believe that they have a happy, healthy, and secure bond with the perfect partner, co-worker, family member, or friend. So, when they come face to face with the abuser who was once someone they envisioned a happy, healthy, and secure future with, it causes a lot of psychological distress which is when rumination comes into the mix.
Rumination is when someone continuously thinks about the same thoughts centered around a negative experience. In narcissistic relationships this manifests in the form of self-doubt and self-blame. Narcissistic mirroring is an extremely powerful form of gaslighting that makes the victim envisions a captivating future that will never be reachable leaving them stuck, lost, and confused.
What Should You Take Away From This Article?
Gaslighting is to blame for the continuation of many abusive relationships and its power is fueled by the information that narcissistic mirroring provides. It causes relationship to be like a psychological hall of mirrors for the victim, leaving them feeling incapable of conceptualizing a realistic sense of self without the abuser.
This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policies.
THIS INFORMATION IS FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND IS NOT INTENDED TO BE A SUBSTITUTE FOR CLINICAL CARE.
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