Have you ever wondered why narcissists gaslight people?

During a masterclass two days ago, a member of Unfilteredd’s Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse asked our therapists the following: 

“Why do narcissists gaslight people?”

Narcissists gaslight people to:

  • Maintain control over you.
  • Avoid accountability.
  • Isolate them from their support network.
  • Reinforce their version of reality.
  • Project their faults onto you.
  • Feel powerful.
  • Manage their underlying fears.

In this post, I will guide you through these reasons to help you understand why narcissists gaslight others.

If you have or currently are experiencing narcissistic abuse, visit Unfilteredd’s Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse for help.

1) To Maintain Control Over You

A narcissist might gaslight you because they want to keep control over you and the relationship.1 

Imagine someone holding the remote to a TV and deciding what you watch when you watch it and how loud the volume is. 

In a similar way, by making you question your reality, memories, and sanity, a narcissist aims to become the “remote controller” of your life. 

They twist facts, deny things they’ve said or done, and dismiss your feelings, all to keep you off balance. 

A narcissist twisting facts.

When you’re unsure of yourself, you’re more likely to rely on them for what’s “right” or “true,” giving them more power and you less. 

This control is crucial for a narcissist, as it reinforces their sense of superiority and dominance.

Suggested Reading: Why Are Narcissists So Controlling?

2) To Avoid Accountability

Another reason narcissists gaslight is to dodge accountability for their actions.2 

If a narcissist can make you doubt your recollections of events or conversations, they can escape blame and responsibility. 

It’s like if someone broke a vase and then convinced everyone, including you, that the vase was already broken. 

By rewriting the past, they not only avoid the consequences of their behavior but also paint themselves in a better light. 

This tactic allows them to continue their harmful actions without facing the repercussions, ensuring that they remain untouchable and above reproach in their eyes and, ideally, in the eyes of those around them.

Suggested Reading: What Happens When You Confront a Narcissist?

3) To Isolate You from Your Support Network

Narcissists gaslight as a strategy to isolate you from your friends, family, and any other support systems you might have.3 


They want to erode your confidence in your judgment and willingness to confide in others by making you question your perceptions and sanity. 

It’s like removing the branches that connect one tree to another in a dense forest, leaving the tree standing alone and vulnerable. 

If a narcissist can convince you that you’re the problem, you’re less likely to seek out or trust the perspectives of those who might offer you a reality check and support against the narcissist’s manipulations. 

A victim of narcissistic abuse thinking about not seeking out support because they are convinced that they are the problem after being gaslighted.

This isolation strengthens their control over you, making it harder for you to break free from their influence because you feel you have nowhere else to turn.

Suggested Reading: 5 Ways Narcissists Isolate You

4) To Reinforce Their Version of Reality

Gaslighting is also a tool narcissists use to reinforce their version of reality, a reality where they are always right, justified, and in control.4

By continuously challenging your memories, perceptions, and sanity, they aim to replace your version of events with their own. 

This is similar to someone constantly editing a story until the original narrative is lost, and only their version remains. 

In doing this, narcissists ensure that any narrative about the relationship or events within it reflects positively on them and negatively on you, if necessary. 

This skewed reality validates their actions and decisions, further entrenching their perceived superiority and righteousness in both their eyes and, ideally, those of everyone around them.

If you need help with anything related to narcissistic abuse, visit Unfilteredd’s Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse today.

5) To Project Their Faults Onto You

Another reason narcissists might gaslight you is to project their faults and insecurities onto you.5 

In psychology, projection refers to placing your own negative traits or unwanted emotions onto others, usually without reason.6

In the narcissist’s mind, if they can convince you that you’re the one with the problematic behaviors or traits that actually belong to them, they can avoid facing their own shortcomings and guilt. 

A narcissist projecting their own jealousy and insecurity onto someone.

This is similar to a magician using misdirection, focusing your attention on something else to conceal their trick. 

For example, a narcissist who is being unfaithful may accuse you of cheating, creating confusion and making you defend yourself instead of scrutinizing their actions. 

Through this projection, they not only shield themselves from criticism and accountability but also inflict emotional turmoil on you, keeping you off-balance and absorbed in clearing your name rather than addressing the real issues at hand.

Suggested Reading: How to Tell When a Narcissist Is Projecting

6) To Feel Powerful

Narcissists may gaslight you as a way to feel powerful and assert their superiority.7 

This approach allows them to exert influence and control, reinforcing their belief in their own dominance. 

It’s like someone playing a game where they make up the rules as they go, ensuring they always have the upper hand. 

By manipulating your perception of reality, they place themselves in a position of authority, dictating what is true and what isn’t. 

This power dynamic feeds their ego and satisfies their need to feel superior to those around them. 

The act of successfully gaslighting someone and observing the confusion and self-doubt it causes reinforces their sense of control and superiority, making them feel powerful in the relationship.

7) To Manage Their Underlying Fears

Fear can be a significant motivator for narcissists to engage in gaslighting.8 

They may fear losing control, being exposed for their true selves, or facing the consequences of their actions. 

This fear drives them to maintain a tight grip on the narrative surrounding their relationships and actions.

By gaslighting, they create a reality that shields them from confrontation and exposure. 

It’s a defensive mechanism designed to protect their fragile self-image and avoid any situation that might reveal their vulnerabilities or lead to rejection. 

Their constant anxiety over these potential outcomes compels them to manipulate those around them, ensuring they remain in control. 

In this context, gaslighting is not just a tool for manipulation but a shield against their deepest fears of inadequacy and loss of control.

Suggested Reading: 7 Things Narcissists Fear the Most

If you are ready to be more than a victim of narcissistic abuse, visit Unfilteredd’s Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse today.


Thank you so much for reading.

I hope this article has provided you with valuable insights into the complex motivations behind narcissistic gaslighting.

Now, I’d love to hear from you!

Have you ever been on the receiving end of gaslighting by a narcissist? How did it impact your perception of reality and your relationships?

What steps have you taken to recover from the effects of gaslighting, and what advice would you give to someone currently experiencing it?

Or perhaps you’re looking for more information on how to effectively deal with gaslighting in your own life.

Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below.

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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.

Unfilteredd has strict sourcing guidelines and only uses high-quality sources to support the facts within our content. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate, actionable, inclusive, and trustworthy by reading our editorial process.

  1. Jean Kim. (2021. October, 14). Gaslighting: What Is It and Why Do People Do It? Psycom. https://www.psycom.net/gaslighting-what-is-it ↩︎
  2. National Domestic Violence Hotline. What is Gaslighting? National Domestic Violence Hotline. https://www.thehotline.org/resources/what-is-gaslighting/ ↩︎
  3. Jennifer Huizen. (2024. March, 22). Examples and signs of gaslighting and how to respond. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/gaslighting ↩︎
  4. Robin Stern. (2023. October, 11). Gaslighting: Turning Off the Gas on Your Gaslighter. HelpGuide.org. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/communication/turning-off-the-gas-on-your-gaslighter.htm ↩︎
  5. BetterHelp Editorial Team. (2024. March, 22). What Is Gaslighting? How To Recognize It And What To Do. BetterHelp. https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/relations/gaslighting-a-sneaky-kind-of-emotional-abuse/ ↩︎
  6. Sara Lindberg. (2018. September, 15). It’s Not Me, It’s You: Projection Explained in Human Terms. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/projection-psychology ↩︎
  7. Sherri Gordon. (2023. November, 21). Is Someone Gaslighting You? Learn the Warning Signs. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/is-someone-gaslighting-you-4147470 ↩︎
  8. Anna Drescher. (2024. January, 20). Why Do People Gaslight? Simply Psychology. https://www.simplypsychology.org/why-do-people-gaslight.html ↩︎

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