Gaslighting, Silent Treatment, and More: Recognising the Techniques Used by Narcissists

Woman standing at bottom of stairs feeling hopelessAre you feeling confused and manipulated in your relationships? You may be a victim of narcissistic abuse, which is a form of emotional and psychological abuse caused by a person exhibiting narcissistic traits. Narcissists use a range of techniques to control and manipulate their victims, such as gaslighting, silent treatment, and playing the victim. If you are in a narcissistic relationship it is important to recognise these techniques and know how to respond to them. Knowing what is going on will help you to better navigate the relationship and help you to make decisions based on what is best for you, and not what the narcissist convinces you is true.

What is Narcissistic Abuse?

Narcissistic abuse refers to a type of abuse that occurs when someone is in a relationship with a narcissist. Narcissists are individuals who have an excessive sense of self-importance and often lack empathy for others. When a narcissist is in a relationship, they tend to manipulate and control their partner in various ways. This manipulation is solely for the benefit of the narcissist. It is often done to control you or to make themselves look good. They see people in their lives as objects and use them to make themselves look good and fulfil their narcissistic supply (constant need for admiration and attention). This type of abuse can manifest in both emotional and verbal forms and causes immense trauma to individuals who are the target of narcissistic abuse.

Emotional abuse involves a range of tactics that the narcissist uses to control and undermine their partner’s confidence and self-esteem. These manipulation tactics are often very discreet and covert, so you might not realise what is happening until it is too late.

A few examples of emotional abuse are gaslighting, silent treatment and love bombing. Gaslighting is when the narcissist manipulates you into doubting your own reality, causing you to question your own perception of events. Silent treatment involves ignoring your attempts to communicate, and love bombing involves showering you with excessive affection in order to manipulate you.

Verbal abuse includes tactics like insults, put-downs, and criticism. The narcissist may use these tactics to undermine your sense of self-worth and to make you feel helpless. This can cause long-term emotional damage and make it challenging for you to leave the relationship.

If you are in a relationship with a narcissist, it’s crucial to recognise the signs of narcissistic abuse. Seeking counselling or therapy can help you to overcome the trauma of this type of abuse. It’s important to remember that you are not alone, and there is support available to help you overcome this traumatic experience.

Manipulation Tactics used by Narcissists

Narcissists are known to use a variety of manipulation tactics to gain control and power over their victims. Recognising these tactics is crucial to breaking free from their grip. Here are some of the most common techniques used by narcissists:

  1. Gaslighting
    A narcissist will never admit to doing anything wrong, instead when confronted they will become defensive and use gaslighting as a way to manipulate you. This involves making you doubt your own reality by denying or distorting your experiences, feelings, and memories. For example, a narcissist might say something like “That never happened”; “You are imagining things”; or “It wasn’t that bad”. They might even accuse you of being “crazy”.
  2. Silent Treatment
    Silent treatment is when the narcissist ignores your attempts to communicate. It is a passive-aggressive form of emotional abuse where they show their displeasure, disapproval, and contempt through nonverbal gestures while maintaining verbal silence. Narcissists use this tactic to control you. By giving you the silent treatment they make you feel like you are the one in the wrong and you will do anything to get back into their good favours.
  3. Love Bombing
    Love bombing is another tactic used by narcissists. This involves showering you with affection and attention to make you feel special and loved. The narcissist may do this at the beginning of your relationship, or after a period of abuse to keep you under their control.
  4. Triangulation
    Triangulation is a tactic used by narcissists to create jealousy and insecurity in their victims. This involves involving a third party, such as an ex-partner or a friend, to make you feel excluded or threatened. They can even bring in a third person to take their side in a conflict situation with the aim of making you even more insecure and discrediting you.
  5. Projection
    Projection is another tactic used by narcissists that involves deflecting blame onto you for their own actions and behaviours. For example, a narcissist may accuse their partner of cheating when they are the ones who are unfaithful.
  6. Playing the Victim
    Narcissists are very good at playing the victim. They may portray themselves as helpless and in need of support and sympathy to gain attention and control over you. Remember they thrive on attention and this is a way for them to get it. This is a very successful tactic because due to their charming nature, they are very convincing and often have outsiders confused as to what the truth is. So when you decide to speak up chances are that not everyone will believe you.
  7. Guilt Tripping
    Guilt tripping is when someone tries to get you to do what they want by making you feel guilty. They may make you feel responsible for their own abusive behaviour or blame you for anything that goes wrong in the relationship.
  8. Smear Campaigns
    Smear campaigns are a tactic used by narcissists to discredit their victims. This involves spreading lies and rumours about the victim to damage their reputation and relationships with others. Once again by doing this they keep you under your control and manipulate things in such a way that it would be difficult for you to get away from them.
  9. Revenge Seeking
    Revenge seeking is a tactic used by narcissists that involve punishing you for any perceived wrongs or slights. This may include threatening behaviour, verbal abuse, or even physical violence. They do not like it when anyone goes against them or makes them look bad.
  10. Hoovering
    Hoovering is a tactic used by narcissists to draw their victims back into their lives. This involves making contact with you after a period of no contact to try and re-establish control over you. The tactics used in hoovering are similar to the tactics used in love bombing (like showering you with gifts), but in this case it would be after a break-up or serious conflict when the narcissist is afraid that he might have lost you.

Recognising these manipulation tactics is key to dealing with narcissistic abuse. It is important to seek support and advice from friends, family, or professionals if you suspect you are being abused by a narcissist. Speaking out about what is happening to you can make all the difference.

Dealing With Narcissistic Abuse

Dealing with narcissistic abuse can be challenging, especially if you have been subjected to this behaviour for a long time. Narcissists are skilled at manipulation and control, making it difficult to stand up for yourself or set boundaries. However, there are some strategies you can use to protect yourself and begin to break free from the cycle of abuse.

Firstly, it is important to recognise that you are not responsible for the narcissist’s behaviour. You may feel like you are walking on eggshells around them or constantly second-guessing yourself, but this is a result of their manipulation tactics. Accepting that you are not the problem can be liberating and allow you to focus on healing.

Another strategy is to set firm boundaries. Narcissists are often pushy and can be aggressive when challenged. However, it is essential to stand up for yourself and set limits on what behaviour you are willing to accept. It is important to be clear, consistent, and unwavering in enforcing your boundaries.

Seeking support from loved ones or a counsellor can also be incredibly beneficial. A trusted confidant can offer a different perspective on your situation and provide emotional support. Counselling can help you process your experiences, build your self-esteem and confidence, and develop healthy coping strategies.

It is also essential to remember that leaving a narcissistic relationship can be difficult. You may feel a sense of guilt, shame or responsibility for the relationship’s failure. However, it is vital to recognise that leaving is an act of self-care and can lead to a healthier and happier life.

Dealing with narcissistic abuse is challenging, but with time, effort and support, it is possible to break free from the cycle of manipulation and control. Remember to put yourself first, set boundaries and seek help when necessary. You deserve to live a life free from abuse and toxicity.

When to Seek Help

If you’re in a relationship with a narcissist and are experiencing their abusive behaviour, it’s important to take action. It can be hard to know when to seek help, as narcissists often make it difficult for their victims to identify what is happening. They do this very effectively through their emotional and psychological abuse and manipulation tactics. However, if you’re feeling trapped or controlled, and are experiencing a decrease in self-esteem, it’s time to take action.

If you’re questioning whether or not you should seek help, consider the following questions:

    • Do you feel isolated and alone?
    • Do you feel like you can’t trust your own judgment?
    • Are you questioning your sanity or mental wellbeing?
    • Do you feel like you’re constantly walking on eggshells around your partner?
    • Are you losing your sense of identity?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s time to reach out for help. Narcissistic abuse can be incredibly damaging, and can have long-term effects on your mental and physical health.

Seeking help can come in different forms. Consider speaking with a therapist or a counsellor who has experience with narcissistic abuse. They can help you understand what is happening in your relationship and can give you the tools you need to set boundaries and protect yourself. Additionally, consider speaking with trusted friends or family members, who can provide emotional support during this difficult time.

Remember, you’re not alone. Narcissistic abuse is more common than you might think, and there are resources and support systems available to help you. Don’t be afraid to seek help and start your journey towards healing.

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