Gaslighting is a manipulation tactic used by narcissists and other abusers to distort someone’s sense of reality. Gaslighting usually involves the narcissist trying to make the victim doubt his or her own sanity, perception, memory and self-worth.
For example, a gaslighting narcissist may pick on his victim for a small mistake she made, then start harshly criticizing and telling her how stupid and insane she is for making such a mistake. Most abusers are usually skilled at this behaviour; they don’t attack their victim on something the victim is confident about. Instead they usually pick something that the victim doubts themselves about, then attack their whole personality and sanity based on a single small mistake.
So, why do narcissists gaslight?
1. To lower the victim’s self-confidence
A confident person is not the one who does everything perfectly but the one who understands that making mistakes is normal and nobody can be perfect. When the narcissist harshly attacks their victim on small or non-existent mistakes, they are usually conditioning their self-confidence to depend on being perfect, which is an unattainable goal. When someone tries to do everything perfectly, his self-confidence decreases.
Gaslighting like other abuse tactics can lower the targeted individual’s self-confidence in many ways. One of the damages that gaslighting causes is distorting the victim’s perception of reality. For example she may start believing that she is less attractive because she has a particular flaw. Once the victim’s perception of reality is shaken, they may start doubting everything about themselves.
Since losing self-confidence happens gradually, the victim can rarely tell what is happening. They may realize later that they developed self-doubts without knowing where they came from.
To make the victim easily controllable
Narcissists have a deep need to control other people, especially those who are close to them. In my article: what makes narcissists panic, I said that narcissists try to control others when they have lost control over their own lives. Controlling someone gives them a sense of control once again.
Now, controlling a person who is self-confident is harder. That’s why narcissists need to ruin their victim’s self confidence to make them easily controllable. Narcissists themselves lack self-confidence and they see confident people as a threat that’s why they never want to see their victim to remain confident.
To destabilize the victim when He or she is improving
Narcissists and other abusers usually keep a close watch on their victim’s behaviour, mood and interactions with other people. If anything going on suggests that the victim’s confidence, independence or well being is improving, the abuser usually tries to neutralize them through gaslighting and other manipulation tactics.
For example, a narcissist may realize that his partner is happy and feeling good for reasons they don’t understand, then start criticising them on the small mistake they made in the morning. The abuser does this out of fear that the victim might grow stronger beyond their control. See: how to outsmart a narcissist.
Gaslighting and hiding own flaws
Gaslighting also helps the narcissist hide his own flaws. If the victim is constantly told that their personality, behaviour, or perception is flawed, they would remain on the defensive and therefore, they would get no chance to evaluate the abuser.
Sometimes gaslighting and similar manipulation tactics are used by the narcissists and other abusers when they are feeling bad about themselves in order to prevent the victim from evaluating them. This method is usually effective because when someone starts criticizing someone else, he puts himself in a position of perfection. The victim subconsciously assumes that the abuser is perfect or at least better than them. See: what drives a narcissist insane.