The narcissist will do one of 3 things.
When you confront a narcissist and call them out on their behavior or stand up for yourself, the narcissist experiences narcissistic injury.
Their idealized self, their persona, has been challenged. That is both terrifying and hurtful to them at the same time.
Next comes narcissistic rage.
Depending on the narcissist, you may or may not see the rage.
- Some will fly off the handle, becoming verbally and/or physically abusive
- Some will hide it entirely, then find ways to sabotage and punish you
Either way, you’ll pay.
After the narcissist feels the injury, they will react in one of 3 ways.
#1 The narcissist will deny, deflect, and dismiss.
When you call the narcissist out, they will adamantly deny what you say is true, even in the face of evidence. They will tell you you’re mistaken, you’ve misunderstood, that they were messing with you and it was a joke, or that your insecurity made you see something that wasn’t there.
Next, they will deflect the conversation to something they find wrong with you. This shifts you to defense — defense of yourself, your motives, your character. While the focus is on you, they are off the hook.
Finally, they will dismiss you as overreacting, crazy, or being too sensitive, controlling, or insecure.
Suppose you confront your husband with evidence of their cheating. You’ve found condoms in his glove box, plane tickets for two (your husband and another woman), then searched his phone and found the text string. It’s obvious they talk to each other like a couple.
He adamantly denies anything is going on, adamantly denies having an affair. He tells you the condoms are there in case the two of you want to have sex in the car – he likes to be prepared. He tells you the plane tickets are for him and a work colleague. He tells you the text string was a joke, that he knows how jealous and insecure you are, so they planted a fake text conversation to mess with you if you were insecure enough to check his phone.
Now he launches into a conversation about your insecurity and jealousy. You see, the real problem is you. He tries to convince you your behavior is proof.
Then he says, you need to fix your problem. There’s nothing he can do about your insecurity.
Eventually, you feel so exhausted and beaten down by the conversation that you just want it to be over. He’s won.
#2 The narcissist will offer a false apology and become the victim.
When you call the narcissist out and take a stand for yourself, first the narcissist will offer a false apology. It may sound and feel sincere. They may even mean it sincerely in that moment.
Yet their behavior does not change. They are unwilling to do what it takes to make positive change. Their actions do not match their words.
Next, they make themselves the victim by providing excuses for their behavior. They do not truly own it as theirs.
Suppose your wife spends an extra $1000 from the household budget on wants, not needs. You confront her about her spending as this behavior has negatively impacted the family’s finances.
She apologizes profusely, saying, “I know it’s a problem. I’m so sorry. I won’t let it happen again. Please don’t be upset. I didn’t mean to go over the budget. I didn’t mean to hide it from you. I know that’s terrible. I’m a terrible person. My mom used to hide spending from my dad. She used to buy us stuff behind his back when we had a bad day. It’s not an excuse, but it’s what I learned at home.”
It is an excuse, an excuse presented by an adult who is avoiding responsibility for their behavior, an adult who has now become the victim. Next thing you know, you are comforting her.
They avoid taking responsibility and receive a ton of narcissistic supply. It’s no wonder they do it.
#3 The narcissist will discard and discredit.
You call out the narcissist on their behavior and take a stand. The overt narcissist may decide you’re just too much work – it’s easier to get supply elsewhere. They will discard.
When you do this with a covert narcissist after their mask has slipped and they know you saw their true self, the narcissistic injury is too great, their rage is too intense. You have shifted to “all bad” and they can no longer hold a positive impression of any part of the relationship.
You have threatened not only their idealized self, their false persona, but also their made-up version of reality. Their house of cards is at risk of tumbling down and they are terrified.
They will either discard you or torture you until you discard them. If their persona is the victim who is beaten down by mean old you, getting you to discard them supports that story.
The covert narcissist isn’t watching and waiting. They’ve already started discrediting you. The stories broadcast to their flying monkeys at this point are about how you humiliated them, belittled them, denigrated them.
They share how abusive you are. The flying monkeys encourage them to leave, to leave this abusive relationship. They appear weak, making excuses for why they need to stay. They relish the opportunity to play the victim.
They share how dishonest and untrustworthy you are. They share stories that make you look crazy. This is all done with a “Don’t tell anyone I told you this. I’m so embarrassed…”
The covert narcissist discredits and smears you to limit the impact of your exposing them.
When a narcissist can no longer control you, they seek to control the way others see you.
- The pastor even said at the beginning of things “I see that you’re smart enough that you’re standing on public property.” The pastor knew and admitted he wasn’t trespassing long before the cop even got there and started claiming as much.
“Use these three secrets to outsmart a narcissist who wants to latch onto you and make you their prime source of narcissistic supply. In this Youtube video Lisa A Romano Life Coach, helps you better understand how to outsmart a narcissist so you can maintain your sanity, dignity and self-respect.
8 Key Phrases You Can Use to Shut Down a Narcissist https://youtu.be/HCA7gQrhyFw
10 Mind Games Narcissists Play They Hope You Won’t Figure Out https://youtu.be/Cpu4_IXuwFo
Frank Yeomans describes the difference between lies and delusion (and psychosis) within narcissistic pathology, with several clinical examples focusing on employment situations from his Transference-Focused Psychotherapy practice.
Why do people delude themselves? What is the real purpose of narcissistic lies or delusions? How are they different from psychosis? What is their impact on relationships? Does lying to people mean you are antisocial or have NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder)? How should a therapist handle a client who is delusional?
Sometimes there are reasons why we need to remain with the gaslighter. This can be true even if we are self confident and very aware of the abuse.
My gaslighter has been in my adult life for 37 years. I remain in a marriage with him for financial reasons. He is unable to genuinely empathize with me; in fact, the only (very few) people he “empathizes” with are people who agree with him (oh, how little they truly know him!).
My husband is entirely self-centered. He is a control freak. He is mentally and emotionally ill. He refuses treatment on the basis that “God will heal” him of any issues he has. His “God” is one who agrees with him, and who excuses (forgives, loves) him – regardless of what he does.
The problem is that in his 72 years on earth, God has not yet healed him.
The best way to diffuse a gaslighter is to completely – no matter how tempting – avoid exposing your feelings and emotions to him ( or her). As soon as you do you have become the match that lights their fire.
When you are with your pet gaslighter keep the conversation light. Keep it superficial. Bring up an article you’ve read that your gaslighter finds interesting. For my husband and I baseball is a safe topic. Discussing the inventory we have to run our business is an excellent subject for us to discuss.
Talk about the weather.
Don’t be a victim, don’t think of yourself as a victim, because the moment you do your gaslighter is in control. If your gaslighter must be in your life always keep in your mind that s/he is a pathetic person who lives in their tiny, fragile self-created world of (they believe) safety. S/he is a mentally and emotionally disturbed person.
Perhaps most important is this: Have your own network of support. Whatever that means to you, as long as your support people are healthy and care about you, keep them in your life.
Build up your own self-worth. Focus on your own emotional health and well-being as you accept that you cannot change that sicko gaslighter – and never will.
Don’t waste your precious time with trying to figure that person out; whenever you are tempted to do so, ask yourself how you can become a stronger person.
You cannot “expose” a gaslighter. You absolutely cannot prove to the gaslighter that you’re not crazy. You can beat them at their own sick, pitiful, weak little game by knowing, deep inside, that you are not “crazy”.
You can refuse to allow your gaslighter to control you be refusing to be the human fuel they need to keep their pathetic fire burning.