It was probably around the end of 2017 when I really started deep-diving into what narcissism really is. A part of the reason why I did it was because I was counseling some people who seemed to reveal some telling signs of being one. Then, because I am definitely the exception and not the rule when it comes to not being on social media, I was finding more and more data to support that it is creating more narcissists than ever before. Jump ahead a couple of years and I actually had a close relative who said, “Of course, I'm a narcissist. My mother and father are narcissists.” Boy, did that start to connect some dots as it relates to narcissistic abuse within my family tree and when it came to some of the friends and even guys that I picked — because it really is true that until you know better, it’s hard to do better.
As I started becoming a semi-expert on how to discern a narcissist before you find yourself getting beat the hell up by them (check out “3 Warning Signs You're In Love With A Narcissist” and “What If It's Your Parents Who Happen To Be The Narcissists?”), that’s when I began to learn more and more about gaslighting (check out “Gaslighting, Love Bombing & 5 Other Triggers To Call Out In Your Relationships”) and y’all…Y’ALL. Hmph. Matter of fact, the more that I learn about what it is beyond how much folks just randomly throw the word out into the atmosphere, the more I get that if a lot of us nipped gaslighting right in the bud, our lives would be so much more peace-filled and we’d have a lot more clarity on what the quality of our relationships actually are; including our friendships.
Last year, I shared some intel on what it means to date a gaslighter (you can read more about that here). Today, let’s get into what it’s like to be gaslit by a friend (or “friend”). Because the sooner you know the signs, the sooner you can know if that person is worth keeping in your tribe or not — because why choose to be “burned” all of the time if you absolutely can avoid it?
If someone were to ask me to provide a really quick and concise definition of gaslighting, I would probably pull from the author of the lead quote up top. Tracy Morgan also once said, “Gaslighting is an attempt to change the truth.” Some other keepers from the same writer include: “Gaslighting is mind control to make victims doubt their reality,” “Gaslighting is implanted narratives cloaked in secrecy,” and “Gaslighting is when you don’t remember things the same as they do.” OK, but just so that we’re all on the same page, let’s go just a bit deeper than that.
At the end of the day, gaslighting is a form of emotional and/or psychological abuse where the gaslighter tries to make the “victim” question their own reality when it comes to their memories, experiences, and even feelings that are directly associated with the gaslighter. And why would someone be so diabolic? It’s all about manipulation and control. Egomaniacs like to gaslight. Abusers like to gaslight. Narcissists like to gaslight. Control freaks like to gaslight. People who suck at taking personal accountability for their actions like to gaslight. Some would say that ghosters are also pretty good gaslighters because if you’re leaving someone to question what happened, that is messing with their feelings…right? And because ghosting is pretty intentional, that means that 8 times out of 10, that is exactly what you wanted to do in order to have some sort of control (or get some control back)…right?
And here’s the thing — so long as someone is able to keep undermining you and, as a direct result, keep you “unstable” when it comes to how to deal with them, in their mind, they have the upper hand. They are able to keep pulling strings that can sway you into all kinds of directions, all the while acting innocent or even like you’re the problem. When I tell you that gaslighting is evil…it really is so evil, chile. And that’s why, again, it’s so important — crucial even — to know when someone you consider to be a friend is actually doing it to you.
And because, unfortunately, gaslighting is super common, I wanted to share a few signs of when you’re being gaslit in a friendship (or you’re possibly doing it to someone else), so that you are very clear, moving forward.
6 Ways a Friend Can Gaslight You (Sometimes, Without You Noticing It)
1. They Can Have a Selective Memory
When I tell you that I have a relative who is an Olympian gaslighter in this very realm? When it comes to what I had on in grade school or what I said 10 years ago, they can remember that. Oh, but call them to the carpet on some blatant physical, verbal or emotional abuse and, all of a sudden, they can’t remember. Chile, bye.
The reason why gaslighters like to get off of having a selective memory is 1) they want to try and mess with your own. For instance, while another relative of mine was still alive, this master gaslighter used to try and appear virtuous by saying that they didn’t want to speak ill of them and their narratives. Oh, but when that person died, all of a sudden, the gaslighter said they were a liar and too inebriated to recall what the relative had said about how the gaslighter got down. Of course, to the gaslighter, now it’s cool to say all of that because the person can’t defend themselves or contradict their story. Now the gaslighter remembers things like it was yesterday.
Watch people who try and act like you don’t know what you’re talking about when you know damn well that you do. Not only is it condescending as all get out, but it’s also their way of trying to make you become the “character” in the story they’ve written — or rewritten. Depending on the day. Either way, it’s gonna have nightmarish results for you if you let it continue to go on for a long period of time.
2. They Are Dismissive of Your Thoughts, Feelings and/or Needs
Someone I know had a relative who was very ill. When a mutual friend of ours kept telling me that I needed to go and visit that person (the sick one), out of courtesy only (because I really didn’t have to do it), I asked the “friend” if they were OK with that. Their response was, “I need to pray about it” (if that ain’t passive-aggressive). What? Meanwhile, all kinds of other people were given “their blessing” to visit and it wasn’t until the individual was literally unconscious that I was contacted with a green light.
People who know me know that I am not passive-aggressive; if anything, I’m overly aggressive in communicating my thoughts and so, when that person reached out after their relative passed (no doubt to get sympathy), I shared how I felt about what they did. This was all email correspondence. Did they respond? Nope. And when I ran into them months later, did they say anything? Nope. Not about that. How in the world do you get petty on that kind of level and then how do we come back from a death?
Is this gaslighting? A billion times over because when you state how you feel about something or what a need is and your friend acts like you didn’t say anything at all, not only are they trying to invalidate you but they oftentimes want you to get so upset that you end up popping all of the way off, so that, that way, they can tell everyone how you victimized them.
Luckily, I learned about gaslighting before all of this went down. Still, that showed me, live and in living color, how that individual gets down. You ain’t gotta burn me at that level again, chile. I won’t fight you in the street about it but…we’re good.
3. They Are Big-Time Flatterers (with a Jacked-Up Motive)
I say it often because it’s true — not even the Bible has good things to say about flattery (Job 17:5), so I don’t know why so many folks fall for it (well, other than receiving an ego boost, I guess). Anyway, watch out for the friends who ooze flattering words. For one thing, it oftentimes comes off as being super disingenuous. Also, it’s typically a set-up. They are trying to make you feel good so that they can get something out of you (which is basically the same thing as being disingenuous, right?). Or, it could be how they get out of apologizing for doing you dirty. In other words, when you confront them about something that either hurt your feelings or was flat-out wrong, rather than them owning it (more on that in a bit), they will deflect with some sort of compliment or praise — including praising that you didn’t react in the manner that they probably deserved.
Do good friends affirm one another? Yep. The key here is to pay close attention to the motive. Affirming is just about celebrating someone. Flattery is about buttering someone up for your own agenda. Or stratagem. It all depends on what you’re after in the long run. Motives are a trip, chile. Always pay a good amount of attention to them.
4. They Don’t Take Ownership for Their Actions
Gaslighters don’t like to apologize. Gaslighters try and avoid confrontation at all costs. Gaslighters will even lie to get out of taking accountability for their actions. The reason why is because if they deal with things, head-on, in their mind that means they aren’t in control anymore and they always want to be in control.
A few years ago, I wrote about a former friend who ghosted the mess outta me (check out “I Was 'Ghosted' By My Best Friend”). When I wrote them a couple of years later to be like, “I really can’t believe you did that,” did they apologize? Nope. They went on and on about how they decided on their own that I didn’t want to be involved with them anymore.
Nope. The issue was they were going through a crazy marital situation. I had come in to help defuse it and told them that I would give them some time to work it out. I also gave them a firm date when we should revisit it all. Instead, they got a divorce and I’m pretty sure that’s why they got ghost; they didn’t want me to know that. And so, rather than just being honest, they tried to make it be like ghosting me is what I wanted. Whew, gaslighting is crazy.
Personally, I don’t trust people who can’t own their ish — straight up and flat-out. I think a part of the reason is due to how direct I tend to be. Another reason is because I’ve spent far too many precious years of my life surrounded by folks who like to play those kinds of games. If you’ve got a friend who wants to hold you accountable and yet you can never do the same thing for/to them…that’s a gaslighter. Be careful.
5. They Don’t Respect Your Boundaries in Your Other Relationships
Last year, one of the articles that I wrote for the platform was entitled, “Why I Prefer My Friends To NOT Be Friends With Each Other.” I remember reading a comment on one of our social media pages that said I was childish and problematic. Honey, I guess. First, I doubt she read the piece, and second, experience has brought me to that place and my life has been so much better for it. See, if two people are already close before I come onto the scene or we all meet at the same time, it’s whatever. But getting all close with my people’s people just because they are? For what? That’s their friends and everyone deserves to have their own space and boundaries.
It's kind of a 2.0 way of thinking yet hear me out. None of us is perfect and even friends need a place to vent — even about us. I would much rather my friends go to some random (in my world) who I don’t even know than someone who is close to me. Doing the latter just makes stuff awkward, if not super messy, and who has time for that kind of stress when it can be avoided?
Gaslighters? Oh, they would hate my article because they like everyone to be close-knit. That way, they can sow seeds of division among everyone, so that all relationships feel a little off-kilter. And when everyone is feeling kind of insecure, they can do their best manipulative work. Gaslighters loathe relational boundaries. They don’t have as much power when those exist.
6. They Constantly Play the Victim
Out of all of what I just said, probably the worst thing about a gaslighter is that they don’t know how to do anything other than play the victim. And because what they did to you is oftentimes right under the bar of catching a beatdown, they are pretty good at making it look like you’re just exaggerating what your issues with them are. UGH.
So, just what are some telltale signs that someone enjoys playing the victim role?
- They refuse to accept responsibility for the things that they’ve done.
- They will withhold their friendship until you apologize (even if they are wrong).
- They live to throw pity parties.
- If you do confront them about something, they will turn the issue onto you.
- They act like they are above correction or criticism and so if you do it, you are just jealous (to them).
- They are emotionally draining as all get out.
- They like you to be on eggshells when it comes to dealing with them.
- They will try and make you feel bad for what they did.
- They place blame on anyone and everything else.
It’s basically like, if someone shares the pearls of wisdom, “Don’t play victim to the circumstances you created,” they will find some way to act like they have no idea what anyone is talking about. All they know is they are right for gaslighting and you are wrong for calling them out on it. And that reminds me of what another author by the name of Maranda Pleasant, once said — “People who harm you will blame you for it. Remember, an abuser will generally always play the victim, spin a story, tell everyone and then generally call you ‘crazy.'”
I know it was a lot, y’all. Gaslighting is a lot. I still think it was well worth discussing because if your gut has been telling you that someone doesn’t sit quite right in your spirit and you haven’t been quite able to put your finger on anything, perhaps now you can.
Gaslighting is the worst. The good news is when you don’t provide the “kindle,” there’s very little they can do to affect — or infect — you. So…don’t (any longer).
Featured image by Giphy