Relationships can be difficult, but a relationship with someone who has high-spectrum, narcissistic tendencies or narcissistic personality disorder, can not only be difficult, but also emotionally and mentally destructive. As if the blame-shifting, denial of wrong doing, covert put downs, and pathological lying are not enough, narcs are experts at making us doubt our reality. Reality is defined as “the state of things as they actually exist, rather than as they may appear or might be imagined” (Wikipedia). As long as narcs are able to make us doubt our reality (our perception), then they greatly reduce their risk of being exposed as the social predators that they are. When in a relationship with someone you suspect is a narcissist, and even after you have been discarded by a narcissist, staying in your reality can feel like a full-time job.
Changing one’s realty can be done several different ways. One word that is all over the internet is “gaslighting”. One way to describe gaslighting is to “manipulate (someone) by psychological (of the mind) means into questioning their own sanity”. Narcs will try to get you to believe that they didn’t say something, even though you heard them saying it. They will deny doing something even though you have proof of their action. The bickering back and forth causes anxiety in the victim and that anxiety can change the way your mind processes information. As long as narcs can get you to believe them and doubt yourself, they will have more control over you. If you suspect your friend, partner, or parent is a narcissist, start writing things they say and do in a journal so that they cannot brainwash you into thinking otherwise.
Another way narcs change your reality is via a smear campaign. As long as a narc can align the troops (mutual friends and family) into seeing their skewed version of events, we will be the odd man out. When the majority sees something one way, it can cause us to think that our thoughts, ideas and perceptions are flawed. It can be easy to break down and give in to the narc’s and her follower’s views. When we do give in, our self-esteem suffers and when our self-esteem suffers or gets lowered, we tend to be afraid to stand up for ourselves. Victims of smear campaigns are generally advised not to defend themselves to the narcs followers, even if those followers were once your friends. Instead, get back to the hobbies the narc’s neediness pulled you away from. Find others with similar interests in Meetup.com. Volunteer for church and community events. Join a gym. All of these suggestions (acts of self-care) will start to build your self-esteem back up. The farther you are from narc world, the more you will see how crazy making it was.
Staying in your reality can be very difficult, especially when it seems everyone is against you and obviously avoiding you. Don’t bother to try and talk to people in your social circle about your experience with the narc either. I tried, and it back fired. I ended up defending myself during the entire conversation and left feeling worse that when I arrived. If others you know have not experienced emotional abuse by a narc, they will not understand it, and you will look like the crazy person the narc said your were. Your friends and family are unable to empathize with you because they have not seen the side of the narc that you have been exposed to. They only see the charismatic, charming, PTO bake sale volunteer; community philanthropist, and altruistic, devoted baseball mom. What they don’t see is the person behind the mask, the liar, cheater, manipulator, child abuser; habitual spender. Someone who has an excessive sense of entitlement and who criticizes and condemns others, but cannot take any criticism herself. Your social circle is oblivious to the narcs savvy and calculated management of impression, her skillful acting, and her mimicking of emotion. Your social circle has not been part of your reality.
Gaslighting, smear campaigns, denial, and blame-shifting are all done pathologically (repetitively) by narcs so that they can maintain their fabricated image. Once you figure this out, staying in your reality gets easier. Its a great feeling when you can look back into narc world and see where you came from. Unfortunately, everyone in narc world is left behind, even people you once loved.