Anyone can become the victim of these gaslighting maneuvers; age, intelligence, gender, the creed is no barrier against narcissistic abuse of this kind. It does not only happen in romantic relationships (such as Paula & Gregory above), it can occur in all different types of relationships: between parent and child, siblings, friends, and work colleague.
Actually, it can happen between any two people in any walk of life if the intention is there. The gaslighting, as a harassment technique, starts with a series of subtle mind games that intentionally prays on the gaslightee’s limited ability to tolerate ambiguity or uncertainty. This is done in order to undercut the victim’s trust in their own sense of reality and sense of self, thus resulting in confusion and perplexity for the victim.
Even when the victim is bewildered and left wondering, “What just happened there?”, there is a reluctance to see the gaslighter for what they are, actually, it is this denial that is the cornerstone of the gaslighting relationship.
The “Puppet Master’s” Web of Deceit:
Narcissists are puppet masters who manipulate their victims for personal gain. With precision, they are able to “pull the strings” of their victims without detection, and render them helpless. In order to understand how a person can become a victim of a narcissist in the first place, it is important to know that the narcissist has many faces (the proverbial man or woman for all seasons).
Different faces are required by the abuser as they lead the relationship through different phases; The Idealization Stage, Devaluation Stage, and the Discard Stage. The good news is that the gaslighting does not happen all at once, it happens in stages, which means that if one suspects (in the early stages) that they are being gaslighted, they can protect themselves by walking away (physically or metaphorically).
However, one needs to be informed as to what those stages look like, in that way, the individual will be able to understand and identify what is happening at these different stages. With this information, one will be able to spot if they are being gaslighted in any interpersonal-relationship (whether it is at home, work or socially), and guard themselves by keeping the narcissist out of their energy field.
Gaslighting techniques (3 Stages):
The Idealization Stage:
During the initial “idealization stage”, the narcissist puts on their “best face” in order to mould their victim into a symbiotic relationship with them as their narcissistic supply. In the beginning of the relationship the narcissist showers the victim with attention, they are loving, charming, flirtatious, energetic, exciting, and great fun to be with. They appear to be so happy and interested in the relationship, and the unsuspecting victim enjoys every moment with their new charismatic partner.
They love how the narcissist is so beautifully intense and how they get drunk on life, and they too want to drink this elixir with them. Intense bonding begins for the victim, and innocently, they also believe that the partner feels the same way about them, that the relationship is reciprocal, but this is the narcissist’s biggest deception. Caught up in this alluring state of euphoria, the victim becomes “hooked” by the gaslighter’s exuberance and grandiose exaggerations.
In this kind of relationship, victims are known to experience biochemical changes in the body and structural changes in the brain. These exciting hooks create a release of chemicals (endorphins) in the brain, and it is these endorphins (or pleasure substances) that make the victim feel the euphoria in the first phase of the relationship.
Like any addict, they become addicted to that high, and very soon they find themselves hooked emotionally to their narcissistic suitor too. However, this honeymoon phase is only an illusion, all smoke, and mirrors. Having expertly determined the victim’s strengths and weaknesses, the “Idealization Phase” is over, and it is time for the devaluation stage of the gaslighting to begin. From here on in, the narcissist seems to turn cold, unfeeling, and even bitingly cruel.