As parents, covert narcissists gaslight their children often. Narcissists always have to be right. And they hate it when others challenge them. They also hate it when the truth challenges them. As I’ve written about before, for many narcissists, the truth is merely what they say it is. They want reality itself to conform to their way of seeing things. To respect a more objective reality is to bow to a higher power. And that’s something narcissists resist doing. (See also: Narcissists Can’t Recognize a Higher Power.)
How Covert Narcissists Gaslight their Children
It’s natural for children to question things. It’s a big part of how they learn. And most kids actually want parental guidance. At some level, they know they need it. But they have to be able to trust those guiding them. They need to know their parents only have their best interest in mind. And trusting their parents’ guidance eventually helps them come to trust themselves.
Good parenting requires humility. Sure, parents know more than their kids. But they’re not perfect. They don’t know everything. And they’re not always right. Sadly, for narcissists, it’s all about looking great and being right. Children need to reality test. And they need to know the truth. But narcissists will insist they’re right even when every part of the child’s being tells them they’re wrong. This causes a crisis of trust. And depending on how insistent the parent is, and how skilled they are at manipulation tactics, it can cause a child to question their very sanity. That, in a nutshell, is the gaslighting effect.
Covert narcissists gaslight their children in many ways. Catch them in what seems an outright lie and they’ll guilt you for doubting them. Question their greatness and they’ll make you feel small. Sometimes, they directly challenge your sanity. But most of the time it’s their barrage of tactics that makes you feel crazy. In your gut, you know there’s something not right. But you can’t objectively prove it. That’s the crazy-making effect of the tactics. And it does great psychological damage. (It’s also why I wrote In Sheep’s Clothing.)
Adult Children of the Gaslight
As adults, children of covert narcissists can struggle with chronic self-doubt. As children, they were made to question their intuitive sensibilities. So, as adults, they struggle with trusting their instincts. And sadly, this makes them vulnerable in relationships. Lacking self-esteem, they might too easily place their trust in someone who at least appears more capable. This breeds emotional dependency. And it also leaves them ripe for exploitation by a disturbed character.
I’ll have more to say about this next week.