Today is a big day for me. It’s New Year’s Eve 2018—and NYE is my favorite “holiday”. Tonight, is usually a very special night for me; I usually make plans months in advance, maybe get my hair done just before, buy a nice cigar (family tradition), and look forward to dressing up and getting pretty—it’s the ONE night I’d be willing to wear high-heels, if I could walk in them! I don’t always have a special person for my date, but I ALWAYS have either a platonic date or friends to spend the evening with; drinking and dining and being boisterous…and looking exceptionally “pretty”.
THIS YEAR I don’t have any plans, I don’t have a date—platonic or romantic—and, I’m not getting dressed up. No cigar, no drinking and dining, no being boisterous. This year is the FIRST NYE in my adult history that I will be home alone. It’s OK. This year, I’m keeping to myself and taking time to reflect before the page turns and a new chapter—a fresh year—begins.
I will be home reflecting, yes. But I will also be assessing and mindfully strategizing how to navigate the coming year differently and in a more self-caring and healthy manner. Yes, I will be thinking of my ex, but only in the context of how I can avoid making the same mistakes in the future regarding connections with a person or persons with whom I am intimate or become emotionally involved—which brings me to my topic: it is essential that if you are looking for meaning and genuine connection with another that you consider and evaluate some uncomfortable subjects (potential issues) in regards to your prospective “connection”.
Are they emotionally available? Meaning, are they open, sharing, willing to discuss feelings, capable of showing affection, etc.? Or are they avoidant, distant, make excuses for why they are they aren’t open or can’t do these things? Do they use anger, criticism, or activities to create distance?
If you answered no (they are NOT emotionally available), then you need to move to the evaluation stage of this question: why are they emotionally unavailable? There are many reasons why someone may be emotionally unavailable. The first consideration you should look at is, are they a narcissist or do they display narcissistic traits? (I’m going to include traits of another type of person and clump them into this category because they are equally dangerous and their behaviors go hand-in-hand…a gaslighter)The narcissist likes thinking of himself as a good guy and he wants you to think so too so he may actually do things that are nice but they’re not really about you or the person he’s doing something kind for. Below is a brief look at some of the traits of a narcissist:
1. Frequent Lies and Exaggerations
Both narcissists and gaslighters are prone to frequent lies and exaggerations (about themselves and others), and have the tendency of lifting themselves up by putting others down. While narcissists often strive to make themselves seem superior and “special” by showing off, bragging, taking undeserved credit, and other forms of self-aggrandizement, gaslighters tend to concentrate on making you feel inferior through false accusations, constant criticism, and psychological intimidation. Both narcissists and gaslighters can be adept at distortion of facts, deliberate falsehoods, character assassinations, and negative coercions. One key difference is that while the narcissist lies and exaggerates to boost their fragile self-worth, the gaslighter does so to augment their domination and control.
2. Rarely Admit Flaws and Are Highly Aggressive When Criticized
Many narcissists and gaslighters have thin skin and can react poorly when called to account for their negative behavior. When challenged, the narcissist is likely to either fight (e.g., temper tantrum, excuse-making, denial, blame, hypersensitivity, etc.) or take flight (bolt out the door, avoidance, silent treatment, sulking resentment, or other forms of passive-aggression). The gaslighter nearly always resorts to escalation by doubling or tripling down on their false accusations or coercions, to intimidate or oppress their opponent. Many gaslighters view relationships as inherently competitive rather than collaborative; a zero-sum game where one is either a winner or a loser, on top or at the bottom. “Offense is the best defense” is a mantra for many gaslighters, which also represents their aggressive method of relating to people.
Both narcissists and gaslighters tend to project false, idealized images of themselves to the world, in order to hide their inner insecurities. Many narcissists like to impress others by making themselves look good externally. This “trophy complex” can exhibit itself physically, romantically, sexually, socially, religiously, financially, materially, professionally, academically, or culturally. The underlying message of this display is: “I’m better than you!” or “Look at how special I am — I’m worthy of everyone’s love, admiration, and acceptance!”
3. False Image Projection
Gaslighters, on the other hand, often create an idealized self-image of being the dominant, suppressive alpha male or female in personal relationships, at the workplace, or in high-profile positions of society (such as politics and media). Many gaslighters like to view themselves falsely as all-powerful and strong, capable of dishing out judgments and penalties at will. Pathological gaslighters often take pride and boost themselves up by marginalizing those whom they perceive as weaker, believing that the meek deserve their downtrodden fate. They attack their victims with direct or subtle cruelty and contempt, gaining sadistic pleasure from these offenses, and betraying a lack of empathy and humanity.In essence, narcissists want others to worship them, while gaslighters want others to submit to them. In a big way, these external facades become pivotal parts of their false identities, replacing the real and insecure self.
4. Rule Breaking and Boundary Violation
Many narcissists and gaslighters enjoy getting away with violating rules and social norms. Examples of narcissistic trespass include cutting in line, chronic under-tipping, personal space intrusion, borrowing items without returning, using other’s properties without asking, disobeying traffic laws, breaking appointments, and negating promises. Examples of gaslighting trespass include direct or subtle marginalizing remarks, public or private shaming and humiliation, sardonic humor and sarcastic comments, internet trolling, angry and hateful speech, and virulent attacks on undesirable individuals and groups.
Both narcissist and gaslighter boundary violations presume entitlement, with a narrow, egocentric orientation that oppresses and de-humanizes their victims. In severe cases, this boundary violation pathology may result in illicit and underhanded dealings, financial abuse, sexual harassment, date rape, domestic abuse, hate crimes, human rights violations, and other forms of criminality. Many narcissists and gaslighters take pride in their destructive behaviors, as their machinations provide them with a hollow (and desperate) sense of superiority and privilege.
5. Emotional Invalidation and Coercion
Although narcissists and gaslighters can be (but are not always) physically abusive, for the majority of their victims, emotional suffering is where the damage is most painfully felt. Both narcissists and gaslighters enjoy spreading and arousing negative emotions in order to feel powerful, and keep you insecure and off-balance. They habitually invalidate others’ thoughts, feelings, and priorities, showing little remorse for causing people in their lives pain. They often blame their victims for having caused their own victimization (“You wouldn’t get yelled at if you weren’t so stupid!”).
In addition, many narcissists and gaslighters have unpredictable mood swings and are prone to emotional drama — you never know what might displease them and set them off. They become upset at any signs of independence and self-affirmation (“Who do you think you are!?”). They turn agitated if you disagree with their views or fail to meet their expectations. As mentioned earlier, they are sensitive to criticism, but quick to judge others. By keeping you down and making you feel inferior, they boost their fragile ego, and feel more reassured about themselves.
6. Manipulation: The Use or Control of Others as an Extension of Oneself
Both narcissists and gaslighters have a tendency to make decisions for others to suit their own agenda. Narcissists may use their romantic partner, child, family, friend, or colleague to meet unreasonable self-serving needs, fulfill unrealized dreams, or cover-up weaknesses and shortcomings. Narcissists are also fond of using guilt, blame, and victimhood as manipulative devices.
Gaslighters conduct psychological manipulation toward individuals and groups through persistent distortion of the truth, with the intention of causing their victims to question themselves and feel less confident. In personal and/or professional environments, they manipulate by micromanaging (controlling) relationships, including telling others how they should think, feel, and behave under the gaslighter’s unreasonable restrictions and scrutiny. They often become critical, angry, intimidating, and/or hostile toward those who fail to bow down to their directives. Gaslighter manipulation is often highly aggressive, with punitive measures (tangible or psychological) executed toward those who fail to recognize and obey their self-perceived authority.
Perhaps the biggest distinction between narcissists and gaslighters is that narcissists use and exploit, and gaslighters dominate and control. While the narcissist does so to compensate for a desperate sense of deficiency (of being unloved as the real self), the gaslighter does so to hide their ever-present insecurity (of being powerless and losing control). Both of these pathological types betray an inability and/or unwillingness to relate to people genuinely and equitably as human beings. They become “special” and “superior” by being less human and by de-humanizing others.
In the worst-case scenario, some individuals possess traits of both narcissism and gaslighting. This is a highly toxic and destructive combination of vanity, manipulation, bullying, and abuse — all unleashed in order to compensate for the perpetrator’s deep-seated sense of inadequacy and fear. (Taken from 6 Common Traits of Narcissists and Galslighters: how narcissists and gaslighters emotionally manipulate and exploit victims; Ni, 2017, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/communication-success/201707/6-common-traits-narcissists-and-gaslighters .)
The next stage of the evaluation is to look at why they’re so distant, if they don’t fit the description of a narcissist or gaslighter. Here is a link to an article that briefly discusses emotional unavailability. (I will later expand on this subject, but for now just follow the link to read if you are interested.)