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.