Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


Regaining Control of the Narrative

Rewrite your present and future.

One of the most important tools in a narcissist’s toolbox is the ability to control the narrative. Manipulation is a key trait of individuals with controlling personalities. Call it gaslighting, whitewashing, or rewriting the script: The crux of the matter is the manipulator’s desire to control the narrative and either be the hero or the victim.

Chances are, if you are reading this blog, you are involved in a narcissist’s rewrite of history. Controlling the narrative is just one universal tactic of clinical and nonclinical narcissists.

Statistically speaking, clinical narcissists only make up a very small percentage of the population, and the large majority of those diagnosed are men. However, women can also be very skillful narcissists and manipulators. When accounting for individuals with undiagnosed clinical narcissism or those merely displaying a few traits, it is impossible to know the true percentage of narcissism in today’s world. For the purpose of this blog, “narcissist” and “narcissism” will be used as all-encompassing terms to describe those actively and consciously hurting others.

Source: Vera Arsic/Pexels
Source: Vera Arsic/Pexels

Like narcissism, males are generally more likely to be the gaslighter than the gaslightee, but women can also wield power. No matter who is controlling the narrative, the one in control is depriving the other individual of respect, social power, and the ability to define reality (Sweet, 2019).

Keep in mind that at the core of a narcissist is cripplingly low self-esteem. They will do anything possible to not just build themselves up but also put others down. When a narcissists’ partner—be it a romantic, familial, or business partner—is seen as asserting themselves or gaining power, the narcissist will respond negatively (Dashineau, Edershile, Simms, & Wright, 2019). This is a great opportunity for gaslighting and regaining control of the story.

Narcissists (and similar egomaniacs) are incredibly sensitive to criticism and any indication they are slipping in importance. They feel entitled to power, status, and whatever they deem necessary: money, attention, gifts, advancements, etc. If a manipulator is sensing they are losing their friend, lover, or influence at work, they will do anything necessary to regain that power… including rewriting the story.

Controlling the narrative can be beneficial for the manipulator for many reasons. They can decide whether they are the hero deserving praise or the victim in need of sympathy. In either situation, the accompanying actor is the villain.

Gaslighting goes a step further and convinces the other party that they are truly “crazy,” “out of control,” or “not remembering correctly.” It is a mind-manipulation tool and particularly powerful in unequal relationships, especially regarding gender and sexuality (Sweet, 2019). Regardless of purpose or execution, gaslighting is abuse and goes a step further than merely ripping out pages of a story and rewriting them. Gaslighting gives the manipulator the ability to not only control the victim but also to convince the victim that they are wrong (Spear, 2020).

Even the strongest and most emotionally stable individual can fall prey to gaslighting. As a victim of gaslighting, you most likely have a deep or long-running connection to the narcissist. Questioning yourself and your sanity isn’t a sign of a mental illness or weakness; it is a sign of abuse. Research has proven that victims (friends, lovers, co-workers, family members) will rationalize the situation (Spear, 2020). In essence, the victims play directly into the hands of the narcissist and not just support the story rewrite, but confirm the power of the narcissist.

Source: Erika Cristina/Pexels
Source: Erika Cristina/Pexels

Despite the difficulties, it is possible to get out from under the thumb of a manipulative gaslighter. A narcissist may convince themselves of false truth, but they cannot deny the seed of nagging honesty in the victim’s gut. That same seed that is going to keep growing and making the victim—you—more and more uncomfortable with the truth.

The truth is going to be everything you were convinced of initially, but buried it away and believed the lies. No, he wasn’t sleeping with his ex-wife; no, she didn’t steal that promotion out from under you! How could you think those things? You’re crazy! Selfish! Making up stories!

But you’re not crazy. You’re not selfish. You are human. You have power, worth, and radiance. You deserve honesty, appreciation, promotions, and loyalty.

Above all, you deserve the truth, but you need to first be willing to seek it. It can be incredibly difficult to break away from a manipulative individual, but it is possible. If you are in an abusive relationship, get help today. Click on “Get Help” at the top of the page to find a counselor or therapist in your area. You can also contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline.


Dashineau, S., Edershile, E., Simms, L., and Wright, A. (2019). Pathological narcissism and psychosocial functioning. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 10(5), 473-478.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder. (2019). Psychology Today. Retrieved from…

Spear, A. (2020). Gaslighting, confabulation, and epistemic innocence. Topoi, 39. 229-241. DOI: 10.1007/s11245-018-9611-z

Sweet, P. (2019). The sociology of gaslighting. American Sociological Review, 84(5), 851-875. DOI: 10.1177/0003122419874843

More from Kristy Lee Parkin Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today