Have you ever listened to someone speak where nothing means anything and your reality seems to be made up? There is so much confusion, chaos and everything said is turned inside out? This is a phenomenon called “gaslighting” and I know we all had been hearing so much about it lately.
“Gaslighting” is a term used for when someone manipulates you into questioning and second-guessing your reality. It is a form of emotional abuse that slowly eats away at your ability to make judgments. This has become a familiar behavior in my world. Maybe it was always there but when you don’t have a name for it, it can go unnoticed. Learning how to navigate and manage this behavior is a challenge but it is well worth the effort.
This behavior is commonly adopted by psychopathic, sociopathic, and narcissistic types of people. This behavior can show up in our family, work and romantic relationships.
When you are exposed to things as a child and then told that those things didn’t happen…gaslighting. When you are in a relationship with someone who tries to convince you that you are imagining things and you are the blame for the problems in the relationship even when you have the receipts…gaslighting! This is abuse and in this case the erasure of the abuse can be worse than the abuse itself. Being denied of what you know to be true is hurtful. It can make you feel like you’re crazy. I will tell you this…you are not crazy! And you are not to blame for what happened.
When you encounter someone in a position of power or authority, someone who is idolized, or even someone in a co-dependent relationship, where it is someone you are afraid to lose, that insist their truth being the only truth, you may think twice or doubt what you know to be true. It is getting harder and harder to tell the difference between what’s real and what isn’t…even when we have a sense that we are being manipulated. This is even happening to us on a national level in politics lately, but we won’t go there.
Signs that you are being gaslighted…
- Something is “off” about the person in your life…you just can’t pinpoint it.
- you feel threatened and on-edge around this person, but you don’t know why.
- you feel confused and disorientated in their presence.
- you feel the need to apologize all the time for what you do and who you are
- you feel like there is something fundamentally wrong with you…like you’re “losing it”.
- you never feel “good enough” and try to live up to the expectations and demands of others, even if it harms you in some way.
- you feel isolated, hopeless, misunderstood and depressed.
- you find it hard to trust your own judgment and if given a choice, you choose to believe the judgment of the abuser.
- you feel scared and as though “something is terribly wrong”, but you don’t know what or why.
- you find it hard to make decisions because you do not trust yourself.
- you feel like you are always overacting or are “too sensitive”.
- you feel like a much weaker version of yourself.
- You have become afraid of “speaking up” or expressing your emotions, so you stay silent instead.
What does the gaslighter do?
- Discredit you. They make others think you are crazy or irrational.
- Uses a mask of confidence and assertiveness, maybe even some fake compassion to make you believe that you are “wrong” about them.
- Change the subject. They may divert the topic by asking another question or making a statement directed at your thoughts.
- Minimizing. They will trivialize how you feel and what you think. When they do this, they gain more power over you.
- Denial and avoidance. the gaslighter will refuse to acknowledge your feelings and thoughts, which makes you doubt yourself even more…
- Twisting and framing. when the gaslighter subtly twists or reframes what was said or done to work thing in their favor, they cause you to second-guess yourself, especially when they add some fake compassion to that.
So how do we survive gaslighting?
- Develop a healthy detachment. Meaning you have to distinguish between the real world and the world that the gaslighter is trying to create.
- Let go of the wish that things were different. If you don’t, you may continue to believe the chaos. We all want things to make sense…if you don’t let go of waiting for change, you will not feel safe and things will never make sense.
- Just settle for the fact that there will never be any accountability and decide if it’s worth continuing your friendship or relationship. The person that is gaslighting you will never see things from your point of view or take responsibility for their actions. They are never going to get it! This person will never respond to reason so recognize that and create your boundaries.
- Remain defiant. Don’t change your story. You were there; you know what happened…stick to your story! Do not allow it to be altered in any way. Write things down if you have to so that you can remember anything you can think of when dealing with the gaslighter. Clarity is going to keep you from feeling like you are losing it.
- Talk to trusted friends or loved ones about your issue.
- Shift your perspective from being the victim to being a warrior, winner, or whatever makes you feel powerful.
Have you experienced gaslighting? Or maybe you know someone who is/has? Do you wanna share your experience or any advice? Please share below.