What is Gaslighting?
Several years ago when my second marriage was falling apart, I was desperate to understand why I felt like I was sliding off into the shadowy abyss as I lost my sanity more and more with each passing day. I searched Google frantically when I had a few minutes to myself and described how he was treating me. That is when I learned what ‘gaslighting’ was. I was absolutely floored!
They described EXACTLY what I had been experiencing for the last two years! Because of that clarity I gained from that eye-opening deep dive, I was able to eventually break free from the monstrous grip of my husband.
While this is a very real experience, I have noticed that this term gets thrown around a lot, like a LOOOOTTTT by spiritually and emotionally immature people. I felt an article explaining in detail what it actually means to be gaslit by someone would be helpful. 💜
Gaslighting is a form of manipulation that aims to erode the trust an individual has in their own perceptions and reality. The gaslighter intentionally creates a distorted reality in which the victim’s perspective is invalidated, portrayed as faulty, or deemed wrong. This process often takes place over a period of weeks or even years, with the gaslighter gradually undermining the victim’s self-confidence and well-being. The victim may begin to doubt themselves and feel confused, scared, and unhappy as a result of the gaslighting. This tactic can occur in various types of relationships, including romantic partnerships, friendships, family dynamics, and even the workplace.
- Your partner denies saying or doing something that you know they said or did. For example, you may have a clear memory of your partner saying they would take care of a certain task, but when you bring it up, they deny ever saying that and try to convince you that you must be mistaken.
- Your friend constantly changes their story or remembers events differently than you do. You may feel like you can’t rely on your partner’s words or actions because they seem to be constantly shifting and changing.
- Your parent tries to turn your reality upside down by making you question your own thoughts, feelings, and experiences. They may try to convince you that you are being unreasonable, overly sensitive, or irrational, even when you know that you are not.
Why Do People Gaslight?
Gaslighting is a manipulation tactic that is often used to gain control over another person. When the victim starts to doubt their own memory or mental stability, they may become reliant on the gaslighter to make sense of their reality. This gives the gaslighter a position of power or authority within the relationship.
Furthermore, gaslighting invalidates the victim’s perspective, making them feel wrong or untrustworthy. This allows the gaslighter to have the upper hand in the relationship, as they become the only one who can be trusted. The victim may feel like they have no power or agency in the relationship, as their thoughts and feelings are constantly being dismissed or belittled.
How Does Gaslighting Work?
The gaslighter works to convince the victim that they are mistaken, have faulty memories, or are not mentally well. They may use phrases such as “that never happened” or “you’re crazy” to invalidate the victim’s experiences. At first, the victim may not believe the gaslighter’s claims. However, if the gaslighter is persistent then over time the victim may start to accept the gaslighter’s perspective as truth. This can be especially damaging to the victim’s mental health and self-esteem, as they may start to doubt their own memories, thoughts, and feelings. The victim may feel like they have no agency or control in the relationship, as the gaslighter is constantly undermining their reality.
Common Gaslighting Tactics
Minimization or trivializing: The gaslighter dismisses or downplays a serious situation or accusation. They may do this by making light of the issue or suggesting that it is not important. Examples of this might include statements such as “Whatever, it was nothing” or “It’s not a big deal anyway.” This tactic is used to minimize the victim’s concerns and make them feel like their thoughts and feelings are not valid or worth considering.
Projection: The gaslighter accuses the victim of engaging in the same behavior that they are actually guilty of. This is a way to deflect attention away from their own actions and onto the victim. Examples of this might include statements such as “I’m not having an affair. Maybe you’re the one with something to hide!” or “Sounds like you might be lying about something.” By projecting their own behavior onto the victim, the gaslighter is able to deflect blame and make the victim feel like they are the one who is doing something wrong.
Put-downs: The gaslighter uses insults and degradation to undermine the victim’s confidence and self-worth. This may involve statements such as “You’re an idiot; you have no idea what you’re talking about” or “You sound crazy when you talk like that.” By belittling and demeaning the victim, the gaslighter is able to erode their self-esteem and make them feel uncertain and unsure of themselves. This can be especially damaging over time, as the victim may start to internalize these negative messages and doubt their own abilities or worth.
Sabotage: The gaslighter takes actions that undermine the victim in order to make them seem incompetent or unreliable. Examples of this might include throwing away the victim’s mail so they can’t pay a bill on time or damaging the victim’s car so they cannot leave the house. This tactic is used to undermine the victim’s independence and make them more reliant on the gaslighter. It can also create confusion and chaos for the victim, as they struggle to deal with the unexpected consequences of the gaslighter’s actions.
Denial: The gaslighter denies that an event or conversation took place or insists that it occurred differently than the victim remembers. Examples of this might include statements such as “I never said that” or “That’s not how it happened at all!”
Distraction: The gaslighter attempts to distract or redirect the victim away from the topic at hand. This might involve interrupting the victim or trying to shift the conversation to a different subject. Examples of this might include statements such as “Can we talk about something else instead?” or “Hey, let’s go get something to eat first.” The goal of this tactic is to deflect attention away from the issue and prevent the victim from being able to fully address or resolve it.
Ignoring or avoidance: The gaslighter refuses to engage in conversation with the victim or address their concerns. This might involve tactics such as turning up the volume on the TV to drown out the victim’s words or leaving the house and not returning for an extended period of time. By ignoring or avoiding the victim, the gaslighter is able to sidestep any difficult or uncomfortable discussions and maintain control over the relationship. The victim may feel unheard or unsupported as a result.
Threats: The gaslighter uses the possibility of negative consequences as a way to pressure the victim into trusting them or accepting their perspective. This might involve statements such as “If you can’t see things my way, this relationship is over” or “You’ll get the kids taken away if you keep saying that!” These threats are often used to manipulate the victim into complying with the gaslighter’s wishes or to intimidate them into silence. The victim may feel trapped or powerless in the face of these threats, as they fear the potential consequences of not going along with the gaslighter’s demands.
Gaslighters often involve others in their manipulation tactics by enlisting the support of friends, children, or other family members. For example, they may try to convince others that the victim is “crazy” and not to be trusted. This can make it more difficult for the victim to seek help or support, as they may feel like they are being isolated or misunderstood. The gaslighter may use this as a way to further control the victim and reinforce their own narrative.
The Experience of a Gaslighting Victim
A victim of gaslighting is likely to feel deep self-doubt. Additionally, they may feel confused, hurt, and sad.
Victims of gaslighting may…
|Question their beliefs||Feel they are “going crazy”||Doubt their memory|
|Have trouble making decisions||Feel confused, scared, or unhappy||Have low self-esteem|
|Have trouble explaining their situation||Feel dependent on the gaslighter||Feel their emotions are not valid|
Victims might think or say…
|“I’m not sure what I think anymore.”||“I guess I must have gotten it wrong.”||“I can’t tell what’s real anymore.”|
|“I can’t trust myself at all.”||“I don’t know what to believe.”||“I don’t even know what’s going on.”|
5 Ways to Defend Yourself Against Gaslighting
- Keep a journal to record your reality. Document events and conversations from your own perspective while they are still fresh in your mind.
- Review the situations in which you were gaslit. Recall events from your own perspective, not the gaslighter’s.
- Trust yourself, again and again. Your memories, thoughts, and beliefs are valid. Learn to overcome doubt and trust yourself once again.
- Talk to people you trust. Share your situation with others who understand and support you.
- End your relationship with the gaslighter. Healthy relationships involve honesty and safety. If you feel unsafe in your relationship, separate yourself from the gaslighter.
Healing from gaslighting can be a challenging process! It involves rebuilding trust in our own perceptions and reality, which is not an easy road to follow. It helps to take steps toward removing yourself from any toxic environments if possible. Learning how to set boundaries and to develop a strong sense of self-worth and self-respect will help you build back your mental clarity and confidence. Healing from gaslighting takes time and consistency, but the reward of a peaceful mind and zen life is 1000% worth it.