If you (or any of your loved ones) have experienced gaslighting, you will know it can be very wounding, emotionally. Gaslighters can manipulate you in such a way that you will begin to doubt your own sanity and reality. These Gaslighters use methods and tactics that include turning others against you, telling blatant lies and attacking you to defend their own bad behaviour.
What is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting, whether it’s intentional or not, is a form of manipulation – a form of emotional abuse that is usually seen in abusive relationships. Gaslighting is a tactic, an act of manipulating an individual by forcing them to question their reality, their own memories, thoughts and events happening around them, in order to gain more power.
The term “gaslighting” originated from a play and a subsequent movie called “Gaslight.” In this movie, a devious husband manipulates and torments his wife to convince her that she is going mad.
A gaslighting victim can be pushed so far that he/she question his/her own sanity. One of the most upsetting forms of gaslighting is when it happens in a relationship between a couple.
Anyone is prone to gaslighting. It is a common technique of abusers, narcissists, cult leaders and dictators. It is done very slowly, so the victim does not realize how much they have been brainwashed.
Signs of Gaslighting
Spot the signs of Gaslighting and survive the hidden manipulation devious people use to control your life. Signs that you may be a victim of gaslighting include:
- Being less confident or more anxious than you used to be
- No longer feeling like the one you earlier used to be
- Apologizing often
- Frequently wondering if you are being extremely sensitive
- Always thinking it is your fault when things go wrong
- Feeling like everything you do is wrong and will go wrong
- Having a feeling that something is wrong, but not able to identify what it is
- Often questioning if your response to your partner is apt. For instance, wondering if you are not loving enough or were too unreasonable
- Feeling isolated from friends and family
- Making excuses for the behavior of your partner
- Avoiding to give information to family members or friends to avoid any confrontation about your partner
- Sense of hopelessness and taking little or no pleasure in activities you earlier used to enjoy
- Finding it increasingly hard to make decisions
Some Gaslighting Examples
Individuals who gaslight become expert at pushing the right buttons, and they know your vulnerabilities and sensitivities, and use that knowledge against you. They make you doubt your own selves, your memory, your judgment and even your sanity. Below are few examples:
- Telling you that people are talking behind you (your back): Example, “Don’t you know? The whole family is talking about you. They think you are losing sense.”
- Trivializing how you feel: For instance, “Hmm yeah, now you are going to feel really sorry for yourself. Is it? ‘
- Hiding things and objects from you, and later denying knowing about it: Example: “You not able to find your sunglasses again? That’s quite alarming.”
- Saying things to you and later denying they have said that: For instance, “I didn’t say I would deposit money in the bank. Are you imagining it?”
- Claiming that you were (or were not) at a certain place, though it is not true: Example: “Are you crazy? We never went to that movie together. I should know, right?.”
How to Recover from Gaslighting
It takes time to recover from Gaslighting. Keep these points in mind as you move towards healing.
- Get Free
Get free from the gaslighter first. As long as you are in contact with him/her, you will be inclined to their manipulation as they know what buttons to push. If you can, break off contact with a gaslighter immediately. It could be difficult to break off the contact if the person is a family member or someone who is hard to avoid. In such cases, you have to minimize interactions rather than avoiding the person completely.
Please note: Leaving a gaslighting partner can be unsafe and dangerous in certain circumstances. Please talk to any trusted loved one, and approach the law enforcement agency, if necessary, to take proper precautions.
- Practice Mindfulness
As gaslighting can isolate or alienate us from our own feelings and thoughts, take the first step by simply listening to yourself. Learn ways to give yourself positivity. Start by perceiving basic needs such as hunger, thirst and tiredness, rather than pushing them away. Then, begin by taking a second to step back and notice your emotions. You do not have to shame yourself for feeling them or even change them – Simply validate your own experience.
- Be Kind to Yourself
Most of the people turn against themselves when they realize they have been gaslighted. They often blame themselves for not realizing it. Just keep in mind that such self-criticism is a common result of gaslighting. Try and let go of self-blame, and acknowledge that gaslighters are extremely skilled at the art of manipulation. The most important thing is that you now know it and have learned from this experience.
- Surround Yourself With Love
Nothing heals like loving relationships and nothing makes us more miserable than an abusive relationship. Spend as much time as you can with your loved ones and people who love you and appreciate you. Talk to them about your doubts and fears which became a part of your life through a gaslighting relationship. Allow people who love you to validate your reality as you gradually let go of persistent self-doubt. Let such connections nourish you.
- Get Professional Support
Going to therapy (whether online or face-to-face) is one of the best choices you can make to heal yourself. The recovery process can be accelerated with the guidance of a therapist.
The right therapist can help separate your own beliefs, perceptions and thoughts from those of the person who gaslights you. The therapist may also develop the tools to make you believe in yourself, and support you as you heal from the trauma.
The Bottom Line:
Believe in yourself. You are an amazing person. We all have the power to heal and start living a happy life after a relationship where gaslighting was present. Your inner voice never abandoned you, it was just clouded out by someone else’s opinions. And now that you are free of that influence, you can make your inner voice even stronger.