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Gaslighting

Gaslighting: What To Look Out For And How To Deal With It

Jul 21, 2021

Have you ever felt like you’re too emotional or sensitive?
Do you know someone in your life who constantly makes you feel on edge or anxious?
Do you feel like you constantly need to apologise to this person?

If so, you may be a victim of gaslighting. But how can you determine if someone is gaslighting you, and is there a way of confronting it?

common gaslighting phrases

What is gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a manipulative, psychological technique that’s meant to leave you questioning your sanity. In some cases, it’s a severe form of emotional abuse that makes you doubt your thoughts, feelings, and memories.

Gaslighting can happen in any relationship, whether personal or professional. It’s commonly used by narcissists, abusive partners, and people who control large groups of people like cult leaders. The effects of this type of abuse can often become devastating.

 

Why do people gaslight?

Gaslighting behaviour is often fuelled by someone’s desire to gain control or things they want without working or being held responsible for their actions. A gaslighter may convince themselves that what they’re doing is for your good and that you should appreciate their efforts.

Although their behaviour may not show it, they often feel incredibly anxious about the thought of losing you. Unfortunately, as much as targets of this manipulation desire to feel loved and wanted, gaslighters typically don’t reciprocate those same feelings. Their emotional connection is more rooted in manipulation and control rather than caring or loving.

Signs of gaslighting to look out for

After communicating with the person gaslighting you, it’s normal to feel confused and wondering if you did something wrong or if there’s something wrong with you.

Tactics like these are meant to confuse you and cause you to question your judgment. Over time, consistent gaslighting can cause people to experience higher levels of anxiety, depression, amongst other mental health concerns.

For this reason, it is essential to acknowledge when you’re experiencing gaslighting. Ask yourself if any of the following sounds familiar:

  • You question your feelings and reality. Maybe you try convincing yourself that the way you’re being treated isn’t so wrong or that you’re ‘too sensitive’.
  • You question your judgment and perceptions. You’re afraid to speak up or express how you feel. Maybe you’ve learned that sharing your personal opinion ultimately makes you feel even worse in the end, so staying silent appears to be a much easier option.
  • You feel vulnerable and insecure. If you feel like you have to walk on eggshells around certain people, or feel on edge when you’re around them, it may be a sign of gaslighting.
  • You start to believe the things they say you are. You’re convinced that everybody thinks you’re ‘insane, ‘unstable,’ or ‘crazy,’ similar to what the gaslighting person says you are.  The gaslighting person minimises harmful, unhealthy behaviours and words by saying, ‘I was just kidding’ or ‘you need to toughen up’.
  • You’re more anxious or on edge. You constantly feel like something terrible will happen when you’re around a specific person. This may include feeling threatened and on edge without knowing why.
  • You constantly apologise. You feel the need to apologise all the time for the things you do or the person you are.
  • You feel inadequate. You feel like you’re never ‘good enough’ and try to live up to others’ expectations and demands, even if they’re unreasonable.
  • You’re indecisive. You’d instead allow your partner, friend, or relative to make your decisions for you or avoid making decisions altogether.

So what can you do about it?

Knowing how to deal with gaslighting can help you navigate a web of confusion and feel like yourself again. Research has found that in many cases, it’s helpful for the victim to separate from the gaslighting perpetrator to learn that they can trust their realities and gain some clarity on the situation.

Here are a few ways to deal with gaslighting:

Make a note of your interactions
Questioning the things you say and do is a top priority for the person doing the gaslighting. Consider keeping tabs on conversations and interactions you have with them so that you can reflect on them. While it may be intimidating to confront someone who uses gaslighting, having evidence can make you feel more confident in your memories, experiences, and recollections of events.

Rely on your support network
Having a support system in place with people who can offer a realistic perspective of who you are and your abilities can counteract any self-doubt you may be experiencing.

Be kind to yourself
Gaslighting is draining, both mentally and physically. Research has shown that people who have experienced gaslighting in the workplace can also experience adverse health effects and symptoms of complex PTSD.  To help reduce your stress, consider shifting your focus towards self-care activities. This can include pursuing your passions, hobbies, learning new things, or spending time with friends.

Practice setting boundaries
Healthy boundaries are essential in any relationship, but especially when dealing with gaslighting. Try to limit the conversations you have with the person or walk away when you notice they start using phrases that make you feel anxious or question or doubt yourself.

Step away from arguments or debates
Someone who gaslights is unlikely to view the situation from your perspective, so attempting to prove yourself will likely leave you feeling more frustrated and confused than before.

How to respond to gaslighting

Confronting a gaslighter is never easy, especially if it’s someone you have to spend time with, like roommates or co-workers. Sometimes, not saying anything is understandable. But if you feel like you want to approach the situation and feel that it’s safe to proceed, here are a few responses to consider:

  • ‘Your perspective may be different from mine, but I know I’m not imagining things.’
  • ‘Your feelings are valid here, but so are mine.’
  • ‘I’m having a hard time discussing this with you. Let’s pause here and revisit the issue tomorrow.’

 

The bottom line

If you’re dealing with gaslighting, remember that you’re not alone, nor are you the one to blame for this person’s behaviour. This type of emotional manipulation can happen in any relationship.

However, there are ways for you to cope and heal from being the victim of gaslighting. Practice setting boundaries, rely on your support network, and most importantly, be kind to yourself along the way.

Richard Kellow

Richard Kellow

Richard is a certified clinical hypnotherapist and Virtual Gastric Band Practitioner based in Rotorua in the gorgeous Bay of Plenty. With his personal experience and training from the UK, US, and New Zealand, Richard is a living testament to the power of hypnosis.

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