The first thing that could come to mind when you hear the term “gaslighting” is setting gas alight. While it is not quite close to the meaning, there are some far-fetched resemblances like, perhaps, “burning a house down” lol.
On a serious note, gaslighting is a form of manipulation by psychological means into doubting their own sanity. Simply put, it is when your emotions, words, and experiences are twisted and used against you, causing you to question your reality. This is practiced when one wants to assert dominance and feel a strong sense of power over the other.
In 2018, BBC published an article titled “Cheating and manipulation: Confessions of a Gaslighter”. Some key extracts from this story are:
- Greg describes the relationship as “romantic but unsteady”.
- He began identifying “techniques and pathways” in which he could manipulate Paula – laying the groundwork in order to make the lies that would come later more believable.
- “I deliberately used demeaning language to make her lose confidence in her reading of the situation, of my infidelity. She was ‘paranoid’, she was ‘crazy’, she was ‘full of drama’.
To many of us, this may sound like an abstract from a page in our personal lives.
Gaslighting is common in various types of relationships, including those between romantic partners, parents and children, and coworkers.
It is also important to realize that various categories in gaslighting can include:
- Being a victim of gaslighting
- Self Gaslighting
- Being the gaslighter
Now, you may wonder how to decipher which category you fall into.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Do you doubt your feelings and reality or intentionally made someone else doubt their feelings and reality?
- Do you question your judgment and perceptions or make others question theirs?
- Do you feel vulnerable and insecure or do people feel this way around you?
- Do you feel alone and powerless and do you wonder if you are stupid and crazy?
- Do you feel disappointed in yourself and who you have become or intentionally made someone else feel this way?
- Do you feel confused or have you deliberately confused others for selfish reasons?
If you answered yes to more than three of these questions, it is suggested that you reach out for help as soon as possible. In the event that you do not have access to a trusted voice of reason in your life, here are some tools you can use to assist guide you to your truth:
- Keep a journal — Every time you encounter something, write it down in a secret journal. Write down the date, time, and what happened.
- Keep voice or visual memos — If the abuser/abused does not have access to your phone, escape to a room by yourself and record yourself speaking with your phone on what just happened.
At this stage, you have realized that there is a problem and you are on your way to healing (this is where the real work begins).
Homework: You Can Heal Stronger
“Believe in yourself!”
Sounds too simple right? But it REALLY is the beginning of a new chapter in your life. The short- and long-term consequences of gaslighting are immense, often leaving its victims profoundly depressed and unable to cope with daily life. On the flip side as the abuser, you are scarred with guilt, remorse, and regret which can lead you down the road of depression and low self-esteem too. Well, we are here to help you heal stronger!
You will need:
- A Journal
Purpose: The first and most important step in healing from gaslighting is learning to believe yourself.
Step 1: Keep a feelings journal – Here are some questions to guide you.
Answer the following questions in a journal at least once a week.
- Do you no longer recognize the person you’ve become?
- Do you feel like you can’t do anything right?
- Do you feel trapped or powerless in your relationship?
- Do you feel foggy and confused?
- Do you often second-guess yourself?
- Do you feel alone?
- Do you find yourself constantly taking the blame?
- Does the potential gaslighter frequently boast about themselves?
- Is the potential gaslighter a frequent liar?
- Does the potential gaslighter demand respect they do not give?
- Do you worry about being too sensitive?
- Do you feel anxious when around the gaslighter?
- Do you apologize often?
- Do you find that your feelings or thoughts are often minimized?
- Do you feel that others are turning against you?
- Do you feel like you are losing your self-confidence?
- Do you frequently experience indecisiveness?
- Do you find yourself doubting your memory or perceptions?
- Do you feel more stressed and less joyful than you used to?
- Do you find yourself making excuses for the potential gaslighter?
- Does the potential gaslighter often break promises?
- Do you feel stupid, incompetent, or as if you’re losing your mind?
- Do you feel intimidated by the potential gaslighter?
- Do you often wonder what’s wrong with you?
- Does the potential gaslighter only make conditional apologies (e.g., “I’m sorry for saying that, but it’s your fault”)?
Step 2: Practice mindfulness and affirmations.
Gaslighting can alienate us from our own thoughts and feelings, the first step is simply listening.
It may be difficult at first, but the more you practice, the more you will trust yourself.
As a sign of your commitment to yourself to change add this: “Signed [Date] + Name & Actual Signature”