So, you’ve read the articles, clicked on the links, and you’re thunderstruck to realize that you have, in fact, experienced gaslighting. In fact, you may be subject to it on a regular basis in one or more relationships. Some of these relationships may be ones you are unwilling to end—family relationships, employment relationships, or a close friend. Now that you’ve seen what’s happening, you can’t unsee it….so what do you do now?
First, it’s important to recognize that while gaslighting is always a manipulative tactic, it is not always a conscious attempt to abuse or control you. Surprisingly often, people who gaslight others have little or no awareness that they are doing so. In a sense, the gaslighting isn’t really about you—it’s about the gaslighter trying to meet their own needs, trampling yours in the process. If they can’t tolerate the reality that they did or said something harmful, or that your reality does not match theirs, gaslighting is a way of creating a revisionist history that they can live with. Much of the time, they won’t even realize they are doing it, leading to defensiveness, anger, and further denial when they are confronted.
Sadly, there are also people who will consciously and deliberately use gaslighting as a way of controlling their victim’s behavior. This type of gaslighter tends to lack empathy or enjoy the power gained by controlling someone else. They are unlikely to change, and you should set your expectations very low for how much you can expect them to respond to your attempts to change the established patterns.
So let’s say your gaslighter is one of the first types, the unconscious gaslighter who is mainly trying to meet their own needs and has little or no awareness of how that is negatively impacting you. What can you do when they start up again?
Here are a few tips that will help you break the pattern of gaslighting:
*Listen to your intuition.
-Don’t discount the parts of you that give a side-eye to your gaslighter’s denial, invalidation, or other attempts to discredit your lived experience. Listen to your intuition and check in with yourself—what is this intuitive part of you telling you? What are its concerns? Have you heard this voice inside before?
*Check it out with a trusted loved one.
-It can be hard to trust yourself, especially when your intuition has repeatedly been dismissed, denied, or ignored. It’s ok to check in with someone whom you trust to be honest with you for support, validation, and a reality check. Therapy can also be a great way to check in.
-You can’t lose a fight you don’t enter. You probably won’t convince them that you are right by arguing, and even the best thought-out arguments can easily become fuel for more gaslighting. Your feelings are valid, and your experience is your own. If you want to say something, try something along these lines: “I feel how I feel, and my feelings are valid. I am not going to discuss them further with you.”
Gaslighting is a sly and tricky beast, and the above suggestions are only the tip of the iceberg. If you’re ready to make a positive change in your life, contact me to start! You aren’t crazy, and you don’t have to continue this cycle forever.