AKA “Don’t be so sensitive” – “You’re being dramatic” – “Stop blowing it out of proportion”
SIGNS, SYMPTOMS SOLUTIONS, SURVIVING AND MOVING ON!
Dr. Google defines gaslighting as a verb meaning, “..to manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.” I had to look this up. Have I heard of gaslighting? Yep. Have I been gaslighted? You bet. Have I ignored this topic out of fear it would hit a bit too close to home? Um…mebbe.
Kati Morton captured it best when she said the whole goal of gaslighting is to get a person to question their perception, memory or even their own sanity. She also listed 5 signs that you are being gaslit and when I read these, I felt laid bare, to be honest:
- You always second guess yourself
- You find yourself excusing abusive behavior
- You lack confidence and second guess yourself constantly (sort of a repeat of #1 but worth saying twice I guess)
- You struggle to make decisions on your own
- You often feel like you can’t do anything right
You know that feeling when you know you’re right….like, in your soul – but you’re confronted with someone who disagrees and you’re made to feel like a lunatic? Yeah, that is gaslighting. Endure enough of it and it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because, let’s all try to remember (while we’re talking definitions, that is) – what is the definition of insanity? That’s right. You’ve heard it a thousand times. The definition of insanity (at least according to Albert Einstein) is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. So, if you’re consistently gaslit by the same person over and over and over again – a person who is actively make you feel crazy – how long until you actually have a mental break? That’s a rhetorical question but the truth is, it ain’t gonna be too long until tolerating gaslighting becomes a real mental and physical problem for you.
So, what do you do? More importantly, what do you do when you don’t have a choice but to tolerate someone who is a repeat gaslighting offender? I’m talking here about actual and perceived choice(s) – maybe a boss or a family member or some pseudo permanent fixture in your life that you rely on in some way (or think you do) and who you can’t just immediately and intentionally write off.
All I can say here is that the main thing you need to do is to get rid of any gaslighters in your life. Not.so.easy.
Now, here’s the biggest caveat…or is it a confession? I have not gotten rid of a primary gaslighter in my life. And for my family members and friends who are reading this, NO…it is not you! But I have identified the problem and am taking steps at removing this cancer of an influence from my inner circle. I have successfully eliminated gaslighters in the past so I know it can be done. I also know that it is extremely difficult. UPDATE: I did remove this particular gaslighter and their “power” over me. I still interact with them but, at a distance and at my discretion. So..yay!
From what I’ve read and experienced, here are the steps to take that seem to work best:
- Talk to someone. A therapist, a friend…whoever. Lean on your tribe. Friends and some family members can help you with perspective. If it’s become hard for you to assess the situation because you are too “in the middle of it”, talk to someone else about it.
- Set boundaries. It’s ok to say no and it’s ok to not tolerate a narcissist’s bad behavior.
- Think about your wins and say them out loud. It might sound a little silly but highlighting your successes and then saying them to yourself out loud will help restore the confidence that might have been broken in your interactions with the gaslighter.
- Trust your instincts. Trust yourself.
- Be the bigger person. Have confidence in your moral, professional and personal convictions. You don’t have to stoop to their level to express your “rightness”. Just know it to be true and take steps to remove yourself from this toxic situation.
- If it’s a professional situation, document everything. Compare notes. I can guarantee you’re not the only one that feels this way. Identify the situations that trigger the gaslighting. Is the conversation a power struggle or are you defending your reality? If at all possible, try to stop the discussion by redirecting. Find an alternate method of communicating – by email or whatever. It’s important to shift to something that can be recorded but whatever the case, try to stop the interaction all together if possible.
Now that you’ve addressed the situation, what should you do to maintain this protective gaslighting bubble you’ve created around yourself? First and foremost, trust yourself. Trust your perceptions, your intuitions, and keep telling yourself that you are amazing. You have to really believe that and, not only believe it, but act like it. Sit at the table. Raise your hand. Have a voice. You have worked so hard to heal and learn from all of this – that itself is a testament to your strength and worth!