Do the following phrases ring a bell?
“I don’t even know what you are talking about you’re like you started to imagine things.”
“There’s no need to be so sensitive to everything. I was only kidding.”
“I think you are losing your mind. This never happened. “
If you have grown used to hearing these phrases from someone, chances are that person is gaslighting you.
Gaslighting refers to a person’s intentional attempt to make you doubt yourself. Gaslighters are experts at manipulating others and changing their perception of reality. If a person is trying to gaslight you, they will constantly try to confuse you, make you doubt yourself and question your own reality. This makes it very easy for the gaslighters to get what they want. They will also try to make you dependent on them and crush your self-confidence. This is the gaslighters way of getting what they want from you.
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Examples of gaslighting
Gaslighting comes in six different forms. A person may use all six or a few of them to manipulate you. Some examples of the gaslighting methods are
The gaslighter will minimize your emotions and feelings. They will behave as if what you think and feel does not matter at all. You will be blamed for overreacting and extrapolating every small matter.
Your gaslighter will start to question your memory, the sequence of events, add details that were not there before or entirely deny that something ever happened. The focus here is to make you question your reality. They will even blame you for the things that have gone wrong.
If you confront a gaslighter, they will try to evade the topic, accuse you of framing them or brush off your attempts for discussion.
Whenever you bring up any concern about the gaslighter’s behavior, they will either try to change the subject completely, dismiss it or turn it back to you suggesting that you are the reason things are going wrong and you are to blame.
Completely denying or forgetting
If a gaslighter finds it hard to escape from a certain situation, they will either completely deny it or say that they do not remember anything of the sort.
Discrediting is when a gaslighter tries to gain complete control over you by telling others that you tend to get confused, have a tendency to make things up, cannot remember the sequence of events, tend to blame others etc. The purpose here is to discredit you at work or in front of your friends.
This is not okay
Some of the above-mentioned tactics may seem very common to you. They may even be used by your peers, friends or family members. However, do not generalize it. It is not fair to you. You deserve to live a happy and peaceful life. You do not deserve to be ridiculed embarrassed or made to feel small. Gaslighting is a way for the other person to gain momentum over you and to make you dependent on them.
Gaslighting is a common problem that people face in the workplace, friendships, in relationships and even amongst their own family members. If the gaslighter’s behavior is left unchecked, it can negatively impact your mental health, way of life, interpersonal relationships, and productivity.
It is time to take back control of your life and learn to respond to your gaslighter. However, before you start to question your abuser, you need to first identify if you are really being gaslighted
How to respond to gaslighting?
Ensure that what you are facing is gaslighting
Unfortunately, gaslighting is not very easy to identify or recognize. This is because gaslighting starts had a very minimal level and slowly stretches to cover most aspects of your life. You must focus on the person who is gaslighting you. Make sure that person is repeatedly trying to make you doubt yourself, your reality, and your mental health. As I mentioned before, their primary purpose is to make you completely dependent on them. Therefore, they will resort to all manipulation methods available.
However, if your partner offers an opinion that is different from yours, this does not mean that your colleague is gaslighting you. If he/she responds to you in a rude manner this also does not mean that you are being gaslighted.
The problem with the Internet becoming accessible to everyone is that sometimes, people make the wrong diagnosis about others. This can have a serious negative impact on your relationship with the other person. Therefore, you must make sure that you are being gaslighted before you decide to confront. Just saying that you are wrong or, “I don’t remember that this happened”, does not mean that the other person is gaslighting you. There’s a chance that the person may have really forgotten or feels that you are wrong about the matter.
To understand if you are being gaslighted, focus on the person’s behavior over a period of time. Being rude one day does not mean that the other person is a gaslighter. If the person has gaslighting tendencies, they will resort to behaving in the same manner repeatedly.
If you are trying to identify whether you are being gaslighted, observe the behavior of the suspect. The best way to do it is to take note of your feelings. Start with journaling. Journal your feelings every time you talk to the person you suspect is gaslighting you. Identify if you regularly feel the following:
- Constantly question and doubt yourself
- Wondering if you behave in an overly sensitive manner
- You frequently apologize to that person
- It’s difficult to make decisions all by yourself
- Feeling unhappy, confused and unlike your normal self
- Avoid people you love because you do not know how to tell them what is going on with you.
If your answer to the above-mentioned questions is yes, you are being gaslighted.
Try to remove yourself from the situation.
If you are being gaslighted, you will have a barrage of very strong emotions inside of you. Certain common emotions you may experience are anger, worry, sadness, fear etc. What you feel is completely valid. However, you should not let these feelings guide your actions. The best route to take under such a circumstance is to remain calm and focus on the matter with a cool mind.
Your first instinct might be to completely deny what the gaslighter is saying. After all, you know your reality. However, gaslighters do not generally back down. Furthermore, the fact that you are feeling distressed will only encourage them to provoke you further and try to get into your head to manipulate you.
The best way to deal with a gaslighter is to focus on the truth. Gathering proofs and journaling everything down will help you retain your self-confidence and faith. However, the immediate moment is not the right time to question or confront your gaslighter.
The best bet under such circumstances is to take a break and come back to the topic later. You can either go for a walk, take your dog out for a run, or go to the gym to help you clear the cobwebs from your mind and boost your ability to refocus on the matter at hand.
If going outside is not an option for you, you can try the following
- Breathing exercises
- Grounding yourself
- Visualization exercise
- Counting to 10 in a slow manner and back
- Positive affirmations
- Indulging in art therapy
- Making a painting
- Indulging in your favorite hobby
Collect evidence for gaslighting
As I mentioned before, when you start collecting evidence, you do not lose the confidence you had in yourself. Evidence shows that you are not losing your reality. You are truly being gaslighted. Furthermore, when you decide to finally confront your gaslighter, the evidences you have collected will support falsifying the gaslighter’s claims.
Here are some ideas for collecting evidence
- Keep screenshots of emails and texts
- If there is any damage property, take a photo
- Note down the time and date of conversations
- Write down the conversation (quote them) as much as you can remember.
- Record or tape the conversations as and when they are occurring. Depending on the laws of your region, you may not be able to use these recordings in court or for legal assistance. However, you can use these to at least confront your gaslighter about their behavior.
Sometimes, confrontation may not be an option. If your gaslighter indulges in physical violence, confronting them is not an option. However, you can use the proofs if you decide to seek legal assistance. These proofs will also help you keep your focus, not lose yourself, maintain your self-confidence, and keep your emotional health in check.
Since you have a proof for the truth, you do not have to question yourself. That self-doubt that the gaslighter tries to inculcate in you will not be effective. Remember to keep the notes, recordings and proofs private. Your gaslighter should not know that you are collecting evidence. In case, you are facing gaslighting at your workplace, the best route to take would be to store all of this data on your personal computer or phone. Do not store these on your company’s laptop or work device.
When you are collecting evidence, remember to set certain boundaries and indulge in self-care. Regular self-care allows you to not only feel good about yourself, it also helps in relieving the anxiety that you might be experiencing. If you have tendencies of anxiety disorder, self-care can be of great help.
Maintain your self-confidence
The first aim of a gaslighter is to break your own confidence. The moment they successfully shake your confidence is the moment they start to develop their hold on you. Therefore, it is crucial that you stay confident in your own version of events. It is fairly common for people to remember a slightly different version of what happened. However, if you start questioning yourself regarding the sequence of events, you will start to lose confidence.
The purpose of the gaslighter is to make you doubt your reality. Therefore, your behavior should reflect the exact opposite. Certain minor details like the color of a person’s shirt or someone’s lunch on a specific day etc might be difficult to remember. Our brains do not process and store entire memories. However, if you feel that you remember a scenario clearly and your gaslighter is completely denying what you remember, you are being gaslighted.
This is the time to show your confidence. Even if you don’t remember the shirt color, your brain will remember certain details about the scenario. Make sure that you tell your gaslighter the details you do remember. These details can act as proof showing that you remember the scenario correctly. Providing them proof will discourage the gaslighter and they may back down. However, this may not necessarily be the case. Your gaslighter may decide to continue to challenge you. If this is the case, do not get into a conflict with your gaslighter.
The more fodder you provide your gaslighter, the more vulnerable they can make you feel. Thus, refuse to get into an argument. Maintain your own dignity and control over the situation. If this flusters your gaslighter, all the better. This is specifically applicable if you are facing workplace gaslighting. This will show others in the workplace, who is displaying nonworkplace-type behavior.
In such a situation, you may say something like,” it seems that you and I remember this scene in a different manner. However, let’s not argue about it.”
Focus on self-care
The importance of self-care cannot be emphasized enough. When you look into the mirror, who do you see?
Do you see a person who is
- Feeling strange
- Losing their sense of self
- Wondering if they can ever do anything on their own?
If you are such a person, you must focus on self-care. When you pamper yourself and provide your body and mind the care they deserve, you not only feel good about yourself, you also boost your self-confidence. When you look into the mirror and see a person who is confident looking back at you, you’ve already won half the battle.
Self-care is probably one of the most underrated things in mental health. However, the power of self-care should never be undermined. Self-care will not only make you look good, you will also feel much calmer and more collected in your thoughts. When you have me-time, you reflect back on the situations that you have faced recently and go through the scenarios that may occur when you confront your gaslighter. These factors will help you better prepare for the upcoming battle.
Show that you don’t accept the behavior
The reason gaslighting is effective is because it confuses and shakes the self-confidence of the victim. The moment you start showing your gaslighter that their behavior is not affecting you, you are confident in yourself, you do not believe what they say, they may stop gaslighting you because it’s not worth wasting their time since you are not budging.
Along with misdirection and lies, gaslighting also involves insults, criticism and sarcasm. Even if you do not confront the gaslighter, you can always confront unacceptable behavior. Remember to be calm and assertive when you confront the person. Call them out calmly and tell them that this type of behavior is not acceptable.
This is the only way they will understand that you are not afraid to call them out. This can also give them more incentive to let you be and not bother gaslighting you any further.
One common trait of gaslighters is that they tend to disguise insults as jokes. When confronted, they may say, “It was all a joke. You should not take things too seriously. You are oversensitive.” Under such circumstance, you should ask them to explain, how it is a joke. This way, they will get caught up in their own web and realize that their strategy is not working on you.
Suppose your coworker says, “You were so busy indulging in social activities. I’m sure you did not get time to finish the work.” To this, you can respond, ” I have already finished the work that you are talking about. We can go through them right now if you want”.
Confront your gaslighter
This might be the hardest thing for a victim to do. The primary aim of the gaslighter is to dismiss you, ignore you, and speak down to you. This is their way of establishing a hold over you. The constant ridicule, sarcasm, and ignorance starts to make the victim feel unsure about themselves. In such cases, the victims develop a submissive attitude.
However, help is available. You just have to ask for it. If the option of going to a mental health professional is not available, contact your friends, family, relatives, acquaintances etc. Discuss the matter with someone who knows and understands you. Having someone on your side can boost your confidence and act as a pillar when you decide to finally confront the gaslighter.
Confrontation is only advisable if your gaslighter does not display violent tendencies. If you feel that there is a risk of violence, please do not confront your gaslighter. If you do decide to confront your gaslighter, make sure that you do so in a safe space. You can call your friends, family, or loved ones before you talk to your abuser so that you have mental support. You must also remember that there may be pushback from your abuser in some form or the other. Therefore, cover all your bases before you go ahead with the confrontation.
Self-care will help with the confrontation
During a confrontation, the calmer you behave, the more frazzled your gaslighter will feel. Gaslighters prey on your vulnerabilities. If you do not show any vulnerability, the gaslighter may stop gaslighting you itself because you are not worth the time. They will look for prey that is easier to attack. However, this will not happen unless you invest some time and energy in self-care. You need to give yourself the importance you deserve. If you do not put the effort in self-preservation, you will not gain the confidence to respond to a person who feeds on your vulnerabilities.
Talk to your loved ones
The first thing gaslighters do is to isolate the victim from their loved ones. If this is the case with you as well, it is time to reconnect. Your gaslighter isolated you from your family, loved ones, acquaintances and friends so that they can have complete control over you, your thoughts, your emotions etc. Now, that you have realized that you are being gaslighted, it is good to get in touch with your loved ones. Instead of allowing your gaslighter to get away with isolating you, you reach out to your people for advice and help.
It becomes much more difficult for a gaslighter to get away with their acts when they are questioned by a group of people. This is especially effective if those people understand and see through the plans of the gaslighter. A fresh set of eyes can also help you see the situation in a different manner and work out the kinks that you haven’t been able to on your own.
Opt for professional help
Even though going to your family, friends and loved ones is an essential step, sometimes it may not be enough. If your gaslighter has successfully isolated you to the point that you do not have the option of going to your family and friends. If your family and friends have been manipulated by the gaslighter to the point that they don’t believe in you, asking them for help may not be an option. In such scenario, opting for professional help is a good idea.
Your therapist can see things from an unbiased point of view while helping you understand and recover from the effects of gaslighting. Your therapist can also protect you from the emotional abuse that you have faced, build your self-confidence and help you prepare to confront the gaslighter.
Help with the complication
Some of the complications that occur with gaslighting are lack of confidence, anxiety, depression etcetera. These mental health issues can become a huge hurdle in your work and personal life. If you are facing anxiety, depression or high-stress levels, a therapist can help you through these difficult times.
When you are dealing with a gaslighter, it can be extremely exhausting and emotionally draining. That is why, mental health professionals and experts tell you to focus on yourself, self-preservation and boosting your self-confidence. When you take care of your own needs, both emotionally and mentally, you not only stave off the side effects, you become a person who is ready to confront the gaslighter.
If you are facing gaslighting, here are some things you should work on
- Start distancing yourself from the gaslighter
- Journal and collect evidence
- Reach out to your loved ones
- Get therapy
- Work on building your own confidence
If you have enjoyed this blog post and found it insightful, please subscribe to Guilt Free Mind. Your subscription will allow me to notify you about the release of new blog posts. This way, you will never miss out on any mental health tips. You can also subscribe to the YouTube channel of Guilt Free Mind. Do not forget to ring the notification bell.
Have you ever experienced gaslighting? Was it at your workplace, with your parents or partner? How did you deal with it? Please mention your experiences, opinions and thoughts about this post in the comments section below. Your experiences may encourage someone else to get help and change their life. If you have any queries about this blog post or any other on Guilt Free Mind, feel free to reach out to me. I will be happy to help.
See you in my next blog post