Gaslighting is a slow, intentional process of eroding self-worth.
Anyone can be on the receiving end of gaslighting; it has nothing to do with naivety or intelligence.
In fact, it is effective and insidious because people don’t realize they’re being manipulated while it’s happening.
The person being gaslit is like the frog in the pot. The heat is turned up slowly and so imperceptibly that the frog doesn’t realize what’s going on until it’s too late. In gaslighting relationships, by the time the water boils, the frog’s inner compass dies, leaving it confused, anxious, and unable to trust.
Abusers gain power by targeting the victim’s ability to attune to inner processes. Gaslighters repeatedly confuse, distort, and confound, until everything is questioned. They dish out imposed truths and serve them cold.
Gaslighting works because the progressive loss of clarity is in stealth mode. Reality is perpetually challenged and consequently, the abused have a difficult time trusting themselves and others.
The damaging feedback loop we receive from gaslighters convinces us that what we are feeling, hearing, and seeing is not what we think it is. Abusers tell us that we’re not remembering things accurately. They repeatedly invalidate and firmly object to our perceptions until we begin to distrust our own experience.
Over time we disconnect from our ability to rely on our own instincts. It’s much harder to be clear about our wants and needs when we are made to believe that there is something wrong with us.
Communication becomes the battlefield where self-worth comes under fire.
Everything gets criticized, flipped, questioned, accused, dismissed, joked about, and attacked. It’s exhausting, and no amount of trying to explain or being understood helps.
Understanding is a meeting of minds and hearts. There’s no way to achieve understanding with gaslighters unless we agree to meet them in a place where they are always right.
Self-abandonment is the injurious result of this costly abuse. We begin to blur boundaries and find ourselves justifying hurtful behavior. We learn to concede to avoid additional stress and arguing.
Gaslighters are manipulative gardeners who follow us around sowing seeds of confusion where we plant confidence. Then they tell us that we’re lucky to have them around because “Look at all the doubt we had grown.”
Manipulators understand that people need to be able to trust themselves and others in order to feel safe in the world. They’re experts in mind games that mess with internal stability. This explains why individuals who have been gaslit find themselves being unsure of what they feel.
Over time, trust gets damaged by confusion. It’s difficult to connect to wants and needs when we’re unclear. Even if we are supported in realizing that we were manipulated and abused, it can be difficult to trust again. Long after the gaslighting ends, letting others get close in relationships becomes understandably difficult.
Learning to identify gaslighting communication is helpful. The more you know what to look for, the more you can catch the wounding behavior.
Manipulators aren’t good at walking their talk. Remember to look for incongruence between people’s actions and words.
It’s also important to practice validating yourself and learn to anchor in the knowledge of your own experience. You are absolutely allowed to feel what you feel, no explanations or justifications needed.
As you commit to nurturing self-worth, seeking external approval diminishes. Resist the urge to call the abusers out on their behavior—you’ll just get more gaslighting from them.
It’s helpful to state your position calmly, without arguing. Remember that it’s not your job to make them see what they’re doing—no one changes unless they want to.
Your only responsibility is to free yourself of their manipulations.
Once you are aware of the damaging game, you can choose not to play it.