This is a very interesting phenemenon that I didn’t understand until I experienced it once. After dealing with it so completely, I’m not scared it will happen again, though I was scared. My sister Nicole finally found a name for what had happened, and embarked upon a lot of research that’s shared today.
Gaslighting. You start out confident, happy and well and suddenly lose yourself so completely and literally feel crazy, lose trust in yourself, feel dependent upon another person…
I went from a shining, happy person to a scared, anxious, stuck mess who couldn’t funtion well, constantly lost sleep, spun in circles of denial, started questioning my own sanity… and… as luck would have it… I got away. Yes, my dramatic language is not misplaced: I literally felt like I escaped from a personal hell.
If you’ve ever been in a relationship that makes you question yourself, your confidence, your worth, your sanity or reality in general (!) this one’s for you!
Detoxing relationships is a massive way to make space in your life. Today, detoxing very toxic love can help you (or friend or family) break out of a very negative cycle.
Gaslighting is a form of mental abuse in which information is twisted or spun, selectively omitted to favor the abuser, or false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity.
The name “gaslighting” originated with a play from 1938, called Gas Light, which was later adapted to film in 1944. The husband in this play makes various attempts to make his wife question her memory and sanity. One of his manipulation tactics was to dim the gaslights in their home, and tell her what she was seeing was not reality, but a figment of her imagination.
The purpose of gaslighting is to make the someone so untrusting of themself, that he/she can no longer function independently, and instead clings to the abuser. This can happen in relationships with friends, family, co-workers, and intimate relationships. Gaslighting is like psychological warfare. The gaslighter will use phrases like, “You never remember anything right.”, “You always hurt me.”, “You are acting crazy because you are too sensitive.”, “I’m the one that is hurt.” etc. It is debilitating to the targeted person, where they lose their self-esteem, self-worth and he/she will become constantly confused, insecure, and completely unsure of their memory and mind. This type of manipulation is extremely intense and malicious. Eventually, the person being gaslighted will look to the gaslighter for help, seeing he/or she as the only one who really knows what is going on in reality and can therefore make the best decisions and give the best advice.
The gaslighter is shameless, and will stop at nothing to psychologically arrest their target. How does a gaslighter succeed at undermining their prey?
- They deny events or statements they made, even in the presence of clear evidence.
- They vehemently deny their own bad behavior and switch the subject to blame the target, leaving the person being targeted on the defense.
- They invalidate the credibility of the victim, and tell them they are wrong and are making things up in their head.
- They do not take responsibility for negative occurrences in their life and blame others, often the victim.
- They make the person being gaslighted feel ridiculous for expressing real emotional pain and devalue the importance of their feelings.
- They give advice, when not asked for, insinuating that everything the victim is doing is wrong and only they have the right answers.
Robin Stern, Ph.D., is the associate director for the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence is a licensed psychoanalyst, educator and author of the book, “The Gas Light Effect: How to Spot and Survive the Hidden Manipulations Other People Use to Control your Life.” In her book, Stern explains the stages of of gaslighting, and how they proceed from bad to worse:
Stage 1: This stage is characterized by disbelief. The gaslighter might make outrageous claims, such as, “I know you really want to get back with your ex-boyfriend.” At this stage, you view his opinion as ridiculous and stand up for yourself. This might lead to some heated arguments where your attempts to convince him of the contrary are futile. This kind of fighting leads to exhaustion and confusion, as you realize you are defending yourself for something that is not real or true. The more adamant he is, the more you worry and think it could be your fault.
Stage 2: You are on the defense. The irony here is that you are defending yourself to regain the approval of the gaslighter. You will rack your brain to try to find hard indisputable evidence to make the abuser see your point of view. You become obsessive and desperate, often recounting conversations over and over again, staging arguments in your head…all in an attempt to have your relationship return to a state harmony.
Stage 3: This when the depression kicks in and you lose your sense of self. At this point exhaustion has set in, so you decide to give up the fight and try to convince yourself the gas lighter was right all along. At this point this is the only way you see the gaslighter ever approving of you again. In this stage the victim finds it easier to just give up and agree with gaslighter.
Signs You Are Being GasLighted:
- You are constantly second-guessing yourself
- You wonder frequently if you are a “good enough” girlfriend/wife/husband/ employee/friend/sibling
- You start lying to avoid the put-downs and reality twists
- You think twice before bringing up certain seemingly innocent topics of conversation.
- You feel as though you can’t do anything right
- You feel hopeless and joyless.
- You can’t understand why, with so many apparently good things in your life, you aren’t happier
- You frequently make excuses for your partner’s behavior to friends and family
- You find yourself withholding information from friends and family so you don’t have to explain or make excuses.
An article on Everyday Feminism gives some great tips to reverse the effects of gaslighting, and the takeway I got from this awesome article:
- Realize it is happening. Read the list of warning signs. If you feel this is indeed happening to you, remind yourself that this is a form of abuse and take note of who the abuser is.
- Trust yourself again. Realize that you WERE being abused and manipulated. Reverse the phrases that the gaslighter has pumped into your head. Statements like, “you never remember anything”, or “you are acting crazy because you are too sensitive”…replace them with, “I do remember things well.” And “I am not too sensitive or crazy.”
- Stick to your perception of reality, trust your memory and call the gaslighter out on his behavior. Let the gas lighter you know what he/she is saying is not true, be vocal and stand your ground. Let them know that you are aware you’re being manipulated and that you won’t stand for it.
And… don’t look back.
Healing from this exerience opens the doors to more relationships that are real love.
P.S.: If you’re ready to take the energy around you to the next level, detox the negativity and make space for joy, the Joy Immersion: 30 Day Negativity Detox is here for you.
THE JOY IMMERSION is a commitment to happy-making, mirror-polishing, life-lifting and simple space shifting for 30 days. It’s loaded with lots of actions that can help you detox from your own negative stuff, uncover more of your greatness and light, and see happiness everywhere you look…!
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