How I learnt to spot gaslighting and stop it
You might not even realise you’re a gaslighting victim because of how subtly it is done.
Brutal, strict and impossible to impress – my grandparents certainly taught me a thing or two about striving to be the best of the best.
Although my parents were chill and laid back, my grandparents filled the role of “tiger parents”, setting high expectations for me and expecting me to live up to them. Whenever I failed to meet their demands, I would be written off with harsh words – all of which I had heard throughout my childhood.
“You topped the module? The rest of your classmates must be lousy.”
“Why can’t you get this done right? You’re so stupid.”
“I was just kidding. You’re way too sensitive.”
Although there is nothing wrong with wanting the absolute best for their beloved granddaughter, their remarks often made me feel disregarded and left me doubting my sanity.
It took me years to finally realise that these were signs of gaslighting – an emotionally abusive tactic whereby a person undermines another person’s reality by denying the facts – making them doubt their thoughts, judgments, and emotions.
As gaslighting is often done subtly, some people might not even realise that they are victims of such psychological manipulation. When someone tries to gaslight you, they are trying to make you doubt yourself as a way to get you to comply with their demands.
They may use tactics such as lying to you, blaming you for something they did, or even dismissing your thoughts and feelings.
When confronted about something they have said or done, they may respond with statements such as “calm down, can’t you take a joke?” or “I never said that. You’re lying.”
If you feel that you are constantly being gaslighted in your relationships, here are three steps you can follow to take better control of the situation.
1. Remain defiant
As a gaslighting victim, I researched heavily on the topic and even watched countless videos online to better understand it. That was until I stumbled upon a TED Talk video where speaker Ariel Leve shared about her experience with gaslighting and the recommended ways to deal with it.
She stressed the importance of remaining defiant in the face of gaslighting since gaslighters have the ability to make you feel powerless, vulnerable and have you second-guess your judgment.
When someone attempts to alter your reality or doubt your decisions, you might feel trapped and wonder whether you are going insane.
While it is easy for a gaslighter to belittle you, being defiant helps you recognise your feelings and stay true to your reality.
2. Give yourself some space
Taking a step back and giving yourself space can also be helpful in handling the situation.
When gaslighting occurs, it can cause both parties to become frustrated and get involved in a heated argument. If the confrontation intensifies, get some space and cut all forms of communication with the gaslighter.
It is pointless to further the discussion or express opinions when both parties are unable to reach an agreement.
Instead, clear your mind by going for a short walk or stepping outside to get some fresh air.
Getting some space also means taking some time away from the other person to let your mind rest and reflect.
3. Take action
As gaslighting can negatively impact your mental well-being, create a plan to protect yourself and your mental health.
It can be dreadful and exhausting to live in an environment where you feel like you are constantly in an explanation trap with people who try to question your reality.
As gaslighters are manipulative and have the power to affect your mental health, it would be best to cut ties with them. If you are unable to completely cut off contact with the gaslighters due to personal circumstances, try your best to reduce your interactions with them.
It is also best not to disclose your gaslighting experience with people who can make you feel more vulnerable.
Having a tendency to overshare, I used to recount every single gaslighting experience I had with family and friends. However, this only affected me negatively as they would sometimes offer me unsolicited advice or cast judgments unnecessarily.
Instead, I have learnt to confide in those whose opinions I trust to feel better.
As someone who values my close friends’ opinions, I would share my gaslighting experiences with them. It helps me think objectively about the situation rather than rely on my emotions when making rational decisions.
If you feel that gaslighting is suffocating you mentally, seeking professional help may be the best option for you.
Having a therapist can help you identify gaslighting tactics used against you and offer objective ways to deal with them. Since a therapist is a qualified professional, they will also be able to provide you support in ways that your family and friends cannot.
Emotional abuse should never be tolerated, even if it comes from your closest friends and family members. Recognising the signs of gaslighting and knowing when to leave a situation is crucial to protect yourself and your sense of reality.
If you find yourself feeling down during this season, check out our mental well-being resources here.