What a beautiful and, at the same time, scary word – “gaslighting”. We really hope that you’d never be affected by this type of psychological violence, but it’s better to have information about it in advance than to suddenly fall into its dangerous trap.
From the psychological point of view, gaslighting is a type of manipulation in which one person intentionally makes another doubt themselves, their actions and memories. The aggressor’s goal is to deceive the victim, establish control over them and prove their own dominance.
It’s interesting that the manipulator rarely shouts, threatens or expresses aggression. Most often, they speak in a calm, condescending or caring tone, while making the other person embarrassed and doubt their own sanity.
The scariest thing is that the people whom the victim trusts completely, their loved ones, are the ones using this manipulation. Everything happens with no witnesses, there’s no direct evidence of aggression, but, gradually, over the course of months or years, the person is forced to doubt themselves, their thoughts, feelings, a sensation of double reality is created.
As a result, the victim becomes uncertain of their sanity and is at the edge of a nervous breakdown (best-case scenario).
Let’s see which phrases and behavioral tells can help spot a gaslighter.
- denial of the facts: “Stop it, I never said that!” “This didn’t happen, you are confused!” “Everything was completely different”
- invalidating your emotions: “That’s just your opinion”, “ Don’t make things up, it doesn’t even hurt that much”, “You just take everything too personally”.
- devaluing your accomplishments: “Well, anybody can write an article”, “It’s ridiculous to be proud of it, it’s nothing special”, “Not bad, but too trite”.
- humiliation: “You’re dumb, you wouldn’t understand”, “No point talking to him, he’s such a ditz”, “How would this drama queen raise children?!”
- blaming: “You never listen to me”, “You just love it when everything goes your way!”, “You’re confused and then it’s everyone else’s fault!”
- hinting about your sanity sliding: “You’ve been really weird lately, keep forgetting and confusing everything”, “Maybe something’s up with your brain, go see a doctor”, “Your state concerns me: you’re not hearing yourself, you’re slurring”.
It’s possible to spot a gaslighter, with time. But it’d be much harder to resist them.
First of all, as soon as they notice that you’re “off the hook”, they’d stop their tactics and they’ll be perfectly behaved for a while (until you drop your guard).
Second of all, they’d try to limit your interaction with your loved ones so that none of them support you and undermine the gaslighter’s authority.
Third of all, it’s impossible to be always on your guard: you’ll never know when exactly they’d start their bullying and you’d get confused and doubt yourself again.
However, it’s possible and necessary to resist gaslighting – your mental health is on the cards. So, try to make use of the following tips.
1.Let’s start with your self-esteem – it’s its fragility that allows the aggressor to mock you with impunity. Raise it and enhance it by any means: psychological courses, articles, “journal of my successes”, communication with people who admire you.
2.“Just stay calm”. Learn to control yourself: your aggressive responses, tears of helplessness and agitated, confusing speech are only to his advantage. The calmer and even more distant you are during communications with them, the easier it’ll be for you to understand the meaning of what’s happening and to react sensibly to a gaslighter’s tactics.
3.Before you answer, make sure to take a pause: “Just a minute, let me think…” Firstly, you’d manage to “breathe through” your emotions and restore your self-control; secondly, it’d confuse the aggressor, who is hoping for your quick and humble answer. And then, if you know what to answer them, continue the discussion. If you are unsure, dodge the blow: “I’m not ready to talk to you right now, maybe tomorrow.”
4.Trust yourself and your feelings! To start doubting and rechecking facts and events is a sure losing strategy. You’ll doubt yourself even more. Stick to your point of view, show your decisive attitude and say with a confident voice: “Yes, I have a different point of view on this situation. I trust my memory and see it all differently. “
5.Make sure to rely on other people’s help. Ask your loved ones whether they’ve noticed the same “weird things” your manipulator’s always telling you about. It’d also be a wise decision to see a therapist.
6.When your emotions are boiling over and your self-confidence is hanging by a threat, it’s very difficult to put yourself together and find the right, powerful words to defeat the gaslighter. However, there are a few phrases you can remember and use to try and stop the aggressor from humiliating you.
- You have no right to insult me, so apologize. I will not be spoken to in this tone.
- I feel that you’re trying to pressure me, for some reason. Stop it and tell me directly what you want.
- I trust my memories and I won’t allow anybody to doubt my sanity. If you don’t stop mocking my health, this conversation is over.
Unlike physical violence, gaslighting doesn’t leave bruises and bumps. Only a tormented and exhausted soul.
We hope that our advice will help you recognize this threat right away and block all of gaslighter’s attacks with confidence.