Have you ever heard of the term gaslighting? To put it simply, gaslighting is a form of manipulation that occurs in abusive relationships. It can be between family members or in other types of relationships. It is an insidious, and sometimes covert, type of emotional abuse where the bully or abuser makes the target question their judgments and reality. Ultimately, the victim of gaslighting starts to wonder if they are going crazy.
Gaslighting can cause a lot of damage. I was a victim of gaslighting growing up and there were times I started to really question what I thought I knew about myself. It’s had such a lasting effect where I still have a very warped reality of myself.
I remember being in middle school and having one of my parents telling me they knew I was smoking pot. The reality was, I had never even seen pot and I also didn’t know where one would even get it. I did not have contact with it until I was already out of high school.
There were so many other times I was told “stories” about myself and things I had supposedly done that weren’t true and it really messed with my head. My abuser REALLY believed that these lies were the truth and they would repeat them over and over, telling me they KNEW I was doing these things. I began to question my own memories and questioning if I DID actually do the ridiculous things that I was being accused of.
That was just a little bit of my own experience, but gaslighting can take many forms. Some gaslighting examples are:
- lying to you
- discrediting you
- deflecting blame
- minimizing your thoughts and feelings
- shifting blame
- denying wrongdoing
- using compassionate words as weapons
- twisting and reframing conversations
All of these things can be damaging. Unlike physical abuse, the scars that emotional abuse leaves are invisible. This can fuel the feeling of being crazy. I can’t tell you how many times my feelings from the abuse were invalidated just because I was not being PHYSICALLY abused. I’m hear to tell you that those emotional scars are just as valid as the physical scars.
Being a victim to gaslighting can cause anxiety and depression. It also has been linked to panic attacks and nervous breakdowns. For this reason, it is important to recognize when you’re experiencing gaslighting. If you think you might have been a victim of gaslighting, there are some warning signs to look out for:
- You doubt your feelings and reality.
- You question your judgment and perceptions.
- You feel vulnerable and insecure.
- You feel alone and powerless.
- You wonder if you’re stupid and crazy.
- You are disappointed in yourself.
- You feel confused.
- You worry that you are too sensitive.
- You have a sense of impending doom.
- You spend a lot of time apologizing.
- You feel inadequate.
- You second-guess yourself.
- You assume others are disappointed in you.
- You wonder what’s wrong with you.
- You struggle to make decisions because you distrust yourself.
Gaslighting is horrible, but there are some ways that can help you feel less crazy and anxious. Something that really helped me was keeping evidence when things happened so I would know that things DID happen the way I thought so when they tried to deny, I would know it was them and not me. It was a great way for me to assure myself that it was not all in my head
If the gaslighting is negatively effecting your mental wellbeing, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. You can go to a school counselor or reach out to a hotline.
Sometimes gaslighting can lead to physical abuse. If you feel that you might be in danger, create a safety plan. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, a safety plan may include:
- safe places and escape points
- the contact details of people someone can call upon for help
- self-care activities that help someone to cope
- a plan for safely leaving the abusive situation
There are so many ways to get help. If you need help now, but you’re not sure where to start, check out our resources page.