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What is gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse in which the abuser manipulates your perception of reality, making you doubt your own memory, perception, or judgment. Here are some signs that you may be experiencing gaslighting:
1. You constantly second-guess yourself: Gaslighters may make you question your own judgment or memory. You may start to doubt your own thoughts, feelings, or experiences, and feel like you can't trust your own perception of reality.
2. You feel confused or disoriented: Gaslighting can be very disorienting, making you feel like you are losing touch with reality. You may feel like you are going crazy, or like you can't trust your own thoughts or feelings.
3. You feel like you're always wrong: Gaslighters may constantly criticize or belittle you, making you feel like you can't do anything right. They may make you feel like you are always in the wrong, or like you are responsible for their behavior.
4. You feel like you're walking on eggshells: Gaslighters may use threats, intimidation, or aggression to control you. You may feel like you have to constantly monitor your behavior or words to avoid triggering their anger or frustration.
5. You feel isolated or alone: Gaslighters may try to cut you off from friends, family, or other sources of support. They may make you feel like you can't trust anyone else, or like they are the only person who understands you.
Examples of gaslighting
1. Constantly denying or dismissing the other person's feelings: For example, if your partner tells you that something you said hurt their feelings, and you respond by saying, "You're too sensitive, I didn't mean it like that," you are gaslighting them.
2. Telling someone that they're crazy, irrational, or imagining things: If you tell someone that they're making things up or that they're just being paranoid, you are gaslighting them.
3. Making the other person doubt their own memories: For example, if you say to your friend, "You're remembering it wrong, that never happened," when they bring up something you did or said in the past, you are gaslighting them.
4. Blaming the other person for things that are not their fault: If you constantly blame your partner for things that are not their fault, such as saying "You made me do this," or "It's your fault that I'm angry," you are gaslighting them.
5. Withholding information or giving false information to make the other person doubt themselves: If you withhold information from someone or give them false information to make them doubt their own memory or understanding of a situation, you are gaslighting them.
What to do
Setting boundaries with someone who gaslights can be challenging, but it's important to prioritize your own safety and wellbeing. Here are some tips for setting boundaries with a gaslighter:
1. Be clear and direct: When setting boundaries with a gaslighter, it's important to be clear and direct about what you need. Use "I" statements to express your feelings and needs, and avoid blaming or accusing language.
2. Identify specific behaviors: Be specific about the behaviors that you find unacceptable, and explain how they make you feel. For example, "When you deny my experiences and feelings, it makes me feel like I can't trust myself."
3. Set consequences: If the gaslighter continues to engage in these behaviors, it's important to set consequences. For example, you may need to limit or cut off contact with them, or end the relationship altogether.
4. Stick to your boundaries: Once you have set boundaries, it's important to stick to them. This can be challenging, especially if the gaslighter tries to manipulate or guilt-trip you. But it's important to prioritize your own safety and wellbeing.
5. Seek support: Setting boundaries with a gaslighter can be difficult, so it's important to seek support from a therapist or other mental health professional. They can help you develop strategies for setting boundaries and dealing with any challenges that may arise. Remember, setting boundaries with a gaslighter may not always be possible, and it's important to prioritize your own safety and wellbeing.
Gaslighting can have many causes and may be influenced by a variety of factors. Here are some common causes of gaslighting:
1. Personality disorders: Gaslighting is often associated with personality disorders, such as narcissistic personality disorder or borderline personality disorder. These disorders are characterized by a distorted sense of self and a lack of empathy for others.
2. Childhood trauma: Gaslighting may also be a result of childhood trauma, such as abuse or neglect. Children who are exposed to gaslighting behaviors from a young age may internalize these patterns of behavior and use them in their own relationships as adults.
3. Power dynamics: Gaslighting may occur in relationships where there is a power imbalance, such as in abusive relationships or in the workplace. The gaslighter may use their position of power to manipulate and control the other person.
4. Cultural and societal factors: Gaslighting may also be influenced by cultural and societal factors, such as gender norms or societal attitudes towards mental health. For example, men may be more likely to engage in gaslighting behavior as a way to assert their power in relationships.
5. Communication problems: Gaslighting may also be a result of communication problems or misunderstandings. For example, a person may unintentionally invalidate another person's experiences or feelings without realizing the impact it has.
What if I am gaslighting?
If you recognize that you may be engaging in gaslighting behavior, it's important to take responsibility for your actions and make changes to stop this harmful behavior. Here are some tips to stop gaslighting:
1. Listen to the other person: One of the key aspects of gaslighting is invalidating the other person's experiences or feelings. Instead of dismissing their concerns, try to listen to them with an open mind and validate their feelings.
2. Take responsibility for your actions: Gaslighting often involves denying responsibility for your actions or blaming the other person. Instead, take responsibility for your behavior and acknowledge the impact it has had on the other person.
3. Avoid manipulation and control tactics: Gaslighting often involves manipulation and control tactics, such as lying, withholding information, or using threats. Instead, try to communicate honestly and openly without resorting to these tactics.
4. Apologize and make amends: If you have engaged in gaslighting behavior, it's important to apologize and make amends. This may involve acknowledging the harm you have caused, taking steps to make things right, and committing to changing your behavior in the future.
5. Seek help if necessary: If you are struggling to stop gaslighting behavior, it may be helpful to seek support from a therapist or other mental health professional. They can help you understand why you engage in this behavior and develop strategies to stop it. Remember, stopping gaslighting is a process and it may take time and effort to change these patterns of behavior. But it is important to take responsibility for your actions and work towards healthier communication and relationships.
Here are some common characteristics of someone who engages in gaslighting:
1. Manipulative behavior: Gaslighters often use manipulative tactics to control and manipulate the other person. This may involve lying, withholding information, or using threats to get what they want.
2. Invalidation of experiences and feelings: Gaslighters may deny or invalidate the other person's experiences or feelings. They may tell the other person that they are overreacting or being too sensitive.
3. Blaming and deflecting responsibility: Gaslighters may deflect responsibility for their own behavior and blame the other person instead. They may tell the other person that they are the cause of the problems in the relationship.
4. Distorted sense of reality: Gaslighters often have a distorted sense of reality and may try to convince the other person that their version of events is the only true version.
5. Emotional manipulation: Gaslighters may use emotional manipulation to control the other person's behavior. This may involve guilt-tripping, shaming, or using other forms of emotional pressure to get what they want.
6. Need for control: Gaslighters often have a strong need for control and may become angry or aggressive when they feel like they are losing control of the situation.
Tim Welch, LPCC, NCC, MAC, BC-TMHLicensed for Telehealth in Ohio & Florida.
Newark, Ohio Licking County Online Therapy. Individual Alcohol Counseling, Drug Counseling, EMDR, Anxiety, Depression & Mental Health Therapy.