Gaslighting is a term that many people who have been emotionally abused unfortunately know about.
Wikipedia describes it as a form of manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or members of a group, hoping to make targets question their own memory, perception and sanity.
The term owes its origin to a 1938 play called Gas Light and its 1944 film adaptation.
Gaslighting is commonly used by toxic and abusive individuals to diminish, punish and gain control over someone.
Why is gaslighting so hard to identify, and so mentally and emotionally damaging?
How can you get clear that you are being gaslit, remove and protect yourself and recover from its insidious effects?
As a victim of emotional abuse and gaslighting, I will try to address some of these questions in this article.
If you are feeling confusion regarding what is real and what isn’t real, there is a good chance that you are being gaslit.
An example of this would be that you have a conversation with someone and you know what was actually said. Then this person, as narcissists often do when confronted, flatly denies ever saying it at all, and will tell you that you completely misheard what was said.
You know you didn’t say it, yet, you start to doubt yourself. You believe there is a possibility you misheard things. Worse, you might begin to think that you are losing your mind. After all, this person is apparently so convinced that you are wrong.
Confusions of this type are a common occurrence with a gaslighter. I know as it happened to me for years.
My significant other at the time falsely accused of me of everything under the sun. He was convinced I had done these things and tried to convince me and others I had as well. Everything I said and did was twisted around and used against me. I used to say that I had never been more deliberately misunderstood in a relationship than I was in this one. I was scared and walking on eggshells all the time.
I started to believe I must be wrong and that maybe I was all of these things because the person I loved was saying them to me. I couldn’t believe the kinds of accusations being hurled at me on a daily basis – everything from spending too much time talking to a male friend at a party, to accusing me of using an online dating app when in fact I was on LinkedIn, to being told that I must be untrustworthy because I wouldn’t give him the password to my phone.
Gaslighting is a malicious tactic. It’s used to punish people by stripping their power and getting them to distrust themselves. It’s also about destroying a person’s own character to themselves and anyone else who will listen.
And unfortunately, many people do listen. Most people have been conditioned to believe that when another adult looks them in the eyes and says something horrible about another person, that it must be true.
In my case, a vicious ex-friend and my narcissistic abusive ex told people their twisted, untrue version of several situations. Unfortunately, many people believed them at first. Mostly everyone realized who they really were and those who did not are not people I want in my life.
So, what were their motivations for doing this?
Hurting me – pure and simple. My ex-friend was jealous of my life and unhappy in her own. My ex wanted to take out his anger on me because I did not make him the center of attention or give him enough narcissistic supply. He also wanted to move on with another woman.
It is important to understand that narcissists will use gaslighting to fulfill any agenda necessary to feed their fragile egos or punish someone who hasn’t adequately done so. They will also do it in order to give themselves an out of your relationship and to make them look like the victim and you look like the bad guy.
When to Suspect You Are Being Gaslit
Being gaslit is probable if you are facing confusing accusations, information and conversations with someone in your life. If there is no real evidence regarding the information you are being told and if you believe a different version of the events being presented, and especially if the confusing times happen on a regular basis, there is a good possibility that you are being gaslit.
If this person is often unkind, unsupportive, envious, pathologically jealous or prone to sabotage your life and happiness, and takes offense when life is not all about him or her, these are gaslighting episodes.
Gaslighting is cruel, conscienceless and malicious. Only a pathologically disordered person is capable of doing it.
In my case, my significant other continued to gaslight me and falsely accuse me of saying and doing things I had never done, I was beyond confused. He regularly threatened to leave me due to me not “treating him right” as he said. He would also move the goalposts in our relationship – another narcissistic tactic – promising something with no intention of actually following through with it in order to get what he wanted.
One day he came home from work, falsely accused me yet again of this kind of behavior and told me it was over. It took a few months to unravel things, but I realized that I was no longer scared of him. I saw him for the insecure narcissist he always was. I couldn’t believe I ever put up with it.
I never thought I would ever be a victim of this kind of behavior. There is no way to deal with it, you have to just remove yourself from the situation completely and anyone who supports that person and believes their version of these alternative facts.
After the final episode, I moved out of our home, blocked him and everyone he knew, got therapy and rebuilt my life – better than before and without any toxic people in my life. And you can too. Most abusers want their victims to stay quiet, and will do anything to silence them but you do not owe anything to someone who has abused you. Just be thankful that you are out of the toxicity and block them.
Being gaslit also happens quite often professionally too – stay tuned for an article on that.
Stay strong and centered.