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Gaslighting is the Worst

Updated: Jul 31, 2020


Gaslighting is a hot term today because many of us are experiencing it, and maybe even doing it ourselves, without any idea of how harmful this type of psychological manipulation can be.

This term came up between me and my co-host Anna on our introductory podcast of “One Day You’ll Thank Me” and sparked an interesting conversation. We decided it would be great to discuss it further on our very first podcast episode!

So, what is gaslighting? Where did this term even come from?

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse that makes a person question their feelings and even their own sanity. Its origin is derived from a play by Patrick Hamilton in 1938, where a manipulative husband was in a toxic relationship with his wife and he wanted her and everyone else to believe that she was insane. He started gaslighting her by slowly lowering the gaslights in their home and making them dimmer over a period of time. When she would comment that the lights seemed lower, he would say “no they aren’t”, “you’re imagining it”. Over time of him insisting she was completely imagining things, she really started doubting herself and her own sanity.

Since then, “gaslighting” has become a popular term. Many people are even referring to it as a way that politicians are eliciting votes these days. It is happening in our relationships and our homes more than you might think.

How would you know if someone is gaslighting you?

Here are some common examples you may hear in which the other person is trying to make you doubt yourself:

You’re too sensitive

I don’t think you are remembering that right

You’re lying about it

Everybody thinks you are crazy

I don’t understand why you can’t be happier

You sound crazy

You act just like your mother

You’re over-reacting

AND one that is used so often…I was just joking!

The behavior tends to make people feel foolish, that they overreacted, or are too emotional. Over time, this type of behavior can have a negative effect on someone where they can feel confused, overwhelmed, always apologizing, chronically dissatisfied, making excuses for their partner, it really wears people out.

In my family coaching business, I see different versions of this play out. For example, a kid has a

tantrum and when they parent goes to talk to them about it and says to them “ that was a tough interaction, you were hitting mommy”, the child will deny it saying, “ I didn’t hit you”, I didn’t say that” or they turn it on the parent and insist that the parents understanding of reality was incorrect.

I also see this type of communication sometimes with families going through divorce or separation. The parents will say to each other, “I am not feeling supported” and the partner responds, “that is dumb”, “you shouldn’t feel that way”.

Why do people gaslight?

Truth be told, we all do this type of behavior from time to time. We all have moments that we may question whether someone really told us something or if they had a detail right. When it can become problematic, is when gaslighting becomes a mode of communication that this person has taken on from past relationships and then turns into an extremely unhealthy behavior in their current relationships.

The "gaslighters" are not taking responsibility for hurting people’s feelings. Again, they may be imitating a relationship from the past and has become part of their behavior. It also can be a way of easing anxiety from blame and judgement and putting it on to someone else. They have a strong need to feel in control.

How do you make people stop?

Well, you really can’t...

What you can do is to identify that it is happening and find out the best way to respond to it.

Two things to consider:

1) Being self- aware and recognizing what you know to be true and separate distortion from truth. In that moment of self- doubt, you need to stop the negative thoughts you say to yourself so the words don’t come into your conscience. Practice having faith in yourself after being preyed upon for so long.

2) Give yourself the space to feel your feelings. Be ok with having feelings and not having to react. Focus on your own needs, not listening to what the gaslighter is saying to you such as, “you shouldn’t feel that way”. You might need to just step away, be done with the conversation or even examine the whole relationship.

Over time this can eat away at someone’s competence. An individual can become indecisive, find it difficult to trust their own instincts, and be in touch with their own emotions because they are constantly trying to manage the other person’s perspective of themselves. It can be super stressful and can turn into a very challenging situation!

Has there ever been times that you’ve gaslighted or been gaslighted? What I want you to take away from this post, is first to be aware of this type of behavior and also how to cope with it and to take a look at yourself and your own behaviors.

Please share any questions or comments below.

To hear more, check out the podcast: One Day You’ll Thank Me, E1, Gaslighting is the Worst

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