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Don’t Let Yourself Be Gaslighted

“There are numerous ways to combat gaslighting, but it is key to make sure you don’t let yourself be gaslighted, even when it is by people you are close to or have grown to trust or admire.”

By Ben WPublished about a month ago 6 min read

‘Gaslighting’, a term that was originally derived from the 1944 film titled, “Gaslight,” is sadly an increasingly common form of psychological manipulation, where one person tries to make another person doubt their own reality, memory, or perceptions.

This manipulative kind of behavior can have severe consequences on an individual’s mental health and overall well-being. Recognizing and combating ‘gaslighting’ is crucial in maintaining one’s psychological integrity and emotional health. There are numerous ways to combat gaslighting, but it is key to make sure you don’t let yourself be gaslighted, even when it is by people you are close to or have grown to trust or admire.

Gaslighting itself can occur in various scenarios, from personal relationships to workplace environments and even on an entire societal level. Here are some common examples that I would like to highlight where ‘gaslighting’ can take place and whom can be responsible for it occurring:

1. Personal Relationships: In intimate relationships or romantic partnerships, a partner might persistently deny events that have happened, downplay your feelings, or blame you for their own abusive or manipulative behavior. For example, they might say to you, “You’re too sensitive” or “You never take things seriously.” “That never happened; you’re imagining things.” Gaslighting in any relationship at any time is a toxic combination and can cause some long-lasting trauma, regret, or depression.

2. Family Dynamics: Within families, parents might gaslight children by denying past abusive behavior or shifting the blame onto the child for what the parent did to them. Phrases like, “I never said that”, “I never did that to you”, “I knew you couldn’t do it,” or “You’re just making things up to get attention”, “How would you know? You’re just a child.” are commonly used in terms of gaslighting.

3. Workplace Conditioning: In professional settings, a supervisor could deny promises they had previously made to an employee or group of employees. They could also undermine their employees’ performance and contributions by taking credit for it themselves or by taking advantage of the work you do without rewarding it later or acknowledging its positive impact. Comments made by a supervisor or fellow employee could be such as, “I never approved that project”, “I did not give you permission to do that”, “That presentation was all my idea”, “You did not do as much as I did” or “You must be mistaken, that wasn’t your idea” can make employees question their own competence, proficiency, and memory when it comes to the work they do for their fellow employees or employer.

4. Societal Distrust: Gaslighting can also be seen on a broader societal scale where media heads, activists, or political figures deny facts or historical events that did occur, leading to widespread confusion and distrust among the public because leaders of those institutions are meant to be trusted but since they lie or deceive, the institution itself is distrusted and loses its standing in society.

Gaslighting has become increasingly prevalent in today’s digital age, where misinformation and manipulation are rampant combined with seemingly never-ending ways to engage people to disbelieve what they perceive or create a different reality than what we are used to. Social media platforms, where information can be easily distorted, manipulated and spread endlessly, provides fertile ground for gaslighting on a mass scale.

Politicians, national leaders, and public figures often engage in gaslighting tactics to sway public opinion or deflect criticism to win support for their agendas and policies. When it comes to personal relationships, the anonymity, the rapid pace, and the sheer distance provided by online communication can embolden individuals to gaslight others without facing immediate repercussions because of how they hide who they are and what they really believe by gaslighting you instead.

Avoiding being gaslighted is not easy especially in the modern era where we are constantly exposed to other people’s worldviews and are made to take in rapid streams of information instantaneously. Being able to avoid gaslighting involves the following steps in no order, which can help you avoid these manipulative tactics that harm your mental health:

1. Educate Yourself: Understanding what gaslighting is, where it can come from, and recognizing the signs of when it is happening is the first step in protecting yourself. Familiarize yourself with common gaslighting tactics and how they manifest in different situations in different areas of our life.

2. Trust Your Perception: Keep a journal to document events and conversations where you think gaslighting could have occurred. It won’t always be the case, but this approach can help reinforce your memory and provide tangible evidence of what happened, making it harder for someone to distort your reality because you’re able to jog your memory on what happened, what you did, and what was their reaction or behavior about it.

3. Set Boundaries: It’s vital to establish clear boundaries with those who exhibit gaslighting behavior even if they are close friends or family. Make it known that manipulative behavior is unacceptable to you and that you will not engage with it regardless of if they think they are gaslighting you or not. It is better to preserve your own mental health and wellness even if it harms the friendship or relationship temporarily.

4. Seek Support: Confide in friends, family, or a mental health professional who can provide an outside perspective and validate your experiences as an impartial participant in what happened. Support networks from people you trust and can confide in are essential in maintaining your sense of reality and self-worth. Never seek support from someone you found out was gaslighting you or attempting to gaslight you. You must hold your standards high because if they did it once, chances are good that they will do it to you again.

5. Practice Self-Care: To protect your own health and wellness, you should continue to engage in daily or weekly activities that bolster your mental and emotional health. Exercise, meditation, sports, and hobbies with trusted friends and family members can help reduce stress and enhance your resilience against manipulation and other gaslighting tactics.

6. Assert Your Reality: Calmly assert your version of events without getting drawn into a debate. If you can give examples surrounding what you were doing at the time or provide proof or evidence to back up your point, it doesn’t hurt to do so. Most impactful will be to use phrases with the accuser such as, “I remember it differently”, “I wrote down what happened and have proof to share with you” or “I don’t agree with your version” can help you maintain your stance without escalating the conflict further.

We know that there are ways to avoid gaslighting, but how do we combat it in different ways to give ourselves options to get out of the situation or to remedy the effects of it happening to us.

1. Direct Confrontation: If safe to do so with the person(s), address the gaslighter(s) directly. Use specific examples and “I” statements to express how their behavior affects you. For example, “I feel confused when you say that because it contradicts what I remember” or “I am upset when you don’t believe what I tell you was how it happened to me.”

2. Detach Emotionally: Emotionally distancing yourself from the gaslighter can reduce their impact on you or ability to affect your mental state. Do your best to practice this form of detachment by recognizing that their actions reflect their own issues, and not yours. Their problem is not your problem, and you did not do anything wrong.

3. Seek Professional Help: Therapy or talking to a professional psychiatrist can be invaluable in recovering from the effects of gaslighting. A therapist can help you rebuild your self-esteem and develop strategies to deal with manipulative behavior if you experiencing it happening again to you.

4. Limit Physical Contact or Distance Yourself: In some cases, the best course of action is to limit or sever contact with the gaslighter. This is especially true in toxic relationships where the gaslighting is severe and persistent. It is always better to get that person out of your life or to never see him or her again if it gets to be too much to deal with their behavior.

Gaslighting is a deeply harmful form of psychological abuse that can have long-lasting effects on someone’s mental health. It erodes your self-esteem, creates self-doubt, and can lead to anxiety, depression, and a host of other issues. The pervasive nature of gaslighting in our modern era, amplified by endless forms of digital communication, misinformation, and coarsening societal dynamics, makes it a significant issue to address for people everywhere.

Recognizing gaslighting as a negative behavior and taking steps to combat it is essential for maintaining your psychological well-being. By educating yourself, trusting your perceptions, setting boundaries, seeking professional support, practicing self-care, and potentially limiting or ending contact with gaslighters, you can protect yourself from this serious form of manipulation. Ultimately, preventing, addressing, or combating gaslighting is not just about preserving one’s mental health; it is about fostering healthier, stronger, more authentic relationships and societal environments where care for one another, truth, and trust can flourish equally.

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About the Creator

Ben W

Ben helps students from around the world to improve their English language skills. Ben enjoys traveling around the world, developing his writing abilities, and reading good books.

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