Welcome back! If you would rather watch/listen than read, you can watch the video below.
Gaslighting is something that a lot of people can relate to whether you're aware of it yet or not, but I can't start with gaslighting. I have to start by talking about intuition.
The first chapter in my book is called Fear and Intuition and I believe it's foundational (That's why it's the first chapter.) if you're going to talk about any other type of abuse stuff. So, intuition is the God-given built-in alarm system that lets you know when you're in danger. Gaslighting, in my opinion, is the best tool to combat your intuition.
Gaslighting happens when someone who wants to control us tells us that what we believe is wrong. If they do this long enough, we eventually stop believing in what we think, feel and perceive.
Gaslighting is a psychological manipulation that sows seeds of doubt into a person making them question their own memory, perceptions, and sanity.
So, if they can do this and they can put seeds of doubt into you long enough, then reality isn't reality anymore. And if reality isn't reality anymore, then you can't trust your intuition. In fact, they're going to make you question it all of the time.
So your intuition is saying (or screaming) inside of you, "This person is bad for me, the things that they're saying are wrong, I don't feel okay, this isn't okay." While at the same time, the person who is gaslighting you is telling you that those feelings are wrong. So then you start questioning yourself. "Is it really not okay? I mean, this is normal right?" This is how victims second guess themselves.
You can squelch your intuition to the point where you can hardly hear it. You can even get to the point where you can't hear it at all. That's very normal over time.
Now obviously, if you can identify this and nip it in the butt early, then it's not going to be near as detrimental to you. But if you are somebody who's been dealing with this for 20 years, it makes a HUGE impact on your life!
I have taken the 4 gaslighting techniques I'm going to go over here from the National Domestic Violence Hotline's website. We're just gonna kind of talk through it. If you want to know signs that you've been a victim of gaslighting, you can read that article HERE.
The 4 techniques we're going to look at are:
2. counter maneuvers
They may sound similar as we get into them, but they're different.
1. Denial - they pretend like they didn't do anything, they don't understand what you're talking about, the forget what happened, or they just absolutely refuse to listen in the first place. They'll say things like:
- "I don't know what you're talking about."
- "I don't remember that."
- "I don't want to hear this again!" (Which is basically saying "I refuse! I refuse to listen to your version of the truth. It's not going to happen.")
- "I never agreed to that."
- "I never said that."
- "I never promised that."
- Some version of "You're just making stuff up." "You're just making stuff up at this point." "Oh my gosh! You just can't handle the truth, can you?"
Or they're just gonna straight out tell you that what happened didn't happen.
- "I didn't hit you."
- "I didn't look at that girl."
- "I was not flirting with her."
- "I did not have sexual relations with that woman!" (lol)
2. Whatever the case may be, counter maneuvers question your memory of events, even when you remember them accurately. So, the gaslighter is just kind of evading.
The big one here is them saying "It didn't happen that way. It happened this way." They're going to tell you their version of what happened.
Sometimes it's close to the truth and they just twist it a little bit. That's really effective! It will make you go, "Well, maybe I'm wrong because I remember x y and z, but I don't remember this. But I mean, people forget things, right? So maybe I just forgot that or I didn't notice that. Yeah maybe that's it."
Other times they'll just flat out tell you something completely off the wall and then you're like, "You know that's wrong right?" But they're gonna look at you like you're crazy. And so you think, "Am I crazy? That's sooo not what I know. That's not what I remember. Am I crazy?"
You might not think you're crazy at first. At first you'll probably be like, "No. You've straight lost your mind!" But over time, if they keep doing it, that's the sowing seeds of doubt. They're just putting little potential doubts in there and over time, those seeds grow. They compound and they grow and you start to question yourself.
3. Technique number three is diversion. With this tactic, they're trying to take the attention off of them and what they did wrong, and put it onto you (or really anywhere that's not them).
So, again they'll change the subject or question your thinking. They might tell you:
"You're imagining things."
"It didn't happen that way."
"Your friend so and so is putting crazy ideas into your head."
"You were looking at that guy."
"You were flirting with that guy."
"I know that you're dressed that way so that you can get so-and-so's attention."
Whatever they can do to take the focus off of what they've done. A lot of times, in my experience, this ends up in a fight where they're accusing me of stuff. Because, if they act like they're mad at me and put me on the defensive, then it takes the attention off of them and what they did. (I don't have time to think about what they did when I'm defending myself from what I know I didn't do.)
4. Trivializing - They'll act as if your needs and your feelings aren't important or they'll downplay what they did. So they might say things like:
- "You get upset over such little things."
- "You're too sensitive."
- "I didn't squeeze your arm that hard."
- "I didn't hit you that hard."
- "Get over it!"
- "Come on, it's not that big of a deal!"
They're trying to convince you that your feelings aren't valid.
Remember, that those feelings are often your intuition. If you feel like something is wrong, it's because something is wrong. And in trivializing, they're going to tell you that those feelings are not accurate. They're going to tell you that you're crazy or whatever, but they're going to downplay the way you feel.
It's not always combative. That's something else you need to know. Gaslighting can be very sly and sneaky. It's often more like the 90-95% truth with a little bit of lie thrown in there. That's what makes you question yourself a lot of times, because most of the information is accurate, and you remember that. So you start questioning, "Okay, well maybe I'm taking this too far. Maybe I'm overreacting in this situation." Just remember that if you're angry or you're hurt or you're scared, all of those feelings are valid and all of those feelings say that something is wrong. They're put in you to encourage you to change something. That's the whole reason for them being there.
If you're scared, it's an alarm system that's letting you know that there is danger. If you are hurt, it's an alarm system letting you know that the way that somebody's treating you is not okay. If you're angry about something that they did, that's letting you know that what they did was not okay. And if they can downplay these things, they can make you question yourself. "Maybe, I am overreacting. He/she is right. They haven't done this before." or "They've been there for me all this time, why would they do something like this?" or whatever. The human brain is a pro at rationalizing and justifying things!
So, to recap, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, denial, counter maneuvers, diversion, and trivializing are all gaslighting techniques. If you recognize any of these things in your life, then take notice. Become more aware, start paying attention and trust your gut. That's your warning system letting you know that something is wrong. And it doesn't matter how much somebody on the outside of you tells you that your feelings are wrong. What matters is the way that you feel about it.
If you feel like something is wrong, you're scared, you're angry, or you're sad, those are indicators that something is not okay and it's okay to trust those feelings. Those feelings are there to encourage you to make changes, whether it's changed in a relationship, changes in a job, changes in where you're living, changes in your atmosphere, etc. Those feelings are warning signs, whose sole purpose is to take care of you.
As for the techniques we talked about in this article, their sole purpose is to take care of the other person, the gaslighter, and they're not concerned about how it affects you at all.