The Picture was taken from abusewarrior.com
When we confront abusers and users in this life (as we inevitably will) it’s important that we see them for what they are quick. That’s not always easy to do, especially when it’s someone we love, and especially when they use covert tactics against us. Gaslighting is one such tactic that can seriously harm our sense of self and our happiness. Spotting it isn’t always easy, though, and accepting it can be even more challenging.
Gaslighters are everywhere.
There is truly no form of abusive manipulation more toxic than gaslighting. A gaslighter is someone who denies responsibility by misappropriating blame or dismissing your points and emotions. For example, if you confront them about something mean that they said they may deny it or claim that you’re “crazy” for thinking it up. They may also turn the story around and claim that you’re the one that made the statement. It’s about taking power by demeaning you and your thoughts.
Gaslighters are everywhere. They are in the bedroom and they are in the boardroom. They are our parents, our siblings, and even our closest friends. Refusing to admit who this person is will not change them, it will only lead us further down the rabbit hole of delusion and loss.
It’s time to start paying attention to the covert manipulators in your life, and it’s time to make a note of their behaviors. Tearing others down, shifting blame, and outright lying are only a few of the symptoms we have to be aware of. After all, the chief-manipulator is skilled and wears many masks and faces. In order to heal and free ourselves from their clutches, we have to be honest about what we want, who they are, and the future we’re building for ourselves.
The gaslighting phrases you aren’t paying enough attention to.
We tend to think of gaslighting as only dealing in statements like, “You’re crazy,” but nothing could be further from the truth. There are a number of other subtle ways those we care for can manipulate us through gaslighting. From a denial of their own role in anything to a desire to “sweep things under the rug” — we can’t find peace until we resolve the pain of our past and accept where we allowed ourselves to get off course (in life and love).
“I don’t see what I’ve done wrong.”
Have you ever had an issue with someone, but when you explained it to them — they claimed they didn’t see the same issue? This is a common form of subtle gaslighting, which is similar to the art of conveniently forgetting. The gaslighters that use this tactic may claim their beliefs guide them to their action, then self-righteously double-down on their bad behavior.
“Stop taking things personally.”
There is nothing that a gaslighter loves more than shifting the blame off of themselves and on to others. That’s what “stop taking things so personally” says. When someone makes this statement, they are shifting blame for their bad behavior onto you and your emotions (rather than taking responsibility). They might tell you that you’re “too sensitive” but this is a copout. You have a right to your emotions, and they have the right to take responsibility for their mistakes.
“You’re the only one who thinks that.”
This is yet another statement that is meant to put you mentally and emotionally on shaky ground. When a gaslighting person says something like “you are the only one who thinks that” they are attempting to make you an outcast by claiming you are wrong and outside of the norm. This isolates you and makes you question yourself, your needs, and even your core beliefs at times.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
The gaslighter — at their core — is a narcissist who struggles with personal accountability. That’s because to be accountable would be to admit that they make mistakes, and that’s something a narcissist’s fragile ego cannot tolerate. So, they’ll blank those types of events from their timeline entirely. When you call them up on missteps or bad behavior, they’ll often dismiss it altogether and claim that they have no idea what you’re talking about.
“Let’s start over from square one.”
When we fight with our friends, we often come to the conclusion that we should just start over from the beginning. This doesn’t work, though, as we can’t move forward until we’ve resolved what’s clinging to the present moment. Gaslighters don’t like to confront their issues, though. They’d rather ignore them or leave them as your problem. So they’re always on the lookout for a chance to skim over their mistakes and start anew.
“I won’t tolerate lies.”
Have you ever confronted someone about their bad behavior and then had them claim that you were lying? This is a major diversion tactic that the manipulation gaslighter loves to use. It’s similar to the “you’re crazy” claim that we so commonly hear about. When you confront them about anything that disagrees with their personal narrative, they will claim it’s a lie.
“It’s all in the past.”
This is one of the most subtly insidious gaslighting statements we often hear, but we rarely react to it. When someone says this, they are saying that they desire all parties to act as though everything bad is in the past. This sweeping under the rug of issues carries no accountability or analysis of what changes need to take place. While some things can be forgotten, some issues have to be addressed candidly then actively resolved.
How to protect yourself from a gaslighter.
It’s so important that you learn how to protect yourself from a gaslighting guest or loved one. Without this layer of self-made protection, we are left exposed and vulnerable in the real world to those who want to take advantage. In order to stand strong on our own two feet, we have to be aware of gaslighting and aware of how it affects our family and friends.
1. Rely on your self-esteem
You won’t be able to move forward in protecting yourself against a gaslighter if you’re plagued by insecurities. This is what this type of manipulator feeds on. When they spot a weakness in you, they extort it. You need to be strong in who you are and sure of what you want (or expect) if you want to be able to stand up to the abuser in your life and remove them from your aura.
Lean deeply into that safety net of self-esteem that you’ve built up for yourself. You don’t need the validation of anyone but yourself, and you’re more aware of your physical and emotional needs than anyone in the world. Embrace that and make a safe place for your confidence to bloom.
When you learn how to love yourself, you’ll become more aware of those who want to take from you. You’ll become more aware of the pain they inflict, and the negative ways in which they impact your emotions and your emotional wellbeing. Beyond that, you’ll be less willing to allow the gaslighter in your life leeway to demean you. So much of building a better life (or better relationships) simply comes down to self-respect, self-love, and self-esteem.
2. Make a record of incidences
Spotting the subtle gaslighter in our lives isn’t an easy thing to do. When they attack us it is often with a smile, so it can be hard to peel back the layers of their insults, digs, and dismissals. That’s why it’s so important to keep a record of times in which you were made to feel small, shamed, or otherwise unwanted by the person you’re dealing with. When it’s all laid out in front of you, the patterns become much clearer to see.
Get a small journal or diary that can be kept out of the way and out of sight. You don’t need a ton of room in it, and you don’t need to do a ton of writing. Instead, just keep a basic record of encounters and what was said. Use shorthand and dates. Anything that can quickly remind you of the situation when you come back to analyze things.
Keep this record for a few weeks. Each time you get into a confrontation with the potential gaslighter in your life, look at their body language and listen to the words. Really pay attention to space in-between the words and their real meaning. How do you feel when they address you? Do you feel like an equal or do you feel small? Come back and review the record. Patterns will begin to reveal themselves to you.
3. Stand up, but don’t argue
Walking the line with a gaslighter is a delicate thing. No matter what you do, they will (usually) find some way to flip the script. At the same time, you still have to stand up for yourself or speak out when it’s time to draw the line. Engaging the gaslighter too bluntly, though, only leads to greater conflict, which feeds the narrative they’re building about you. Instead of fighting with them, you have to figure out what you want, state it and walk away.
Gather all your facts (and your courage) so that you can take a stand for yourself and your feelings or needs. You should never argue with a gaslighter that will only bring greater confrontation. You should state your peace, though, and have enough bravery to tell them that you’re removing yourself from the situation.
Present examples of situations in which your gaslighting partner dismissed you, undermined you, or otherwise flipped responsibility on to you. Once examples are given, explain how they made you feel and create a limited space for the gaslighter to apologize and explain themselves. If they do none of those things within a time-limit you set, have enough self-respect to walk away and remove yourself from the situation.
4. Lean into your support systems
Who are the people in your life that love you unconditionally? Who are those you love most, or who are those that matter most to you? These people are usually the cornerstones of our support systems, and some of the most important people we can look to when it comes to difficulty in our other relationships. Now is the time to connect with your supports and call-in the security and the advice they can provide you.
Lean into your support systems. Reach out to those who you trust most and explain what’s going on. Ask them for their advice and ask if they can support you emotionally as you try to overcome and heal. Only reach out to those who genuinely have your best interests at heart or those who have proven themselves to be in your corner when things get tough.
Listen to the advice that you’re given and try to see yourself (and your situation) through the eyes of those who love and know you best. The people we love can often be a powerful tool in shifting our perspective, and they can motivate us to take action when it matters. Don’t isolate yourself in a sense of shame. Instead, open the door to resources that can help you find freedom.
5. Build stronger boundaries
There can be no denying how necessary boundaries are when it comes to dealing with someone who gaslights you. Our boundaries are our protective barriers, which keep our mental and physical wellbeing safe. It also helps us to stay aligned with the people and experiences that benefit us or make us feel supported. When we build stronger boundaries, we stop settling for the poor behavior of those who don’t appreciate us.
You have to build stronger boundaries that allow you to protect yourself from the attacks of the gaslighters in your life. These are lines and limits which the people in your life are not allowed to cross or push. This includes the way they act around you, the way they speak to you, and the way in which they generally conduct themselves.
Aside from building boundaries for others, we also need to set some boundaries for ourselves. Once you’ve woken up to the pattern of abuse or dismissal, you’ve got to be ever-present and aware of the dynamic in other relationships. Don’t allow yourself to slip back into a place where you’re willing to be manipulated by others. Set limits for yourself on the type of relationships you’ll pursue and the type of people you’ll bring into your life.
Putting it all together…
One of the most common and insidious types of manipulation and abuse we will ever encounter is gaslighting. This technique is used by the insecure and power-hungry alike to diminish and demean the people around them. It lends them to control and allows them to feed their need for superiority as they tear down those around them. Gaslighting is a toxic tactic, but it’s subtle too. In order to spot it and protect ourselves, we have to be honest and take mindful action.
First and foremost, lean into your self-esteem. You don’t have to accept this person’s continued attacks on your mental wellbeing and sanity. Everyone has a right to be happy, and they have a right to be respected by the people in their lives. Make a record of every incidence in which this person tries to invalidate your feelings or perspective and use this record to identify the patterns in your relationship. Stand up to your abuser, but don’t argue with them. When things get tough, lean into your support systems and the boundaries that you’ve built around your happiness and wellbeing. Gaslighting is real and it will seriously undermine your future unless you put a stop to it yourself. Don’t wait until it’s too late.