When there are subtle attempts to make us feel insane, when we are made to question our perception of what is right and what is wrong through statements that are hurtful, untrue, and projective, we call it Gaslighting. It is a form of psychological abuse that leaves us confused and anxious. We end up questioning ourselves, “Is there something wrong with me?” or something similar on these lines.
How might others Gaslight us?
- Are you sure about this? You have a really poor memory.
- Oh Please! Nothing of this sort ever happened.
- Stop Overreacting, it is a small thing.
- Why do you always do this to me?
- What do you always have to keep it complex and confusing?
- Are you serious? That’s just another bizarre thing to think of.
These are a few statements and questions that often fall under the category of gaslighting. These leave us thinking, “They’re right, I am overreacting. I think this didn’t happen, I do have a poor memory after all.” et cetera. It leads us towards feeling unsure of our judgments and perceptions, powerless, alone, insecure, apologetic, and also strengthens our belief that probably, something is wrong with us and most importantly, we start losing our trust.
But wait, is it always the other person Gaslighting us? Don’t we too Gaslight ourselves quite often?
Let us look at a few short dialogues from someone gaslighting us and in turn, we resort to Self Gaslighting instead of standing up to the one gaslighting us.
Alex is gaslighting Janice. The self-affirmation that we need to give to ourselves in certain gaslighting situations will be referred to as Self Affirmation:
- Alex– Why do you always have to make it so dramatic? There was nothing to be hurt about, you’re very sensitive, that’s it.
- Janice– Yes, I probably am oversensitive, let it be.
- Alex– Are you done with your exaggeration? This is not what I meant.
- Janice– Makes sense. He loves me, why would he want to hurt me?
- Alex– Sure, but if you loved me, you wouldn’t have gone with your friend.
- Janice– Right, I love him so much. Why can’t I meet my friends some other time?
- Alex– You always do this, you start to argue and fight with me which makes me lose my composure and then I say things that I never intended to.
- Janice– I think I was provocative, to say the least.
What can we do about these Self-gaslighting statements? Here is a reference for a better understanding and a few self-affirming statements that can be used to reassure ourselves that our response is valid and not an exaggerated one (in order of the above dialogue):
Self Affirmation– No, I am hurt and it is valid.
Self Affirmation– That wasn’t loving behaviour. My emotions being invalidated matters and needs to be expressed.
Self Affirmation– I sure love him, but this is a controlling dynamic that needs to be checked.
Self Affirmation– No, losing your composure doesn’t become my fault.
Of Course, it comes from their gaslighting statements but it does become our belief eventually. For Example, someone said something hurtful and we did feel hurt by it. But instead of communicating that it was hurtful and that we did not like what was said and it hurt us, our first response in our thought is that ‘Probably I am a little too sensitive and therefore I overreacted.
Let us not make a big deal out of it’ or something like, ‘ Why would they want to hurt me, they love me’. This is Self-Gaslighting. The self-gaslighting statements are based on the gaslighting statements made by others about us. We internalize their statements and start questioning our abilities.
As Dr. Dramus likes to put it “Just remind yourself that you wouldn’t take this kind of talk from anyone else, so there is no reason you should take it from yourself.”
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