As I continue my series on raising awareness for Domestic Violence Awareness Month💜, I want to highlight a form of emotional abuse that’s often seen in toxic and abusive relationships. It’s a term being thrown around every day on social media: gaslighting. Did you know that there are several different forms of gaslighting?
In this blog post, I’m breaking down what exactly the meaning of gaslighting is, highlighting various tactics used by gaslighters, how it can impact on the victim’s mental health & tips on how to spot signs of gaslighting. You’ll also learn how to break free from a gaslighting relationship, empowering you to regain control and maintain your emotional well-being. Let’s get started.
So before we get started, let’s define the term. Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation where one person seeks to control and undermine another person’s perception of reality, memory & emotions. This term originates from a British play from the 1930s called “Gas Light”. The plot is about a husband who mentally and emotionally manipulates his wife into believing she’s crazy by changing the intensity of the gas lamps in their home, hence the term. This type of manipulation leaves the victim feeling confused, doubting their own sanity & feel trapped in a toxic relationship.
Different Types of Gaslighting
You may have thought that there was only one type of gaslighting, but that’s far from true. Here are some different examples of gaslighting:
- Withholding Information: Gaslighters intentionally withhold facts or deny knowledge to make the victim question their understanding of events.
- Trivializing Feelings: They dismiss the victim’s emotions as unjustified or exaggerated, invalidating their feelings.
- Countering: Gaslighters challenge the victim’s memory or perspective with conflicting information, causing confusion and self-doubt.
- Projection: They assign their negative traits or actions to the victim, shifting blame and responsibility.
- Withholding Affection: Gaslighters withdraw love, approval, or validation to manipulate the victim’s behavior.
- Blocking and Diverting: They change subjects or divert conversations away from uncomfortable topics to avoid accountability.
- Denying: Flat-out denying actions or statements they’ve clearly made, causing the victim to question their sanity.
- Minimizing: Gaslighters downplay the victim’s experiences, making them feel their concerns are exaggerated.
- Shaming: They use shame or humiliation to control the victim and destroy their self-esteem.
- Gaslighting by Proxy: Getting others to engage in gaslighting behaviors on their behalf, such as spreading false information or rumors.
Impact on Mental Health
This type of emotional abuse is a manipulative tactic that can deeply affect a person’s mental health and self-esteem. Here are several types of mental health challenges that can result from dealing with this type of emotional abuse:
- Anxiety: Gaslighting involves making someone doubt their own thoughts, feelings & perceptions. This constant state of self-doubt can lead to anxiety as you can start questioning your own judgment.
- Depression: Gaslighting can break down the victim’s self-esteem and self-worth, causing them to feel powerless, helpless & worthless . Over time, this can cause the development of depression.
- Low Self-Esteem: Gaslighting involves demeaning and belittling the victim which can lead to a significant decrease in self-esteem, making the person feel unworthy and unimportant.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): In severe cases of gaslighting, where the manipulation is extreme and sustained, the victim may develop symptoms of PTSD. This can include intrusive thoughts, flashbacks & emotional reactivity.
- Confusion and Cognitive Dissonance: Gaslighting can create a state of cognitive dissonance, where a person’s beliefs and reality clash. This internal conflict can lead to confusion, emotional distress & mental turmoil.
- Difficulty Trusting Others: A victim may find it hard to trust others, even in healthy relationships. They may constantly second-guess others’ intentions and actions.
- Self-Blame: Gaslighting often involves shifting blame onto the victim. This can lead to a pattern of self-blame, where the victim internalizes the negative messages and believe they’re the cause of the problems in the relationship.
- Impaired Decision-Making: Gaslighting can make it difficult for individuals to make decisions because they no longer trust their own judgment. This can lead to indecisiveness and a sense of helplessness.
- Emotional Exhaustion: Dealing with gaslighting is emotionally draining. Constantly defending your reality and feelings against manipulation can lead to emotional exhaustion and burnout.
Spotting the Signs
Recognizing gaslighting is the first step in protecting yourself. Spotting these signs can be challenging because it often occurs gradually and subtly, like a slow drip. Being aware of these signs can help you identify and address the issue. Here are some common signs and examples of gaslighting in a toxic relationship:
- The gaslighter consistently denies things they’ve said or done, even if there’s clear evidence. They may say things like, “I never said that” or “You’re making things up.”
- Gaslighters downplay your feelings and emotions, making you feel like you’re overreacting or being too sensitive. They might say, “You’re too emotional” or “You’re making a big deal out of nothing.”
- Gaslighters frequently shift the blame onto you, making you feel responsible for their actions or emotions. They might say, “You made me do this” or “If you hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have reacted this way.”
- Gaslighters project their negative qualities onto you. For example, if they are dishonest, they may accuse you of being untrustworthy.
- Gaslighters change the rules of the relationship and your expectations without warning. This keeps you off balance and unsure of what’s expected of you.
- They may use the silent treatment or stonewalling as a way to control and manipulate you. This can leave you feeling abandoned and anxious.
- They exert control and dominance in various ways, making you feel like you have no say in the relationship.
How to Break Free
This type of relationship sounds exhausting, right? Trust me, I’ve had my fair share of dealing with these types of manipulative people in my past relationships. Breaking free from a gaslighting relationship can be challenging, but it’s so important for your mental and emotional well-being to leave when you can. Here are steps you can take to break free from such a toxic relationship:
- Recognize and Accept: The first step is to acknowledge that you are in a gaslighting relationship. This manipulation is real and harmful.
- Document the Gaslighting: Keep records of when you experience gaslighting. Write dates, times & descriptions. This can serve as evidence and help you maintain clarity about what’s been happening.
- Set Boundaries: Establish clear boundaries and stick to them. Communicate what behavior is unacceptable & won’t be tolerated.
- Maintain Independence: Regain your independence. This can give you the confidence to make decisions for yourself.
- Educate Yourself: Learn about gaslighting. Understanding the dynamics involved can empower you to resist them.
- Build Self-Esteem: Focus on self-care, engage in activities you enjoy & remind yourself of your worth.
- Limit Contact: Consider limiting or going no contact with the gaslighter. This can be difficult but necessary.
- Safety First: If you fear for your safety, prioritize yourself. Seek help from law enforcement or a domestic violence hotline.
- Legal Assistance: You may need legal assistance, especially if you’re dealing with issues like custody, harassment, or financial control. Consult with an attorney.
- Seek Support: Reach out to trusted love ones or professionals who can provide guidance. Isolation is often a tool used by gaslighters, so rebuilding your support network is crucial. If you’re looking for affordable online therapy sessions in the comfort of your own home, BetterHelp® is a proud sponsor of Watch Us Thrive. Save 10% off your first month of online therapy!
The Bottom Line
Gaslighting isn’t just a toxic game; it’s a relentless assault on your mental health and happiness. The first step to reclaiming your life is recognizing these manipulative tactics. By finding the strength to break free from a gaslighting relationship, you’re paving the way for emotional healing and personal growth.
Always remember this: you deserve a life filled with respect, validation & free from manipulation. Your emotional well-being is worth every step of this journey towards self-discovery and healing. It’s not easy, but I promise you it’s so worth it!
For free resources around domestic violence, CLICK HERE for podcast episodes featuring different survivor stories!
Looking for 1:1 Support?
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During our 3 months together, I will help you rebuild your self-worth & create the life you truly deserve. Together, we’ll heal, thrive & unleash your inner goddess who no longer allows somebody’s dusty ass son stress them the f*ck out!
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*Note: I am not a trained mental health professional. Life coaching is NOT therapy. Life coaching is a space to help you achieve your goals and focus on breaking free from limiting beliefs that have you feeling stuck!
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