Subtle emotional manipulation can drive you crazy
Signs of being gaslighted you can’t ignore
In a healthy relationship, there’s a natural ebb and flow between couples, friends, families, and business associates. There’s an understanding that everyone involved is safe to express ideas and thoughts without condemnation or abuse.
From early childhood, we learn how to express ourselves, and we learn to accept other people’s opinions even if they differ from our own. Sometimes there are arguments because each side wants to be “right”. Normally, a heated conversation will settle itself and the relationship continues.
In an unhealthy relationship, there is an imbalance. A husband may manipulate his wife by making her question what is real. And while she doubts her reality, she doesn’t question the motives of her husband.
It’s called gaslighting. A paper by The American Sociological Review defines “gaslighting” as “a type of psychological abuse aimed at making victims seem or feel “crazy,” creating a “surreal” interpersonal environment.”
Here are 5 signs of being gaslighted and what to do if you’re in a gaslighting relationship.
1. When you’re with your loved one, you feel everything you do or say is wrong
How you feel
No matter what you discuss, he says your opinion is wrong. It doesn’t have to be a confrontational approach. It can appear to be an honest difference of opinion. Even when you try adopting what you think will be the right opinion, you still feel you aren’t right. When you believe the other person is the authority and you know nothing, you’re being gaslighted.
What you can do to defend yourself when you see the signs of being gaslighted
If this is your relationship with a loved one, be firm in what you believe. Remind yourself that your opinions, thoughts, and beliefs matter just as much as the other person’s opinion. And even though the other person may sound confident, it doesn’t mean he is right. His thoughts don’t make his opinions reality, and they don’t define you.
2. You put your loved one’s opinion above your own and feel unable to make decisions
How you feel
You don’t want criticism for making a wrong decision, so you become indecisive. Even simple choices become overwhelmingly difficult. Because you fear that any decision you make will be wrong, you do nothing. And in doing nothing, you know you’ve made another mistake.
What you can do when you feel indecisive for fear of making a wrong decision
Remind yourself that making decisions, no matter how small, is taking back control. When you ask yourself, “What would my loved one do?” remind yourself that you are allowed to make your own decisions. Your happiness is independent of what someone else thinks. If making a big decision is too much, start with something small.
Here’s a quote that I like.
“Sometimes it’s the smallest decisions that can change your life forever.” — Keri Russell
3. You believe it when you’re loved one says you’re stupid or crazy
How you feel
Your loved one tells you something, then denies having said it. Or you’re told a half-truth that you repeat, only to find out what you were told was wrong. When you ask about it, you’re loved one blames the misunderstanding on you. You question if you are losing your mind, or think you are stupid. You wonder what’s wrong with you.
What you can do when your loved one intentionally misleads or lies to you
There are many reasons for people’s lies. Sometimes it’s protecting someone they love or to protect themselves. When it’s intentionally done to make you feel or look crazy, it’s gaslighting.
When you discover your loved one lied to you, confront him. You want to find out why He lied to you. Did he lie to protect you or manipulate you? Confronting the issue gives you an opportunity to explain how it made you feel you were “losing it”.
4. You cling to your loved one because you think you are alone and powerless
How you feel
You avoid friends and family. When you are around them, you feel you must guard every word you say. You believe only your loved one understands you, so you cling to him. When you are alone, you wonder if people you know think you’re insane. You feel powerless to make your own decisions without your loved one’s input. You feel isolated and trapped.
What can you do when your loved one says you can’t make it on your own
Even though you are afraid people think you are losing it, meet with those you can trust. Talk to them about how you are feeling and ask them if they think you are losing your mind. Allow yourself to open up and talk about how you feel without fearing condemnation. And ask them to give you their honest opinion of your loved one.
5. You make excuses for your loved one’s behavior
How you feel
You make excuses to cover for your loved one. When he steps away from a dinner party, you feel compelled to say to the other guests, “He’s having a bad day,” “I’m getting on his nerves,” “He’s been working too hard,” or “He’s got a lot on his mind.” When talking to family, you try to divert them away from talking about how he constantly berates you. You take the blame by saying his behavior is your fault.
What you can do instead of excusing your loved one’s behavior
Allow yourself to accept that you are not responsible for your loved one’s behavior. Acknowledge that his behavior is not the result of anything you’ve done. It is his way of manipulating you. You don’t need to make excuses because family, friends, and coworkers know what he’s doing.
Recovering from gaslighting
If you are experiencing or think you are being gaslighted, seek professional help right away. At its core, gaslighting is emotional abuse. Its victims are left feeling isolated and alone. They question their self-worth, and it affects their relationships with family and friends. In severe cases, victims can reach a point where they believe they are insane.
Asking for help isn’t shameful. Everyone needs support for issues that are beyond their ability to cope in their lives. Having professional help with a supportive network of family and friends can put an end to your being gaslighted.
Links to help you understand the signs of being gaslighted
- “How to Recognize Gaslighting And Get Help” by Susan York (Reviewed by Suzanne Falck, M.D., FACP)
- “What is Gaslighting?” by Jennifer Hulzen (Reviewed by Marney A. White, PhD, MS)
- “The Gaslighting Recovery Workbook” by Amy Marlow-MaCoy LPC (Amazon)
Gaslighting and domestic violence resource
Are you in a gaslighting relationship?
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