Hello mental health champions, how are you doing?
Today let's talk about Gaslighting. I wanted to talk about this topic today because of it happening in my life and always hearing how other people in my life also feel like they are being gaslit. This phrase actually came from a play that first aired in 1969 (PRI.org) but it seems as if there has been heavy usage of this word just more recently on social media. For those of you who are not familiar with the word, gaslighting, according to Britannica: “Gaslighting is an elaborate and insidious technique of deception and psychological manipulation.” Gaslighting, has seemed like it has kind of snowballed over the years and now still means psychological manipulation and has even been classified as a form of emotional abuse.
So let's get cracking on some examples of gaslighting and then I will explain how I feel like this sometimes happens to me in my own life. I saw a really great graphic that was created by @crazyheadcomics on Instagram and I wanted to summarize some of the gaslighting examples they gave.
Gaslighting can sound like:
-You’re too emotional!
-Why are you so defensive all the time?
-You’re always twisting things.
-Stop feeling sorry for yourself.
-That didn’t happen.
-You sound crazy.
-Don’t get upset over nothing.
-I was just joking, relax.
-You’re remembering this wrong.
Do any of those sound familiar to you? I am so sorry if they do. Gaslighting is very difficult to navigate because it is a form of manipulation. The person who is doing the gaslighting is trying to make the other person feel crazy as a way to distract them from what is going on. This happens most frequently in unhealthy relationships. Now mind you, if your partner has ever said one of these things, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are gaslighting you. It could just be a one off situation. However, if they are constantly trying to put you down and make you feel crazy for no reason, that is when it becomes an issue. The person wants power and manipulation is a great way to do that. Not only does this happen in romantic relationships, this can also happen in friendships. I also feel like the more laid back and kind you are, the more other people may try to gaslight you. People sometimes see kindness as weakness and that just isn’t true. However, if someone thinks that way, they may actually think that they can manipulate you and then that is where gaslighting may take place.
I know in past relationships I was 100% gaslit. I had an ex who would constantly be with other girls, texting other girls, and just all around being unfaithful. (Side note: I was only 15 and a literal child, so yeah I am dumb looking back on it.) In situations where I would confront this person about these situations, they always would somehow end up manipulating me. I was always “jumping to conclusions” or “overreacting since they were just a friend”. I believed this for so long because I then questioned my own sanity and thought that I was the crazy one and he wasn’t doing anything wrong. (Also side note: He did cheat on me) I was young, naive, and far too kind and unfortunately I ended up in the wrong hands. He took advantage of all the good things about me and in turn, used it against me. During that time, I had no idea how fucked up that was. I just thought that I was the problem and that is so not okay. Looking back, it is clear to see that I was gaslit and emotionally abused. And it definitely led to later problems in life. To this day, I still feel guilty for everything. I assume everything is my fault. Whenever anything goes wrong, I feel the need to excessively apologize, even if it is out of my control and I think a big part of this baggage is because of gaslighting.
I think that people can sometimes gaslight without even knowing it and I for sure have done it myself. I may have said a joke I thought was funny but it ends up hurting someone I love. I didn’t mean to hurt them but it doesn’t change the fact that I did. In situations like this though, I respond differently than an emotional abuser would.
What I would say: I am so sorry that joke hurt you, that was not my intention at all and I seriously was kidding. I am so sorry. What can I do to make it better?
What an emotionally abusive person would say: I can’t believe that joke made you upset. You take everything way too seriously and need to get a grip. You have no right to be upset at a joke, get over it.
See the difference?
Now I want to also talk about how this happens in friendships because I feel like I have experienced this a lot. Something that I noticed happens a lot is gaslighting when it comes to arguing especially. And like I said, I am not 100% scotch free of this too. However, I know my own personal intention is never to hurt anyone, just to get my feelings across and I don’t try to manipulate them.
I feel like I have experienced gaslighting when it comes to expressing how I feel. Because of my personality and my “peacekeeper” mentality, I never would express when someone hurt me or when I was mad. I would keep it to myself until all these things festered and one day I would explode. Like HELLO WOMAN, that isn’t fair to other people either… It would have been healthier for me to say how I feel with each event and then move on from there without the resentment. But y’all, I am still human and still learning everyday. I learned though, that when you are kind and don’t share how you feel, people get SHOCKED when you finally tell them you’re upset at them. It frequently then becomes that “so and so was a bitch all along” and “she was fake and is actually a bitch” when in reality, I finally just got the stones to stand up for myself and say when something upset me. That doesn’t mean I was a bitch all along, that means I finally let myself have an emotion and you just didn’t like it. In these experiences, I quite frequently felt like almost every time, the fight would somehow then be turned on me.
Why do we do this? I know it is very hard to take accountability or even to see things from someone else’s point of view. But why do fights so often get turned around on the person just sharing how they feel? I experienced this recently and it was really detrimental to my mental health. For once, I tried to express how I was feeling about a situation. The other person wouldn’t allow me to just share why I felt the way I did. It was immediately turned around and somehow I left the conversation feeling like I was the one that was wrong. And I don’t think that is okay. Defending your actions and apologizing is one thing. But trying to turn the situation around on the person just trying to say how they feel? Not okay. To me, that is gaslighting. And guess what? I immediately regretted bringing up my feelings. I resorted to “Oh I should have kept the peace and just swallowed my emotions.” And that too- is not okay.
If there is anyone out there similar to me, AKA- you are kind, loving, a peace keeper, hate conflict, have crippling anxiety, and can’t stand when someone is upset with you, I want you to really try to get better at expressing how you feel. It can be scary, I know! And it may lead to conflict, but you won’t have a festering, sinking feeling in your heart. When I get hurt by someone and keep it to myself, not only do I resent that person as I mentioned before, but I also get very depressed. The situation I mentioned above was festering with me and I was so depressed. And yes guys- I mean actually depressed, not sad: depressed. I wasn’t hungry, I lost interest in the things that were exciting me, I wouldn’t talk to my loved ones like my family and boyfriend. I was completely 100% shut down. That was, until I opened my mouth and said how I felt. If you guys take anything away from this blog post, I want it to be these things:
- Know the signs of gaslighting
- Know that you can and should express your feelings, even if it means not keeping the peace and having repercussions
- Know that you don’t deserve to be walked all over just because you are so kind
- And check yourself to make sure you aren’t trying to manipulate someone because it can be so damaging to the receiving end
Do you think you have experienced gaslighting? Feel free to share your story in the comments below!
Talk to you soon brain battlers, Gracie <3
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