Are you being gaslit?

Normal conversation may be emotional abuse under a thin veil

Gaslighting is when someone makes you question your thoughts, feelings and reality, using your self-doubt as a weapon of manipulation. Gaslighting is emotional abuse. It’s when someone hurts you – and instead of acknowledging your feelings, they turn it against you.  

Your emotions are made out to be trivial, invalid and are effectively silenced.  

Someone upsets you. You know you’re upset; you can even think of a few reasons why. Maybe it isn’t the first time this has happened, or they disrespected boundaries you’d set. 

You want to let this person know how you feel, that they didn’t treat you right, that you don’t feel good about what happened.  

You go into the conversation with all this in your head. You know what you’re thinking, what you want to say. Yet somehow the conversation spirals out of your hands.  

You are speaking but they aren’t listening to what you are saying. The conversation keeps going to something else, something you weren’t concerned with in the first place. You can’t seem to bring the conversation back to what you wanted to say, how you felt upset.  

Now they’re upset. “You’re upsetting me. I don’t get why you’re upset. Now we’re both upset, and it’s your fault.” 

You’re frustrated, emotional. You just want to end the conversation. Somehow what you wanted to say at the start has completely slipped away. Were you even upset in the first place? Maybe they’re right, you were overreacting or misinterpreting.  

You’re not the one upset, they are. You are at fault. Make things better for them, and you can both move on. 

Sometimes its just one conversation that goes this way, or multiple, or even an entire relationship.  

How do you know if you’re being gaslit? If interactions have you questioning your memory, actions and/or mental state – they’re gaslighting you.  

An abuser who gaslights will rewrite history, often with the purpose of dismissing your emotions. This leads to the victim questioning their own mental state. The abuser crafts their version of history so convincing that causes you to question yourself. Whether it’s by denying an experience or convincing you of something you didn’t do –– the self-doubt is firmly planted, ripe for manipulation.  

By turning your words against you, a gaslighter can absolve themselves of accountability. Every word spoken by the verbal abuser has a double meaning – this making it easy to deny any resulting harm. This manipulation tactic allows the abuser to humiliate you yet maintain complete deniability if you call them out. 

“I didn’t mean it like that,” is the toxic catchphrase of gaslighting. How they “mean it” may change each time you bring it up; somehow the blame always shifts to you.

Hyper-fixating on errors is another weapon of gaslighting. By reminding you constantly of a mistake, error or simply a harmless action – the abuser convinces you that you do this constantly. Imagine taking the wrong bus by accident. The gaslight weaponizes this mistaking and brings it up every time you take vehicular transport. Your confidence and sense of direction becomes shot. It leaves you in constant fear of repeating the mistake. 

Inarguably, the most important thing is recognizing you’re being manipulated. Knowledge is always power.

But what else can you do?

  • Realize you are not responsible for the behaviour of others: 

A wise man once said, “Not my monkey, not my circus.”  

It’s not your place to determine why an abuser behaves this way. The behavior of your abuser is never the fault of the victim. Gaslighting is a form of insidious abuse. It’s finely tuned manipulation.

They aren’t “just doing it,” and this isn’t just “how they are.” Gaslighting is but one weapon in an arsenal of abusive tactics. Every offhand comment, sarcastic joke, critique is a way for them to keep you constantly in flux. 

According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, “Gaslighting typically happens very gradually in a relationship; in fact, the abusive partner’s actions may seem harmless at first. Over time, however, these abusive patterns continue and a victim can become confused, anxious, isolated, and depressed, and they can lose all sense of what is actually happening.” 

This manipulation makes you lose trust in your own memories and observations, the way you function and think.  

A false sense of reality is crafted, where the abuser pulls the strings. A whole new existence is created, typically where the victim cannot function without the toxic abuser. Recognizing that this is abuse and not due to your personality is the first step in tackling this toxic manipulation. 

  • Keep a record: especially with professional relationships

The power of an abuser lies not only in manipulating you but also in manipulating others. 

Whether audio, visual or written – it’s imperative that you keep a record of gaslighting behavior. This is especially relevant in professional settings where abuse can lead to legal action. Keeping a daily journal is a useful way of recording the truth and can help distort the abuser’s tactics. 

  • Remember you can never win with this person; they will always find fault 

Gaslighting is but one of several tactics adopted by manipulative abusers. Such toxic people will consistently find fault in your existence. It allows them to take advantage of you and maintain control.  

Knowledge is the ladder out of the gaslighter’s trap. Awareness of such insidious behavior allows the victim to take tangible steps in getting out of poisonous relationships. It also allows you to reclaim your reality and sense of self. Stay aware and stay safe. 

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Mayowa Oluwasanmi

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