What is gaslighting? It’s from an old movie where the husband tried to trick his wife into doubting herself by making the lights flicker then denying it. It is considered to be a form of emotional abuse that uses manipulation and minimization to make you question your own thinking and therefore your reality.
Gaslighting yourself comes from early experiences that we internalize the crazy-making we experienced and then act out upon ourselves. We recapitulate the abuse, by denying our reality and hurting ourselves by doing so. I think one of the reasons we may do this is to protect ourselves from the truth we may not want to face about the other person, and/or the situation we’ve gotten ourselves in. So how do you know you’re doing this?
You Talk Yourself Out of Your True Feelings. When you say things such as “Oh it wasn’t that bad…or I’ll be fine” when it really was awful or scary or mean. If you grew up in a household where feelings were not validated and that you having those feelings was justified, then it’s harder for you to know how to match the event with the appropriate emotional response.
You Minimize What You Think is True for You. Even though you had some serious thoughts about their behavior initially, such as “that was rude and abusive, or irresponsible” you may quickly make excuses for them that “explain” why they did it. They simply had a bad day/week/childhood and so therefore aren’t really responsible for their choices.
You Deny What You Need. As soon as you experience pushback in the form of a complaint, or some form of acting out behavior, you quickly tell yourself “that’s ok I didn’t really need that day off anyway.” In stead of affirming that your need was a NEED not a want, and just because they cannot honor it doesn’t mean your need was irrelevant.
You Forget About What Your No Is. Your boundary is quickly backpedaled to the point where sometimes you may even get talked out of why you set it in the first place. You tell yourself it was too much to ask, they of course would never honor it anyway, etc etc.
These are just a few ways we can talk ourselves out of our own truth, to keep us from risking making difficult decisions in our relationships. Fearing rejection, hatred or emotional abandonment, we continue the people-pleasing while putting ourselves last. If any of this resonates, take heart. It’s not your fault how you got here, and you can change it by first becoming honest with yourself and doing some work with a therapist or coach around it.
Because, there’s enough manipulation out there in the world. We don’t need to then turn it on ourselves.