What is Gaslighting?
In last week’s article, I discussed gaslighting as a form of psychological abuse in which a person or group causes someone to question their sanity, memories, or perception of reality.
If you haven’t read ‘What is Gaslighting’, I recommend reading that before continuing with this article – click here.
One of the main aims of an abuser is to avoid taking responsibility for their actions. In essence, gaslighting is a manipulation tactic that they use to divert attention away from themselves (and their behaviour) and place it firmly on another person/people. This is misdirection.
Gaslighting Causes Confusion
Firstly, when it comes to tackling gaslighting, as with most things, awareness is crucial. Even knowing that there is such a thing as gaslighting can make a huge difference in combating it effectively.
Through dealing with narcissistic personalities from a very young age, a huge red flag for me in spotting when I’m dealing with someone (especially a narcissist) who is using gaslighting as a manipulation tool is when I feel CONFUSED. For example:
- If someone makes me question my version of events (that I quite clearly remember), resulting in me feeling confused and wondering if I’m, indeed, right – RED FLAG
- During a ‘discussion’, when someone brings up something from the past that was resolved long ago, and I feel confused as to its relevance – RED FLAG.
- If I share something upsetting and the other person shows a complete lack of empathy, making me feel confused about how they can be so unconcerned – RED FLAG.
What gaslighting looks like
As I mentioned in the previous article, examples of gaslighting in a real-life scenario can look like this:
- I never said/did that!
- You’re making it up – you’re a liar/it’s you that’s lying.
- I was only joking!
- You just don’t get my sense of humour.
- What about that time you did x/y/x? (This will be something completely unrelated and is very common when the abuser thinks they’re losing an argument – very expertly, they manage to turn the focus entirely away from them, making the victim feel that they must defend themselves. This is EXTREMELY manipulative.)
- You’re crazy!
- You need to see someone – you’re losing it.
- There’s something wrong with you.
- My ex was just like you…
Remember, they will want to side-track you and divert your attention away from what they’ve done, misleading you using any means possible. You may find that when you don’t buy into their attempt to divert you, they will jump from one of the above things to another in the hope that something will ‘land’.
How to deal with gaslighting
If you recognise that someone is manipulating you using gaslighting tactics:
- Please know that it’s very unlikely that you are wrong – these people are experts and will do anything they can to get out of taking responsibility and to turn the blame on to anyone other than themselves.
- It’s incredibly hard to win an argument with this type of person. Remember, they have no empathy and lie easily in a way that most people would never do – and THAT is why they often get away with their behaviour. ‘Normal’ people can’t comprehend that someone could lie so easily and without remorse.
- Stick to the facts – This is particularly important in a work-based setting. I advise people experiencing workplace bullying to keep detailed notes, emails and any data they can to strengthen a potential grievance. Abusers who gaslight also lie, so keeping to facts and evidence is crucial.
- If they try to bring in unrelated topics – typically something that you may have done a long time ago – do not get sucked into having to defend yourself. Instead, stick to the topic at hand.
- Know when to walk away – Unfortunately, you will never win an argument with this type of person. You need to be OK walking away with your dignity intact – no matter how tempting it may be to argue – that’s precisely what they want.
- Go grey rock – If you can’t cut contact with this person, going ‘grey rock’ is the next best thing. Think of yourself as an inanimate object with no emotions that doesn’t care one way or the other. If you must speak to the person, stick to facts, give away as little information as possible and never rise to their baiting – no matter how much you want to!
- TELL SOMEONE! Abuse, both personally and professionally, thrives in silence. Find someone you trust and explain what’s happening. When we tell another person, it often helps us to recognise what’s happening for ourselves. Abusers count on their victims not saying anything, which is why they often isolate them – they know that others will be able to spot their abuse, and they need to stop that from happening.
- Gaslighting is abuse – If it keeps happening, you may need some professional support to help you extricate yourself from the situation; a therapist, healthcare professional or coach who can help you navigate the minefield of manipulation (N.B., please ensure that they are ‘trauma informed’.)
I appreciate that this is a very tough topic, but I know from the feedback that it resonates with many people. So, if you know someone who would benefit from reading these articles, please comment and share.