How to Respond to a Gaslighter
by Brittany Jorel
A year ago
Maybe we've heard the term often enough that we forget its weightiness at times. Not to be one of those, "Merriam-Webster says ..." people, but actually, DO take a look at the definition of "Gaslighting."
Gaslighting someone is to psychologically manipulate them over a longer time period, to the point that the individual begins to wonder if they are sane or crazy. They start to question their recollection of things, wonder if their memories are wonky, wonder if they misperceived reality, or even begin questioning how mentally or emotionally stable they are. An interesting part of the definition to note: it can also lead the victim to become dependent on the person doing the gaslighting.
This dependency can make it incredibly difficult to break free and to realize what is happening. However, it is very much possible to break free (I am living proof), and I hope I can help you along your unique journey.
You Might Be Experiencing Gaslighting If ...
Gaslighting mainly revolves around words that crush your confidence and make you feel small. If you are constantly being told to stop overreacting, that you're getting upset over nothing, that you must be imagining things because this or that never happened - you might want to take a step back and consider your situation.
You may even find yourself on the receiving end of insulting "jokes" like, "Wow, what's it like to be insane?"
It can be hard to break out of the flow of life and hit the "pause" button. However, try putting aside what the individual claims happened or how they gauge your response. What did actually happen? How did your response line up with what happened? If someone else had experienced what you did, would you judge them harshly for responding the way you did?
How To Respond
The psychological fog that comes with abuse, especially long-term abuse, can be hard to break out of. Even stopping to try to think over events clearly may be too much to ask in your current situation.
There are so many people who would love to help you. I just want to put that out there right off the bat: you are not alone, even if it feels like it. There is always someone who can help and with whom you can talk things over. There are loved ones and professionals who will stand by you and passionately support your journey.
Now that we've covered that important reminder, here are some ways in which you can respond when you recognize that you are experiencing gaslighting:
- Don't respond. At all. This may not always be an option, but it can be a great one! Do not empower the individual doing the gaslighting by giving their abuse attention and energy.
- "I know what I saw." This is a short and powerful statement. You are giving yourself the validation that you are not "crazy," and you are standing firm on what you know to be true.
- "That's not how I experienced it." This is a clear expression of you respecting your mental capabilities and that you are a human being with perception and understanding. YOUR experience is valid. YOUR perception matters.
- "My feelings and emotions are valid and not up for debate." Boom. You are advocating for yourself at the moment. You're sending the clear message that you do not depend on someone else to shape reality for you and that you deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.
These are some simple yet powerful responses you can use in a gaslighting situation. And I say this with love, but if this is an issue you are facing in your relationship, please stop and consider how a healthy relationship should make you feel: empowered, safe, and loved. Can you use these descriptors of your current relationship?
If not, please consider reaching out to me. I would so love to talk to you and offer my support! I speak from experience, and I feel for you – SO much. You are not alone.