Gaslighting gained mass attention last year when a Teen Vogue article accused President Trump of gaslighting America. However, just because it has entered mainstream awareness doesn’t mean it’s a new phenomenon. It also doesn’t mean people understand gaslighting any better now or mean that the prevalence of gaslighting is going down. It is an especially dangerous form of abuse because of how mind-bending it is and how slowly and methodically it is implemented. Far from a single instance of battery, gaslighting victims will show no physical bruises and will not even know they are being abused.
Gaslighting is as important a topic of abuse as any other, which is why we have created the ultimate gaslighting article. There is no other place online which is as in-depth and helpful for anybody who wants to learn more about gaslighting, its effects, who it effects, why gaslighters do it, and how to combat and prevent it from happening. By the end of the article you will know what gaslighting is, some signs you or someone you know is being gaslit, gaslighting techniques, how to resist gaslighting, and how to heal after you've been a victim of gaslighting. If you find this article helpful or if you would like to see another in-depth article about another form of abuse please leave a comment below.
Gaslighting is a type of emotional abuse and manipulation where the abuser tricks the victim into distrusting their own thoughts and perceptions. By performing a specific type of manipulation over and over again, the abuser can get the victim to distrust their own instincts. They become unsure of what their own brain is telling them. They become convinced that the only thing that is trustworthy is their abuser. Anyone can become a victim of gaslighting – this is a common technique used by dictators, narcissists, cult leaders, and abusers in relationships as a way to control others.
What is Gaslighting?
Like all other forms of manipulation, gaslighting attempts to change the behavior of somebody. But, it doesn’t stop there; using gaslighting the abuser has the goal of actually changing who someone is.
The simplest explanation of gaslighting is using psychological methods to get someone to question their own sanity. For example, if you see a green light, but I say it’s red, you would rightly trust your own senses and trust that it really is green. But what if you look away for an instant and I change it to red? And what if I did this many times over many days or weeks? Eventually, you would stop believing your first time seeing the green light, because you will know it’s actually red. To take it a step further, now you will need to rely on me to tell you if every green light is actually green or red. This is a simple example, and similar to where the term first came from: The 1938 British play “Gas Light” in which a man tries to drive his wife crazy using a variety of tricks, including flickering gas lights. If they can get you to question what is happening, you will start to doubt yourself; your views, opinions, and self-value will be up for grabs. These people will lie to you with a straight face when you are certain you saw them do or say something else. For those interested, the following clip is a trailer for the 1944 movie “Gaslight”.
Life isn’t as simple as the green/red light example given above though. The abusers are not typically gaslighting intentionally. They will often change their responses and actions to suit their needs in the moment. They are extremely inconsistent, which is one of their primary tactics. Gaslighting is subtle and often takes a long time. The victim will be slowly transformed into the abusers mold.
Gaslighting alone can be very potent and harmful, but remember there are other types of manipulation and abuse that can be used by an abuser. Gaslighting is often used by psychopaths, sociopaths, and narcissistic people as one of their tools of torment and control. On the other hand, gaslighting is also commonly used by people in any kind of relationship. Even what may seem like a healthy relationship from the outside, can have both sides gaslighting each other. The problem identifying gaslighting is that any person you interact with can be gaslighting, and it happens slowly over time. The key to fighting it is learning the techniques and signs described below.
Simple Signs of Gaslighting
Especially for the inexperienced, gaslighting can be hard to detect. Those who employ the technique on others are often so cunning that the victims have no idea they are being controlled and abused. Here are several signs to look out for when trying to identify a gaslighter and their manipulation.
- Gaslighters will tell lies that are clearly false, and they will go so far as to deny the facts, even when faced with proof and solid evidence against their claims.
- They will use things that the victim holds dear and important against them. For example, a person’s children or pets, or even their own identity.
- They slowly wear the victim down over time, turning the heat up so slowly that the victim never notices how hot it gets.
- Their actions and words do not match. Their tune may sound sweet, but they act according to their whims.
- They confuse and manipulate by being complimentary and helpful when it benefits
- They project their own vices or lies onto the victim, like cheating or abusing alcohol. This distracts the victim and even gets them to be defensive.
- To get the victim to doubt themselves the abuser will convince them that others share their views and not the victim’s, that other people also believe the victim to be wrong, irrational, or imbalanced, and they will use lies to convince the victim that nobody shares their perspective, leading them to believe they are, in fact, truly wrong.
- They will work on convincing others in their surroundings that the victim is mentally unstable, to make sure they won’t take the victim seriously if they come out to complain about the abuser.
- They tell the victim everyone else is a liar, so that the only person the victim can trust is the gaslighter.
- They try to separate and alienate their victims from people who care about them.
- They act like the victim.
- They correct everything the victim says.
What Does Gaslighting Look Like?
Gaslighting is not exclusive to either males or females, both victim and abuser can be any gender, race, nationality, age, and have any social or economic status. Gaslighting can happen in all kinds of relationships, whether with a coworker, a friend, a romantic partner, or with family. The fact that anyone can gaslight, the complex and dynamic aspect of all relationships, and the fact that there are numerous gaslighting techniques, all make this type of abuse more difficult to identify.
A common gaslighting tactic is for the abuser to ignore the victim for a while and then give them attention again, only to ignore them once more. This transforms the victim’s view of what is acceptable, what is kindness, what is love, what is generous, and replaces it with lowered expectations to where they believe a tiny gesture is somehow amazing. Their view of what they deserve starts to change and they will hang on the person’s every gesture, often praising the abuser in order to somehow win their affections.
The worst gaslighters will create situations just to provide a setting for their deceptive techniques. They will use carefully planned tricks to make the victim question their perception of reality. An examples includes placing items on a table only to remove them shortly after the victim has seen them, insisting that the items were never there. Gaslighters will keep information from their victims, make up stories about other people, make up stories about themselves or the victim, and even tell others the victim is unstable so they cannot get help from others. The victim will start to rely only on what the abuser tells them since they believe they cannot trust themselves or anyone else around them. The abuser will do their best to chip away at the victim’s self-worth, little by little until they are merely a shell of who they were, and now the abuser has complete control.
Gaslighting vs Manipulation
At this point, it might be a challenge to distinguish gaslighting from manipulation. Manipulation is a daily occurrence in nearly everyone’s lives; manipulation is present as part of close relationships, coworkers, strangers, TV, billboards - the list goes on. Our friends can manipulate us into making an extravagant purchase we can’t really afford, our boss can manipulate us into working extra hours when we would rather go home, our kids can manipulate us into letting them stay up later than usual, or our partners can manipulate us into eating healthier or exercising more. TV ads are trying to manipulate us into buying their product and politicians are trying to manipulate us into voting for them or their cause.
On their own, these things are not abusive, and some might even be for our benefit. However, there are many kinds of manipulation that are definitely considered abuse. Gaslighting is one of the most dangerous forms, and can have one of the most long-lasting effects. It can effect the person’s own identity and can get them to do things they never would have done.
This refers to withholding information, emotions, or attention. For example, they can pretend to not understand something to hide that they were not listening. They can pretend to be hurt by something to manipulate your response. They can randomly pay attention to you or not, just so you will not learn to expect their attention, in order to maintain control.
Using this technique the abuser will doubt or completely disregard the victim’s memory, regardless of whether they are actually right or not. They can say things like, “You don’t have a very good memory” or “You were wrong last time”. These types of statements get the victim to doubt themselves more often, even when the abuser is not there.
When the abuser tries to convince others you are crazy, they are trying to discredit you. In the context of gaslighting, they are deceiving others as a strategy to manipulate and torment the actual target. Sometimes it’s subtle, and sometimes it’s overt, but the effect is the same; people who would otherwise think you are normal and sane, now start believing you might be crazy, irrational, or unstable.
Blocking and Diverting
This is a strategy to change the topic of conversation, in order to control it, and to force the victim to question their thoughts. Examples include, “Do you remember what happened last time you had an idea?” or “You’re doing this on purpose to hurt me, why would you do that?”
Trivializing thoughts, needs, desires, etc. is another gaslighting technique. They make the victim feel as though they are not as worthy, like they are dumb, weak, or not as important as others. This can massively shake their self-confidence and ability to follow through or commit to things in their daily lives.
Forgetting and Denial
Sometimes people truly forget or deny something happened because they are mistaken. Which is why these forms of gaslighting are especially difficult to detect, but also why they can do the most damage. Forgetting special events or plans made to the victim can make them feel worthless, and like they are not important. Denying promises or other things that actually happened can have similar effects. Even worse, the abuser can then mock and tease the victim for not remembering things correctly (when in fact they have).
Especially dubious, twisting involves subtly changing the content or intent of communications. Communication between people can be complicated and largely based on each person’s perception, which is why gaslighting abusers can use twisting to their advantage so effectively. Examples include, “You weren’t listening to my tone, I was saying it in a nice way”, “It was a playful slap, why would you think I was angry?”, and “calling you names is my way of trying to help, you should know that.” In this last example, they are using fake compassion to make the result even more effective.
Questions such as, “Are you sure?” and “Is that really what you think?” make the victim doubt their responses or what they should be feeling. The point here is the insidious intent and how often they use this technique to alter the mind and perception of their target.
Referenced in the book The Gaslight Effect (this is an affiliate link)
Glamor is used to place the victim on a pedestal. The abuser might give the victim special attention, but not actually giving them what they need, or being there for them at all. They might even get angry or show resentment when they are needed for moral support or a shoulder to cry on. After a while, it might be difficult to understand why the victim feels so hollow and alone.
These gaslighting techniques are rarely used on their own. They are often combined to form an intricate web of deceit and manipulation. Soon, the victim is scared to bring up any topic for fear of being wrong or not remembering the situation correctly. They will have lost their independent voice and opinions.
Signs You Are A Gaslighting Victim
As challenging as it is to identify gaslighting techniques and people who are using them, it can be just as challenging to identify when someone is the victim of gaslighting. Signs that someone is being oppressed and is suffering under the thumb of a gaslighter can be quite subtle.
According to Robin Stern, Ph.D and her article published in Psychology Today, there are several signs we can identify as being indicators of gaslighting. If any of these signs are true, as she says in her article, “Take care of yourself by taking another look at your relationship, talking to a trusted friend; and, begin to think about changing the dynamic of your relationship.”
- You are constantly second-guessing yourself.
- You ask yourself, “Am I too sensitive?” a dozen times a day.
- You often feel confused and even unbalanced at work.
- You’re always apologizing to your mother, father, boyfriend, or boss (the gaslighter).
- You can’t understand why, with so many apparently good things in your life, you aren’t happier.
- You frequently make excuses for your partner’s behavior to friends and family.
- You find yourself withholding information from friends and family so you don’t have to explain or make excuses.
- You know something is terribly wrong, but you can never quite express what it is, even to yourself.
- You start lying to the gaslighter to avoid the put downs and reality twists.
- You have trouble making simple decisions.
- You have the sense that you used to be a very different person - more confident, more fun-loving, more relaxed.
- You feel hopeless and joyless.
- You feel as though you can’t do anything right.
- You wonder if you are a “good enough” partner/employee/friend/child etc.
Additional signs to look for:
- You have developed a codependent relationship with your fears.
- You always feel like the relationship is in trouble, that it needs saving.
- You are in a constant state of avoidance.
- You have no boundaries because your self-esteem is nonexistent.
- You feel dependent on others.
- You make negative comments about yourself.
- You continue to seek their acceptance, despite being treated poorly.
- Your energy is drained.
Traits Gaslighters Look for in A Victim
Even when the gaslighters are not trying to hurt anyone, they will be more attracted to certain types of people they can more easily change. Their ideal situation and partner do not typically exist on its own, so they must be created and molded to their ideal. Over time and practice, they will automatically become more attracted to the type of person that is easier for them to change.
The three traits that a gaslighter are more likely to be attracted to are the need to be right, the need to be understood, and the need for approval. Sometimes, even if the person has never gaslit someone before, these three traits in a partner can eventually cause him or her to become a gaslighting abuser. They feel a need for a level of control and freedom they can’t get without manipulation.
Certain traits, like being empathetic, being a caretaker, being a people pleaser, and needing to see your partner in a positive light, can also make a person more susceptible to gaslighting.
Why do Abusers Have A Need to Gaslight?
Not all abusers who use this tactic are aware that they are doing it. Many use it as a defense mechanism that was set in place when they went through an abusive or traumatic situation. Others simply want complete freedom to do what they please, regardless of how it hurts or affects other people. They want to cheat on their spouse but also stay with them. They want to impress their boss without doing the hard work.
These types often do not intend to hurt people. Even if they think they are not exactly doing the right thing, they certainly do not see how severely they can be hurting and changing them. Very few of the people who use gaslighting techniques actually mean harm, but that does not make it any less serious.
Some gaslighters have a sense that the only way they can keep the relationship, to keep their partner around, is by manipulating them. It is the only way they believe they can maintain the relationship. In other cases, the abuser simply wants control over another person because it makes them feel strong and boosts their self-confidence.
Whatever the reason, gaslighting is not ok and not right. In a healthy relationship, we should feel comfortable telling the other person if something is on our mind or there is something we are concerned about. It could be a bad sign if they dismiss it immediately, imply that it’s in our imagination, or get angry or defensive in response. If they don’t care that you are hurting or having concerns, should you really be in that relationship?
Gaslighting a Child
Just like romantic relationships, sometimes a family dynamic can be complicated and full of subtleties an outsider would not notice. The most common place for gaslighting to occur in a family dynamic is when the parent manipulates the child. The parent is in a position of authority and is meant to do their best to raise a healthy and balanced person. The child is especially vulnerable to gaslighting by their parents because their worldview is largely influenced by what they see their parents say and do. Even worse, when a child is raised to feel largely out of control because of gaslighting, in future relationships as an adult, it is likely that they will gaslight in order to feel in control themselves.
If the child is blamed for things that were not their fault, it is gaslighting. If they are made to feel inadequate or given the sense that serious consequences can follow for even slight indiscretions, it is gaslighting. If their feelings are brushed aside or not given as much credence as the parents, it is gaslighting. As the child ages, the gaslighting strategies will change, but the psychological and emotional damage remains the same.
Gaslighting in Groups
Gaslighting is not just part of one-on-one relationships. Cults implement the effect of gaslighting on a larger scale. Someone or some people convince and manipulate others into the belief that a different way of thinking is right. They convince others that drastic measures need to be taken or certain rituals need to be committed, because that is the new truth of which they have been convinced. It is often harder to resist the deceit and manipulation of a group working together than it is to resist one person. Often, it is actually one person who is the main gaslighter in these situations, and the group helps to amplify the effect.
Gaslighting is one of the leading methods cult leaders will use to gather a following. We often wonder how it is that bright, brilliant individuals could become part of something that from the outside seems ludicrous. These people were slowly and quietly brought to doubt themselves and their beliefs, and fed a daily soup of whatever nonsense the cult leader has made up until they forgot who they really were. Once the canvas is blank, the leader can paint anything they want onto the individual, as long as they keep up the act and continue to keep the victims confused and doubting themselves.
If the people within the group are partners, such as in a polyamorous relationship, the amount of shame and fear that can be produced is even more effective. To go against the will of a group of people you should trust and have mutual respect with can literally tear someone from the inside. It is essential these poly groups be careful to not inadvertently exploit group mentality to enable abuse. Even if you are not the victim, but are within the group, you owe it to yourself to not be involved where anyone’s self-esteem and self-worth are being degraded.
5 Ways to Resist Gaslighting
There are techniques that you can use to protect yourself from the effects of gaslighting. These techniques are simple and can work well for anyone. They are excellent mental techniques that you can use as a preventive measure, even when you’re not consciously dealing with someone who is trying to gaslight you. Used effectively, they can help a gaslighter lose interest quickly, before they have time to change anything about you or how you view your interactions with people. They can even be effective in normal, healthy relationships to make sure communication stays on track, and minimize the detours onto those bumpy side roads. It might take practice to figure out when and how to use them, and with whom, but soon enough they will become second nature.
- First off, conversations should not be confusing. Unless someone is trying to explain a confusing topic (which is not likely to happen very often), conversations should largely be straightforward and not involve so many ins and outs that it’s hard to keep track of the whole point of the conversation. If there is a clear objective to the conversation and both people are clearly working towards that goal, you are on the right track. Otherwise, it might help to make sure the objective (or asking about their objective) is clearly understood.
- It’s ok for people to disagree. If it is clear that you disagree, and both sides have had a chance to voice their side, you can politely end the conversation. “I think I understand your position, and hopefully you understand mine. But it seems we are not going to agree on this topic. We’re going to have to agree to disagree.”
- Nobody is allowed to tell you how you feel or think or what your experience has been. Make it clear that you are not ok with that. If they attempt to explain that they weren’t really telling you how to think or feel, even though in your mind they clearly were, it is time to think about distancing yourself from that person. If you catch them repeatedly trying to tell you about your own experiences or memories or feelings, it is not going to change. Unless they are a necessary evil that you are only rarely required to interact with, it might be best to remove them from your life.
- If you are having problems with a romantic relationship, you should share those issues with someone close. You can ask them what they are seeing, because it is often hard to think objectively about the relationship from the inside. Don’t keep your relationship problems private. That is what happens often in abusive relationships. Be honest with people you are close and comfortable with, and ask them to be honest with you.
- Understanding how to communicate with each other is something that works well in healthy relationships. For big difficult conversations having a face-to-face might not always work best. It depends on each person and the dynamic of the relationship, but some people will have deep conversations better via text or email or on the phone, allowing their brain to process and respond in a way that suits them. Learning to respond thoughtfully and in a way that shows you understand their feelings, even if you don’t agree, can benefit any relationship.
Remove Yourself from the Gaslighting
As is the case with all types of abuse, most people want to believe there is a way to save the relationship. To confront the abuser with the issue, to work through it like clear thinking rational adults and all will be better. Sorry, but that is not the answer. The gaslighter has become very good at shaping the person to be someone they never were before. Confronting them with another problem, no matter what it is, is not going to turn change the situation in the long term. No matter how much you think this time will be different. Trying to understand and trying to be understood is part of what landed the you in that spot in the first place. If you remember from earlier, the need to be understood is one of the traits that gaslighters are looking for in a potential victim.
When you confront them, you are engaging in discussion. You are allowing them to effect you more, to change your mind, and change the way you view what is happening and what could happen in the future. The only remedy is non-engagement. The only way to “fix” or get out of an abusive relationship with someone whose only agenda is themself, is to leave. If you believe you or someone you know is under the influence of a gaslighter, get the victim as far away from the abuser as possible until they can regain their frame of mind and make a permanent decision.
If you can’t remove yourself physically right away from the gaslighter, create space internally. Create emotional and mental distance from them and engage with people outside the relationship, family and friends. Create that internal space by making a commitment to yourself that you do not have to question your thoughts, feelings, and perceptions about anything. As soon as you can, and without telling them you feel like you are being gaslit, remove yourself from the relationship and from their presence and influence.
It would be best to seek therapy as this sort of situation can take years to unravel. A strong support network is crucial for the victim to regain their sense of self and gain back their confidence. Please be kind and understand that this situation creates a web of internal issues that may be frustrating for others to handle. Be patient. Though sometimes there are no physical scars, there are deep emotional and psychological wounds that need to be mended. With a slow, careful process the victims should be able to get themselves back.
Empower Yourself After A Gaslighting Relationship
Removing yourself from an abusive relationship is extremely hard, probably one of the most intensely difficult things and can sometimes take a truly awesome act of willpower. Unfortunately, the time to heal the wounds caused by an abusive relationship can take years. Rewiring the brain to something you might have lost sight of is no simple feat. There is no step-by-step procedure, because everyone is different and must learn to heal at their own pace. Sometimes you will backtrack, lose ground, feel frustrated, and like you can never be normal again.
Now the good news, there is hope for everyone. Everyone is worth the effort and can heal and live a happier and healthier life. Be patient with yourself and allow yourself to stumble as many times as you need. What matters is that you get back up again. Surround yourself with friends and family who have your best interests in mind, and who are also willing to be patient and understand that this kind of healing will happen, if given enough time. Here are some tools to help you or someone you know on their journey of healing and recovery. Working on these once is not enough, come back continuously, year after year. You will discover new limits and new horizons within yourself each time.
1. Let go of the abusive relationship
If you were being gaslit, your brain was forced to become scattered and confused. Now that you are past the relationship, you might feel the need to revisit all those memories and events to try and make sense of what happened. You might have only pieces of memories or unable to remember much of what happened. Forgetting things is often a response to trauma, which is ok. Don’t stress about recovering those memories. You can let them go.
This will sound contradictory to the previous sentence, but talking with a therapist who can validate your feelings can be immensely helpful. Recalling past events in a constructive format is definitely one of the steps to recovery and will be needed for you to get past the trauma in a healthy way. Also be mindful of obsessive thoughts and try to come to grips with the fact that some of what you remember will seem to not “add up” or make sense. That is the effect of the gaslighter. They overwrote some of your perceptions of reality and it will take time for your mind to detangle your past reality and be able to clearly interpret your new reality. Again, be patient and forgiving with yourself.
2. Make your own decisions
The gaslighter affected your ability to make decisions. You felt you couldn’t trust your own perceptions and thoughts, and thus relied on others for help. You will need to learn to trust yourself again, and this starts with making your own decisions. When you can see the outcome of your decisions you can be confident in your successes and adjust your failures to be more confident next time. This feedback and success loop will let you have more faith in yourself and your perception of reality and the world around you.
One potential hurdle to be aware of; make decisions for you. It’s hard, even for fully healthy and centered people, but think about what YOU want when making decisions. Don’t think about what others think you should do, or what other people might think, or become paralyzed with making the right decision. The point is to be clear about your thoughts and to trust them again, not about confusing yourself with what might be the thoughts of other people. Also, you might be wrong sometimes, but you need to learn to be ok with that too.
3. Allow yourself to make mistakes
Part of making your own decisions comes the realization that you could be wrong. When you can’t help but feel judged for every action and decision, and constantly second-guessing yourself, allowing yourself the freedom and care to make mistakes and to go easy on yourself can feel impossible. The thought of making a mistake becomes even more terrifying when you believe you made a mistake by getting into the abusive relationship in the first place. When you only hear how wrong you are, it can become difficult to believe you can do anything right. Making mistakes means being human. Learn to be compassionate with yourself, to not be so hard on yourself, to love yourself. Give yourself permission to make mistakes, with no consequence or judgment.
4. Let yourself have feelings
Many gaslighters are not comfortable when their victims are “emotional". Being unpredictable (and in control) is supposed to be their job. As a result, they train their victims to become numb and without emotion. Now that the abuser is out of the picture, it is time to allow yourself to have emotions. They may creep in when you least expect, and with things you might think are ridiculous to be emotional about, like a funny commercial. Accept these emotions and embrace them. Again, don’t squish what feels right. Be yourself, emotions and all. There is no shame in getting your emotions back and showing them. Allowing what feels right also helps you to understand that it is ok to meet your own needs and desires.
5. Your positive traits were abused
After being abused, many victims believe it was somehow their fault; that they weren’t strong enough, or should have done something different or better. The truth is that abusers know exactly how to target and prey on people with specific attributes. These attributes do not make the victim weak or bad. In fact it’s exactly the opposite. They are wonderful and positive and the human race would be a pack of zombies without them. Gaslighters would not exist if everyone were as compassionate, caring, empathetic, and protective as their victims.
Gaslighting requires a lot of deceit and mind games and inconsistency. There is no way to be stronger to defend against it, or to say that the victim let it happen. It never has, and never will be, the fault of the victim, no matter the type of abuse. Abuse can be more than physical. People that say it wouldn’t happen to them because they would never let somebody hit them does not understand the complexities and patterns of power and control in an abusive relationship. You were gaslit because somebody betrayed you and took advantage of your beautiful qualities. Embrace those qualities, don’t cover them up or squish them down.
6. Gaslighting is pervasive
Shea Emma Fett says it best in her post “10 Things I Wish I’d Known About Gaslighting”.
“I believe that gaslighting is happening culturally and interpersonally on an unprecedented scale, and that this is the result of a societal framework where we pretend everyone is equal while trying simultaneously to preserve inequality.”
Now that you have the experience to know what gaslighting looks like in a more extreme case, you will probably be able to see it better in all those little places it pops up in our daily lives. Not even necessarily abusive, altering people’s perceptions of what they are feeling is fairly common. “Don’t worry, it will be ok” or “That didn’t hurt, you’re fine” are common expressions when children get their feelings hurt or scrape a knee.
Crying and “emotional” people can make us uncomfortable and try to search for anything to say to fix the situation, even if it’s not entirely true. As much as you need to learn to get your own emotions back, you can help others to feel ok about theirs. Feeling like we always need to fix the problem is often not as effective as just listening and being empathetic. Just as others need to learn to accept your emotions, you can learn to accept the emotions of others without feeling the need to escape or fix it. You will also be in a better position to judge whether the emotions are genuine or being used to control and manipulate the situation.
The Light at the End of the Tunnel
The only hope for ultimate change is to act differently. You have to be able to recognize your strengths and abilities, and realize you can survive (and indeed thrive) outside the relationship. This will give you courage to improve your life, reclaim your true self, and move on.
Healing from any abuse, including gaslighting, is an ongoing process. There will never be a day where you say “Now I’m healed, I will never have to worry about this again.” Instead of setting an unrealistic goal to “be healed,” try making progress. Be happy with any and all progress, because it’s not easy and you should feel the joy that comes with the healing process. No person has ever been constantly happy, but we can strive to feel more happiness, to savor joy, and to be more content. Embrace the emotions, good and bad, that come your way. Focus on them, really try to be aware of what it feels like to have that emotion, and ask why you’re feeling that way (without judgment).
Take your time. Embrace who you are. You have already come a long way, and have more to offer than you or any abuser might suspect.
Please read some of our other posts about abusive behavior and how it can affect your life and the lives of those around you. There is always that first action to helping someone you care about. Let this be it!
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Anna Czarska is a writer and actor who has 15+ years of experience dealing with various situations of abuse. She has pursued business ventures and creative pursuits as well as spending time to study psychology in both formal and personal education. For more information visit her LinkedIn profile.