Gaslighting. Sounds like a modern, eco-friendly lighting solution, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, that couldn’t be further from the truth. This term refers to a form of psychological manipulation that’s about as far from light and breezy as a hot air balloon with an elephant in it.
So why is it so crucial to understand how to respond to gaslighting? Well, imagine getting convinced that your memory is as reliable as a goldfish’s or that your sanity is wobbling like a three-legged table. Not the most comforting image, right?
That’s the destructive power of gaslighting—it can mess with your self-belief faster than you can say “Wasn’t me!”
The key to having healthy boundaries in your interactions is developing such a strong relationship with yourself that no one could ever hinder your self-trust. This way, you’ll diminish the effects of gaslighting and rely on your own judgment and intuition.
What Is Gaslighting?
Picture gaslighting as an insidious smoke machine: it fills the room, disorienting your senses, and before you know it, you can’t tell left from right. In plain language, gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation where the gaslighter seeks to sow seeds of doubt in your noggin’, making you question your memory, perception, or sanity.
In the cinematic world, think of that iconic moment in The Truman Show when reality becomes as flimsy as a wet tissue. Just like Truman Burbank, victims of gaslighting start to question: “Is this my reality or someone else’s?” It’s unsettling, to say the least.
Psychologically, gaslighting can have all the subtlety of a sledgehammer on your self-confidence. It erodes trust in oneself, chips away at mental stability, and can induce anxiety and depression.
Much like a sandcastle facing a relentless tide, it’s your self-belief that’s often at risk in the face of persistent gaslighting.
Why is it called gaslighting?
The term “gaslighting” was inspired by the 1938 play Gas Light by Patrick Hamilton. (It was later adapted into two major motion pictures.)
In the play, the sneaky husband is subtly messing with the gas-powered lights in their house. Meanwhile, his wife, wondering if she needs an eye test or maybe just a long nap, keeps noticing the flickering lights. When she mentions it, her husband insists she’s imagining things.
Plot twist: He’s not really concerned about her eyesight. He’s just playing a sinister game of mental manipulation.
Examples of Gaslighting
Gaslighting can show up in real-life scenarios that are more common than you’ve imagined. Here are a few examples:
- In the workplace. Imagine a boss who accuses you of missing a deadline you know you met.
“Are you sure you submitted that report on time?” they ask, their eyebrows raised in question. “I distinctly remember saying it was due last Tuesday.”
You’re left scrambling through your emails, doubting your own calendar.
- Within a relationship. You’ve had an argument with your partner about them forgetting your anniversary. The next week, they denied that the argument ever took place.
“Darling, you must have dreamed it,” they say. “Why would I forget our special day?”
Gaslighting often happens when relationships are formed on trauma bonds.
- On social media. Ever stumbled across an internet troll spewing false information, and when corrected, they claimed you’d misunderstood or misremembered the facts?
It’s like getting served a fake news sandwich with a side of gaslighting.
Of course, it can take many different shapes and forms. However, it’s crucial to spot these examples of your own reality in order to untangle this messy mind game.
Main Signs of Gaslighting
Research has shown that gaslighting is a sociological phenomenon as much as it is a form of psychological abuse. Therefore, it’s more common than one would expect, and it’s characteristic of modern-day society.
Here are the most common signs of gaslighting techniques that can induce a sense of doubt and disbelief in oneself:
- Persistent denial. Picture someone constantly denying the existence of gravity even as they’re firmly stuck to the ground. In a similar vein, a gaslighter will deny events or conversations that have definitely occurred.
- Lying with confidence. Ever watch a movie villain deliver an Oscar-worthy performance as they lie with total confidence? That’s another gaslighting hallmark: telling blatant lies with the poise of a ballet dancer.
- Contradiction. One moment, they’re praising your pasta sauce as “Michelin-star worthy”, and the next, they’re saying you wouldn’t know a good tomato if it hit you in the face. Confusing, isn’t it? That’s the gaslighter’s game: keeping you off-balance.
- Questioning your memory. They could make you doubt your memory of yesterday’s breakfast. “You had oatmeal, not pancakes. You really need to pay more attention.”
- Emotional manipulation. Here’s the kicker, the emotional tug-of-war. They might occasionally praise and flatter you, then return to belittling your thoughts and experiences.
Now, what does this do to the person on the receiving end? Imagine a seed of self-doubt planted in your mind, watered daily by gaslighting.
You start feeling confused and anxious more often than not. You might begin questioning your perception of reality, like Alice in a less whimsical Wonderland.
Eventually, studies have shown that “the effects of gaslighting tactics and behaviors cause the gaslightee to experience confusion, increasing self-doubt, diminished self-esteem, confusion, anxiety, depression, the urge to retreat, and can even provoke psychosis.”
10 Tips on How to Deal With Gaslighting
Often, when you’re dealing with any kind of emotional or mental manipulation, the most important thing is having the built-in resilience to trust yourself. The relationship you built with your own mind and soul acts as the foundation for healing any dysfunctional patterns that you may notice in your life—be it gaslighting, toxic relationships, or a lack of self-trust.
Here are some practical tips you can use when learning how to stop gaslighting:
1. Don’t let in destructive criticism
Marisa Peer, renowned hypnotherapist and trainer of Mindvalley’s Uncompromised Life Quest, highlights that criticism often comes from a place of insecurity or projection, and most often, it’s really not even about you. So make sure you focus on the praise people give you and let unnecessary negativity roll off your back.
And whenever you’re dealing with that sinking feeling when someone starts criticizing you, what if you turned the table and caught them off-guard? That will help diminish the consequences of gaslighting.
You can use one of the following responses:
- “Thanks for sharing that.”
- “Are you trying to hurt me?”
- Alternatively, you can strike them with a fun fact like: “Did you know that critics have the most criticism reserved for themselves?”
Insight from Marisa Peer: “Not letting in criticism and insults is one of the most beneficial things you can do to boost your self-esteem.”
2. Rewrite the narrative you have about yourself
You know that pesky inner voice that keeps going on and on about how you never do anything right? Rewriting your inner narrative means catching that voice and giving it a good talking-to. And when learning how to respond to gaslighting, it’s especially helpful to become your own closest ally and cheerleader.
In her Mindvalley Quest, Marisa describes an epiphany she had during her therapy practice: Your mind does what it truly thinks you want it to do. So you should only fill up your mind with positive “commands” for an extraordinary life.
Insight from Marisa Peer: “The words you hear shape you, but the most important words you’ll ever hear in your entire life are the words you say to yourself.”
3. Remember that you are enough
The more you connect to your enoughness, the more you’ll be able to embody it. And it’s going to shine through all the blockages and limiting beliefs that were holding you stuck in relationships where you experienced gaslighting.
The common denominator of most of our problems, as Marisa explains, is that we don’t believe we’re enough. And this can take many shapes and forms, such as not feeling smart enough, pretty enough, or capable enough.
Insight from Marisa Peer: She encourages you to “say ‘I am enough’ constantly, say it out loud, say it with feeling, say it like you mean it, and say it over and over again, and do so for weeks until it sinks in and replaces the feeling that you are not enough, which may be holding you back.”
4. Release trauma from your body
Research studies in the 21st century have found that trauma is stored in the body and can affect psychological health long after it occurs. And because of that, releasing somatic practices aids in healing and processing pain. Additionally, science has found that trauma changes your perception of reality.
So, when you’re holding on to past traumatic experiences, you may not realize when someone is gaslighting you because you may be reliving past moments.
One gentle but powerful practice you can learn to do for yourself is EFT tapping therapy. And with the guidance and expertise of Jennifer Partridge, EFT practitioner and trainer of Mindvalley’s Tapping Into Emotional Mastery Quest, you may easily develop your own releasing routine.
Insight from Jennifer Partridge: The beauty of EFT is that it provides a safe space for emotional release while engaging in a light and non-intrusive process. And according to Jennifer, it prompts your life energy to flow freely through your body again, which allows you to access your natural state of self-love and empowerment.
5. Heal your family lineage
The latest research of the 21st century suggests that trauma can be passed down through generations. Therefore, if one family member experienced (emotional) abuse, neglect, or hurt of any kind, one may inherit their beliefs, feelings of apathy, or ways of perceiving reality.
In the Tapping Into Emotional Mastery Quest, Jennifer shows you how to practice a soulful tapping routine to clear out any blockages that may be stopping you from living your desired life.
You can use the EFT tapping technique to heal your ancestral burdens. These imprints are genetic memories coded in your DNA and passed down through generations; they are stored in your body.
Insight from Jennifer Partridge: When you’re healing this heavy genetic memory, two things happen:
- You’re rewiring yourself to experience the world differently, and
- You’re learning with your whole body and mind how to deal with emotional manipulation in other ways, how to respond to gaslighting, and how to trust your own gut instincts, rather than blindly follow the patterns that you inherited.
6. Rewire your nervous system to live in the present moment
“Every layer of your being is in coherence with the full presence,” explains Juan Pablo Barahona, quantum flow teacher and trainer of Mindvalley’s Ultra Presence Quest. And learning how to embody full presence leads you to access the healing powers of your body, mind, and soul.
This may sound like an abstract concept that’s difficult to grasp, but it’s actually all about regulating your nervous system.
Studies show that regulating the nervous system helps people regain a sense of presence, calm, and safety after experiencing traumatic events.
Dr. Stephen Porges, the founder of the polyvagal theory, explains how your body’s sense of safety is regained by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. In turn, this helps create further secure connections and makes you feel more engaged in your life.
Insight from Juan Pablo Barahona: So when learning how to respond to gaslighting, it’s essential to spot it in the first place. Being connected to the present moment is the only way to do so.
7. Heal your inner child
People often spend their entire lives uncovering and undoing the first seven years of their existence, as explained by Dr. Shefali Tsabary, clinical psychologist and trainer of Mindvalley’s Conscious Parenting Mastery Quest.
And so, developing unhealthy attachments and having your needs neglected as a child may turn out to be detrimental to your relationships’ security in adulthood. This can cause a lack of awareness in relationships and abandoning yourself to emotional manipulation when searching for love.
However, when you dive deeper into inner child work and learn how to fulfill the needs of that past hurt version of yourself, you may get a broader understanding of how your past influences your present.
Insight from Dr. Shefali Tsabary: “It is only through blinding and persistent awareness that we can begin to notice how we have been repeating patterns all our lives,” says Dr. Shefali. And once you spot your patterns, you can begin to rewire yourself and make conscious choices to create a life truly worth living.
8. Make a genuine request
People often have the impression that they shouldn’t express their needs, explains Lisa Nichols, renowned motivational speaker and trainer of Mindvalley’s Speak and Inspire Quest. They hope that, somehow, everyone will read their minds, get what they want, and provide accordingly.
Unfortunately, most times, that doesn’t happen. As a consequence, expectations aren’t met, and conflict builds up. But what if, just for the sake of the experiment, you start the conversation by making a genuine request?
Lisa encourages you to begin with:
- “I need your support in…”
- “What would work better for me is…”
- “Can we make a new agreement to…?”
Insight from Lisa Nichols: These words could dismantle any desire of the other person to gaslight you. But when your ego is put aside, you may notice that the other person is more likely to connect with their own authenticity and good intentions.
9. Honor the person you’re talking to
Hurt people hurt people, or so they say. It’s most probable that any person who engages in gaslighting tendencies has been confronted with similar situations in the past. Of course, that’s never an excuse to perpetuate toxic behaviors, but acknowledging that may give you a deeper understanding of why they’re doing so.
So when you adopt a better strategy on how to respond to gaslighting, take into consideration the essence of the person behind their behavior. You can also start the conversation with things like:
- “What I appreciate about you is…”
- “What I respect most about you is…”
- “What I admire about you is…”
Insight from Lisa Nichols: As Lisa explains, whenever you’d like to address an issue with someone whose behavior is affecting you, it may be helpful to begin by appreciating something they do right.
10. Learn to recognize the triggers
It’s important to know your own triggers, for sure. But what about the triggers of those around you?
The thing is, as with anything else in life, not everything is black and white. A person is not necessarily “bad” for having negative behavior.
So if you find yourself in a close relationship where someone might be gaslighting you, explains Vanessa Van Edwards, behavioral investigator and trainer of Mindvalley’s Magnetic Charisma Quest, learn more about what triggers them to dispose of that behavior.
Insight from Vanessa Van Edwards: Identifying others’ triggers can help you minimize their occurrences. What’s more, they can help you prepare mentally for the reactions that they involve.
Healthy Relationships Start With You
It’s no longer a surprise that your external reality might be a reflection of your inner world. And so, nurturing healthy relationships comes from your unshakable self-trust in your capacity to do so. Additionally, drawing boundaries when needed is going to ensure prosperous interactions with those around you.
However, it’s not always that easy to go alone on the journey of connecting within. If you need a little guidance along the way, Mindvalley is the place to be.
Through transformational quests, you may find powerful insights and practices that can turn your life around from the inside out.
And by claiming your free access, you may sample classes from the programs mentioned above and many others.
Start today to learn how to:
- Live your life with unshakable confidence in the Uncompromised Life Quest with Marisa Peer.
- Release stuck emotions and dismantle old patterns in the Tapping Into Emotional Mastery Quest with Jennifer Partridge.
- Live in the present moment to receive the abundance of life in the Ultra Presence Quest with Juan Pablo Barahona.
- Heal your inner child and connect with your children authentically in the Conscious Parenting Mastery Quest with Dr. Shefali Tsabary.
- Speak your truth and put yourself out there in the Speak and Inspire Quest with Lisa Nichols and,
- Activate your most charming self in the Magnetic Charisma Quest with Vanessa Van Edwards.
There’s nothing that hits home more than finding yourself again. Don’t hold back from going on this fascinating journey.