2022 Word of the year is Gaslighting. I have mixed feelings, it is certainly a charged word that is used in the everyday descriptions of toxic interpersonal relationships and interactions. But if you are a survivor of narcissistic abusive and toxic behavior the weight of the word can be triggering. Don’t get me wrong, I am so thankful that this word is in the vernacular of the “street” and people are becoming aware of the manipulation behind gaslighting but there is trauma realization and awakening to the magnitude of the aftermath of being gaslit, especially by a trusted love partner, family members, friends or a co-worker.
If you are an adult in situations where you recognize you are in fact being gaslit, there are strategies to implement to protect yourself and your children. But a child consistently gaslit, within a parent-child relationship, needs to have a wide support system and be gently guided to navigate this toxic manipulative behavior. Gaslighters are never one-and-done. (let that sink in) It’s their go-to manipulation and control tactic, which is never ending until YOU recognize it and change.
What to do if you are being gaslit? Remaining unbothered is critical and your Super POWER
What I mean, not showing an emotional reaction to the chronic gaslighter. Remaining unbothered is a challenging practice for an adult and more so for a child. For example, you’re naively going about your day and have an exchange that is manipulating, such as being told “I am doing “xyz” because I love you”, “I told you that” or “That’s not what happened” and you know it’s not right, it doesn’t feel right or perhaps this exchange is confusing.
If you question yourself, doubt what you remember or your reality, it is a big clue that you’re being gaslit. Maybe internally, You’re like really? “I don’t remember saying that” “That’s not how I remember it” or “Could it have happened like he/they are saying”?
This creates a power dynamic that is terribly toxic and if this is a parent-child it removes the core sense of safety and is mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually damaging with long-term consequences.
Here are some tips and strategies to immediately implement:
- Start keeping documentation, written, pictures, or audio (voicemails and such)
- Start sharing about your interactions with a trusted friend or coach. Having a backup to what you experienced is key. Sharing is the best thing to do NOW. (SAFETY first please)
- Start using a script such as “I don’t want to talk about this now” or “I understand” what you are doing, remain unbothered and mentally take note! You’re really saying to yourself, I get what you’re doing and I’m going to remain calm! I understand what’s happening.
- Start letting calls/texts wait for a minute before immediately replying. “Hey, I’ll text/call you later” or “I’ll get back to you”. Give yourself mental oxygen to engage when you’re ready.
- If it is your child who is experiencing gaslighting from an ex, begin a buddy journal between the both of you where they can share and you can respond in a non-direct manner. A trusted therapist trained in Narcissistic Borderline Personality Disorder and gaslighting is critical for children, providing a safe place to process and understand this twisted situation.
Gaslighting is a method of getting control which is meant to gain your trust and reliance upon the abusive person. It’s a gradual process they might say you’re forgetful, unreliable, or unstable. The goal is to have you question yourself not if they’re correct the more this goes on, the shift and power, control and influence occur. You rely on them and feel you can’t trust your intuition or decision-making power.
There is usually isolation slowly happening that occurs during this abuse. Isolation from family, within a group of work colleagues, or friends. By their design, they become the main focus of your life, removing your safety net so there is no questioning of their behavior.
If you are or have been gaslit it is a process of unwinding this toxicity and being gentle with yourself is key. Trust is the center of gaslighting and these types of abusers are keen on identifying trustworthy people or people with abandonment issues to use for their gain.
Feel free to schedule an initial complimentary coaching session to chat about your experience and learn other successful strategies of dealing with and healing this abuse.
You might want to read my blog Buying the Lie about The Cycle of Abuse
Or watch this video on my youtube channel Divorcing Intact: Life Begins After No Contact With Kim Saeed. Life After Narcissistic Abuse