These are some sentences you might hear from someone who gaslights you. Repeatedly!
“You’re so emotional!“
“You need help.”
“Don’t get upset over nothing.”
“You sound crazy!”
“You’re the one who is lying.”
“You’re remembering things wrongly.”
“I wouldn’t have done/said that to you.”
“You’re making stuff up.”
It’s a form of emotional manipulation and abuse, where the manipulator or “gaslighter” makes you doubt your memories, perceptions, feelings, and yourself in order to control you. Basically, you start questioning your reality and your sanity, which erodes your self-worth.
The term comes from the 1938 play Gas light, later adapted to a couple of films, where the husband dims the gas light in the house and one of the many lies he throws at his wife is about the quality of light staying the same. All this confusion fuels her anxiety and makes her question her sanity.
For such treatment to be considered gasligthing, it has to be a process rather than just an offhand comment once in a blue moon. On top of it, it’s insidious, which is why the victim doesn’t quite understand what is going on, the verbal and emotional abuse starts off inoffensively, like a joke, ultimately growing into a mental terror – leading to anxiety and often clinical depression.
Behind closed doors
It’s usually going on behind closed doors, which is why outsiders often side with the perpetrator rather than you — the victim, making you question yourself further and feel even more alienated.
These are some of the thoughts that might dominate your day after a while:
“Am I really crazy? Is it my fault?”
“I must be crazy!”
“I’m so lucky he/she tolerates me.”
The words become internalised as the gaslighter overtakes your mind. You start to believe what you’re told by the perpetrator and often by your blinded inner circle.
Consequently, you sink deeper and deeper into crippling self-doubt, anxious thoughts, and a sense of helplessness.
The familiarity of the toxic environment holds you stuck
The problem is that healing within this situation, without stepping out of it, is extremely difficult, if at all possible. But you might feel unable to leave behind such a relationship.
Even when you’re suffering, you are experiencing something familiar, something you know you can deal with. You might fear that getting out of the relationship would be either impossible, or you would end up in a situation that is worse than what they experience right now.
It might appear that there’s no escape. But there is!
This is when working with someone who can help you through the process as well as joining a community where you feel safe is invaluable and essential!
Stand up to the gaslighter
Whilst leaving behind a toxic relationship isn’t immediately available for everyone, you can do something to empower yourself as soon as you realise that you’re being gaslighted.
This will change the dynamic of the relationship and empower you to make the best decision for yourself and for your children (if you have any).
Here are a few tips to empower yourself and to stand up to a gaslighter:
- Collect evidence: take notes of the conversation or record it, so that you can look at it later when they deny what had happened. The gaslighter often denies what they said or minimises the effect. Make sure you have evidence of what happened, not necessarily to share it with them, but for yourself.
- Join or create a support network: you don’t need to do this alone. Speak up about the issue and make sure you have family and friends that help you through it. They might be blinded by your partner’s public behaviour. You can share the recording or notes with them, talk about your feelings. Also, join a local community (alternatively an online one) of people who have or are going through it.
- Set boundaries and create distance: you can simply walk away from a conversation, or limit it. We often try to reason with the other person, but if they don’t want to participate, you’ll end up feeling worse about yourself. Protect yourself by not engaging in petty arguments.
- Build your confidence and resilience: prioritise self-care practices and work with a professional to rebuild your self-esteem and confidence in yourself. Your confidence is deep inside you, it’s part of you, with the right work, you can access it and wield it. This work will make you feel increasingly resilient and more inclined to stand up for yourself.
- Stop using the same words with yourself: if you’ve internalised gaslighting language and have been using it for years, apply mindfulness and stop the thought patterns as they come to your mind. Language is powerful, we react to our thoughts, so use kind, compassionate, and loving words with yourself.
Gaslighting and your professional life
If you’re an entrepreneur, you have a lot of responsibilities and a demanding life that often requires overwork.
You only have so much time and so much energy — you want to use it wisely.
But if you’re in a relationship with someone who continually lies to you, calls you a liar, plays games with you, and makes you question your reality, you won’t be able to focus on your tasks optimally.
You’re not only putting your mental health on the line, you’re risking your business as well. Standing up for yourself and standing in your personal power is imperative.
Look at what you’ve achieved in your life and anchor yourself in it. Then use the above tips to create an environment and social circle that empowers you to do the right thing as an individual and an entrepreneur.
An entrepreneur sees possibilities where others see problems. Use your creativity and innovative mindset to empower yourself and to reshape your life so that most importantly you, but also your business thrives.
You don’t need to do this alone. If you need support, reach out. Let’s have a chat! xx