What is it, is it happening to you and are you doing it?
As the GQ’s resident therapist I wanted to share with you here, my answer to a reader’s question of how to spot and how to stop the psychological manipulation that is ruining not just people’s relationships, and their lives.
Dear GQ Therapist,
I have been hearing a lot about gaslighting lately. What is it, how do I know if I have been a victim of it and what should it do to combat it?First off, the best way to explain gaslighting is where someone seeks to manipulate someone else by psychological means into doubting their own sanity.You will know you have been a victim of gaslighting if you have voluntarily (or involuntarily) put someone else in a position of power over you. For example: a boss, a teacher or even your other half (but only if you are in a co-dependent relationship). Once you have put that person in that position, you then give them almost magical powers, putting them and everything they say and do on a pedestal, while simultaneously idolising them.They become someone you are afraid to lose, which, of course, adds to the fear, and you become more and more mesmerised and/or hypnotised by them. And all the while their insistence that their reality is your reality causes you to doubt what you know to be true. You feel confused and crazy. You’re always apologising, wondering if you are good enough, or knowing something is wrong but not being able to quite put your finger on what it is. You thought one thing, they say another; you can’t figure out what is right and it gets more and more confusing. It’s a pretty full-on experience and if you think this could be you, then here are my top tips to help yourself out of this situation, pretty damn quick…
If you are having a “this could be me” moment, I want you to know that it is totally possible to get out of it. The thing is, it can’t happen unless you allow it. Once you recognise that you are the one allowing yourself to be manipulated and/or persuaded away from your own thoughts consistently, then you can decide you don’t want to be part of it any more.
It is really important to know that the person who is gaslighting you will never be able to take responsibility for their actions. You have to give up the hope that this will happen. They cannot do empathy or compassion. Ultimately, the thing to remember is they will simply never get it. They will never say, “Oh, you have a point and I can totally see that from your point of view.” Acknowledgement is not going to happen and things are not going to be different. Asserting yourself is not just useless, but harmful. And, of course, exhausting. You have to be the one to recognise that logic and reason can’t be applied. Don’t waste your energy waiting for them to take responsibility for their words and actions, it simply won’t happen.
3. Be defiant
When you are discussing something with the person who is gaslighting you and they demand you change your view or your version of it, know that this is not about you and is all about them – their insecurities, their fears or their issues. Trusting your own version of your reality matters. Not allowing your version or view to be altered on demand, by anyone else, matters. Sticking to what you know to be true as fact matters. Being defiant does not make you difficult. It makes you resilient.
Detaching from the gaslighting does not mean you have to leave. Someone can try to gaslight you and once you identify what’s going on, you can begin to turn off the gaslighting and heal. You can find ways to manage your mind around it and still feel calm and happy once you truly understand this is not about you. If you struggle with this part don’t forget to look at thelifeclass.com, which will teach you how to handle any situation, effortlessly.