I didn’t know any better the first time it happened to me. The term had not been invented for the abusive behavior my boyfriend was exposing me to at the time.
Occasionally, I stayed late at the office. He was always home but not this night. I walked into my quiet apartment, hoping for a moment of peace. I dropped my things in the bedroom and headed for the shower. Honestly, I was unprepared for what I found in my bathtub. There it was, a chandelier earring and strands of really long hair. Why the shock? Well, during this period, I only wore stud earrings and my hair was in a pixie cut!
I waited until he got home. It was late at night, and I was tired so kept the conversation short and to the point. I asked the obvious question. “Who was in my house?” What did he do? Deny, deny, deny and called me “Crazy!” It is never a good start when you call a woman by that name.
Unbelievably skillful, this master manipulator made me question myself despite the evidence found in the bathroom. He accused me of being wrong, making it all up, and having trust issues. The overwhelming self-doubt and confusion were next level. I felt badly, depressed, and unwilling to share with anyone the things that were happening in my relationship. Deep down, I knew the truth but caved into his bullcrap because love can be dumb, blind, and incredibly stupid, sometimes.
Did I overlook the incident? Yes. I did. Sadly, that was not the last time he betrayed me. It took a year of being gaslighted for me to open my eyes to the toxicity. It took something really bad to happen for me to understand that I had to leave the relationship for my own good.
Where does the phrase Gaslighting come from? The term derives from a 1940s movie called “Gas Light.” The premise involves a husband who distorts his wife’s reality to make her feel crazy. Current day, the phrase is being used to describe psychological manipulation.
It is important to understand, this behavior is damaging, it can trigger mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Also, you can be gaslighted not only by a romantic partner but a family member, friend, or boss.
Have you ever been gaslighted? Would you know what it looks like if it happened to you?
Hopefully, some of these red flags can help decipher it, if you’re running into this type of tactic.
- The person can make you feel like you are being irrational or paranoid. Remember, that what you think and feel is important. You should be able to express yourself without being made to feel mad or like you’re being too sensitive.
- Guilt is common in these situations. You may find yourself walking on eggshells or fearful to speak out. Confusion will often follow, fueling your insecurities. If you are apologizing constantly to this person, it’s time to check yourself.
- Second-guessing yourself or frequent self-doubt leads to decision-making paralysis.
- Isolation can happen too, you will make excuses for this person in front of your loved ones. You may get depressed, hopeless, think you aren’t good enough, and be scared that you can’t do anything right.
- Does something seem off? Listen to your gut. If deep down things don’t sit well with you, there’s a reason. Lean into your intuition, it is a superpower. Pay attention to red flags!
Gaslighting is an effective scheme because it goes undetected by its victims. The abuser uses sneaky methods to get what he/she needs from you. They will use lies, avoidance, reframing, denial, diminish your feelings, and tear down your confidence without you even noticing their conniving ways.
The best defense against falling into the despicable trap?
The first thing is to set boundaries. People will do to you what you allow them to, so, stand up for yourself. Make others accountable for their actions. Tell them when they have crossed your limits. You don’t have to ever accept less than you deserve.
Second, stay grounded in yourself. Emotional situations are tricky but taking time out to reflect is helpful. If you are teetering between equilibrium and going over the edge, it can be easier for others to control you. Remove yourself from a space where anyone can take advantage.
Lastly, lean on your tribe. Friends, family, therapist, or any support during this time will be beneficial. Their love and encouragement can contribute to the strength you need to move past a toxic relationship.
Gaslighting happens frequently because goes under the radar. There is no shame in speaking up about it. Once you recognize and accept it is happening, take the necessary steps to get your power back. Tap into the warrior in you then no one can hold you back!
Listen to EP50 of the AW Confidential Podcast for the full story.
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