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Okay, So What IS Gaslighting?

Updated: Jun 8, 2022

Defining gaslighting

While gaslighting is now a pop culture buzzword, a lot of what is out there is either misinformation, or incomplete information. We often are left with more questions than answers. Because of this incomplete understanding, when people are in a relationship where gaslighting is happening, they can:

  • struggle to name what they’re experiencing,

  • continue to feel disempowered by focusing their power in inauthentic places

  • can be anxious due to the uncertainty (in fact, a LOT of my clients were incorrectly diagnosed with anxiety issues before they started working with me, and I pointed out the gaslighting was causing the anxiety)

  • be stuck in internal conflict

After 10 years of coaching, and thousands of hours coaching clients where I’ve helped them heal from gaslighting, I am now passionate that the journey towards healing starts with an understanding of what gaslighting is, and I’ll share that with you now. Gaslighting is not ONLY something that happens to a person, rather, it is an exchange between people. Gaslighting is when one person (or a group of people), through covert behaviors, convinces another person that what they perceive, believe, think, or feel is inaccurate or invalid. (That is the definition that I have created after years of helping people understand what it is).

In this exchange, one person is insistent that the other take on their point of view. This could include:

  • their perception of reality

  • the way one should feel about something

  • what one should believe about a situation

  • what one should believe about themself.

Basically, the gaslighter’s way is the only way. (Not just the right way, but the only way.) The person that is attempting to gaslight the other person does not give room for the other person to hold their own unique feelings, thoughts, perceptions, etc.

Gaslighting is extremely COMMON and PERVASIVE, and everyone has experienced it - whether through media, religion, boss, husband / wife / partner, family of origin, etc. While understanding what gaslighting is is the first step towards healing, it is also necessary to understand what gaslighting isn’t, so that we can correctly recognize when it is happening.

What is NOT Gaslighting?

Firstly, not all debates are gaslighting. Neither is holding on to your truth and not backing down in a situation. The difference is that the gaslighter is typically relentless in attempting to get the other person to give in and take on their point of view.

For example: just because your aunt Emily believes strongly that getting up early is the best way to start a day, if she gives you room for having your own belief about how to start the day, if she is not insistent nor using covert behaviors, she is not gaslighting you.

This one may be hard to grasp at first, but gaslighting is also not always intentional. The typical view of someone who gaslights is a narcissist who cruelly manipulates their partner into doing or thinking what they want. (like the image below)

In reality, this situation, while definitely part of the picture, is NOT the whole picture. Someone who gaslights may also be unintentionally gaslighting as a defense mechanism to shield themselves from shame, or rejection, etc. When we realize that anyone can gaslight, not just those we perceive to be evil, intentional, and self-centered, it is easier to spot when we may be being gaslit.

Opting out

The good news is, that because gaslighting is an exchange between two people, and not only something that happens to a person, there are ways to opt out of gaslighting! In addition to recognizing when gaslighting is happening and what methods and tactics a gaslighter may use, there are also things that make us each susceptible to gaslighting in our own unique ways.

Start your journey towards recognizing your susceptibilities, learning how to opt out and healing from gaslighting in my transformational 12 week program.

Watch testimonials from people that have worked with me here, or start with getting to know me and what I offer on my website:

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