Has a loved one or a colleague one ever said these lines to you before? “Oh, come on. I never said such a thing.” Or “You’re just being oversensitive.” Or “I don’t know why you’re making such a big fuss about this…”. Well, if they have, then you need to put down whatever it is you are doing and pay attention to what Life Coach, Karlyn Percil, has to say about a dangerous kind of manipulation called Gaslighting.
What is gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse where a person or group makes someone question their sanity, perception of reality, or memories. People experiencing gaslighting often feel confused, anxious, and are unable to trust themselves. And there is more than one way to be experience it.
Firs there is countering: This describes a person questioning someone’s memories. They may say things such as, “you never remember things accurately,” or “are you sure? You have a bad memory.”
Then there is withholding: When someone withholds, they refuse to engage in a conversation. A person using this technique may pretend not to understand someone so that they do not have to respond to them. For example, they might say, “I do not know what you are talking about,” or “you are just trying to confuse me.”
Trivializing: This occurs when a person belittles or disregards the other person’s feelings. They may accuse them of being too sensitive or of overreacting when they have valid concerns and feelings.
Is denial a way to gaslight someone?
Yes, denial involves a person pretending to forget events or how they occurred. They may deny having said or done something or accuse someone of making things up. There are two main types of denial:
Diverting: With this technique, a person changes the focus of a discussion and questions the other person’s credibility instead. For example, they might say, “that is just another crazy idea you got from your friends.”
Stereotyping: An article in the American Sociological Review states that a person using gaslighting techniques may intentionally use negative stereotypes of a person’s gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, nationality, or age to manipulate them. For example, they may tell a female that people will think she is irrational or crazy if she seeks help for abuse.
Where are we gaslit the most?
We can be gaslit in all areas of our lives. The truth is many of us don’t always recognize when it is happening to us – because in some cases we have normalized that behavior. It happens at work, in relationships, at home.
A doctor trivializing a person’s health concerns based on the assumption they are mentally ill or telling the person their symptoms are “in their head,” are examples of Medical gaslighting.
Similarly, racial gaslighting occurs when people apply gaslighting techniques to a group of people based on race or ethnicity.
What do you do in the moment when you feel like you are being gaslighted?
In the moment, you must give yourself permission to feel all your feelings. Then identify that there is a problem, focus on your feelings instead of who’s right or wrong and remember that you can’t control what’s being put forth as an opinion.
What steps can a person take after being gaslighted?
Now this is very important. Once you have taken that moment, you have to come up with a game plan. Gathering evidence may remind a person that they are not imagining things. This evidence may also become useful later if a person decides to pursue legal action against the abusive person.
- Keeping a secret diary: This allows a person to track events, including the date, time, and details of what happened.
- Talking to a trusted family member, friend, or counselor: This may help someone gain an outside perspective on the situation and to create an external, additional record of information.
- Taking pictures: This can also help someone “fact check” their memories and remind themselves that they are not imagining things.
- Keeping voice memos: Using a cell phone or device to describe events is a quick way for someone to record something that just happened in their own words. Always check state laws on recordings before using them in court.
All in all, the antidote to gaslighting is greater emotional awareness and self-regulation — both the knowledge and the practice.
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