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    Five Signs That You Might Be Gaslighting Yourself

    Nowadays, the term “gaslighting” is becoming increasingly popular along with “breadcrumbing,” “ghosting,” and “the ick.”

    Although prevalent in today’s social media culture, the term gaslighting has a deep-rooted history that stems back to the 1940s when the film “gaslight” hit mainstream media and continued to have an influence centuries later.

    What does gaslighting mean?

    Various descriptions of gaslighting float around on the internet, some helpful, others not.

    Some experts define gaslighting as “a form of emotional abuse and manipulation that makes a person question or doubt their beliefs and perceptions of reality (Susan York Morris and Crystal Raypole, How to Recognise Gaslighting and Get Help, Healthline, November 24, 2021).

    Coercion

    Lambert (2021) defines gaslighting as” a form of psychological coercion that manipulates the targeted person to {think} they are at fault for their mistreatment.”

    You may hear the term gaslighting now and then, online, offline, and elsewhere.

    Although terms like gaslighting are increasingly becoming part of pop culture furniture, the popularity such a term has amassed over the years doesn’t make the physical and psychological implications of gaslighting any less severe.

    A recipient of gaslighting may constantly doubt their perceptions and beliefs and internalise the mistreatment and abuse dished out to them by the person doing the gaslighting.

    Mental health complications of gaslighting

    Gaslighting can cause many mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, and trauma.

    The domino effect of gaslighting can be detrimental to your health and wellbeing and results from being in an abusive relationship, where someone who is supposed to love and want the best for you makes you question and doubt your entire existence instead.

    Feelings of guilt and shame

    negative-transference-man-near-the-wall

    Inherently, people who gaslight are emotional abusers who want their victims to believe that “something is wrong with them.”

    You may be tormented with guilt, self-blame, and other self-directed negative thoughts.

    Gaslighters often accuse their victims of being “too sensitive” or crazy and unhinged, especially when the victim confronts them about their abusive behaviour.

    Self-gaslighting

    As if being gaslighted by another isn’t painful and torturous enough, many of us have likely gaslighted ourselves, unwittingly, of course.

    If you question your memory, feelings, or reactions to external mistreatment or abuse, wondering if the hurt you feel is wrong, inaccurate, or “all in your head,” then it’s likely you have experienced self-gaslighting.

    Essentially, self-gaslighting results from being at the receiving end of gaslighting.

    Here a person gradually gaslights themselves and internalises the blame and false accusations from others into negative beliefs about themselves (Lambert 2021).

    Examples of self-gaslighting

    Gaslighting occurs in various relationships, i.e., partners, siblings, parents, children, neighbours, co-workers, friends, etc.

    Gaslighters want you to believe something is wrong with you, that your reactions to their abuse or maltreatment are the problem, not the abuse itself.

    An abuser may accuse you of being too sensitive or crazy and tell you that something didn’t happen when it did (or vice versa); they may even accuse you of being the abuser.

    The aim of gaslighting is to invalidate your feelings, emotions, and perceptions so that you eventually cave in and start to believe that everything is your fault and that your feelings and perceptions are invalid or inaccurate.

    Internalising negative emotions

    The layers of accusation and blame take their toll on a person’s mental health, which may result in them turning on themselves.

    The above frequently happens between the person doing the gaslighting and their victims; people often internalise the blame and accusations from an abuser – which may creep into other aspects of an individual’s life.

    Understanding the signs

    If you constantly doubt yourself or wonder whether you overreact when someone disrespects or mistreats you, you are likely gaslighting yourself.

    Mental health experts state that gaslight victims must be aware of the signs to prevent further abuse and mistreatment and get the help and support they need.

    Signs of gaslighting

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    Emotional abusers operate in various underhanded ways; however, those who gaslight may:

    • Accuse you of being “too sensitive” or call you crazy or unhinged when you express your concerns or needs
    • Retell their version of events and bend the facts to suit them
    • Deny your recollection of events
    • Accuse you of saying or doing things you know you didn’t do
    • Vehemently insist that they are right about everything and utterly refuse to consider your version of events or perspective.
    • Talk about you to others and express their concerns about your behaviour, feelings, and state of mind – this tactic plants a seed of doubt in other peoples’ minds where they may end up believing the abuser’s version of things.

    Five signs that you might be gaslighting yourself

    Identifying the signs of gaslighting can help prevent and stop the abusive cycle.

    Recognising and acknowledging when someone might be gaslighting you or when you are gaslighting yourself is instrumental, perhaps life-changing to some.

    If you think you might be gaslighting yourself, you may (unknowingly) engage in specific behavioural patterns, which may include:

    1. Downplaying (or minimising) your own experiences

    Many of us have downplayed or minimised traumatic or challenging experiences at some stage.

    This form of self-gaslighting may involve telling yourself that a problematic event or experience “wasn’t that bad,” or maybe you convince yourself that you imagine certain things.

    You may go back and forth in your mind, mentally replaying an event over and over, debating with yourself about the validity of your experience or trauma.

    You may tell yourself that you are “making a huge deal out of nothing” or completely dismiss the validity of your experiences.

    Engaging in this cycle signifies that you might be used to thinking about yourself and life in this context. Dismissing your past experiences and the emotions that go with them may mean that you are gaslighting yourself.

    2. Making excuses for others

    Minimising or dismissing your experiences will likely lead you to make excuses for other people’s bad behaviour.

    The perpetual cycle of guilt and self-blame means you may begin making excuses for other peoples’ maltreatment or insensitive behaviour towards you.

    For example, if someone makes a hurtful comment about your hairstyle or clothing choice, you may tell yourself that they “didn’t mean it in a bad way” or that your reaction to their words is dramatic or over the top.

    Or let’s say that your partner outwardly flirts with the waitress at lunch – here, you may tell yourself that they were “just being friendly” and dismiss any (expected) feelings of humiliation and hurt.

    3. Believing negative things about yourself

    Antisocial personality disorder - White River Manor

    After a while, the hurtful comments, accusations, and maltreatment from an abuser are likely to be internalised.

    The above frequently happens in abusive relationships where victims convince themselves they are too sensitive, needy, dramatic, or emotional.

    Experts say that while most people have our best interests at heart, some don’t, and it’s crucial for victims of gaslighting to understand that their feelings and emotions are valid regardless of another person’s intentions.

    We are all guilty of overreacting sometimes, but constant put-downs and compliments disguised as put-downs chip away at a person’s mental health, where they lose all sense of identity and control.

    The person may start believing that “there is something wrong with them,” that they are “not worth believing,” or that they are” not enough.”

    4. Constantly wondering if you’re too sensitive.

    If someone says or does something profoundly hurtful and you somehow convince yourself that it didn’t hurt or at least suck a little bit, it can create a form of cognitive dissonance that may lead you to self-gaslight.

    Think of it this way: would you feel guilty if you screamed profanity at someone, disrespected them or their belongings, or belted out a random sarcastic comment their way?

    If the answer to that question is yes, then ask yourself why the same behaviour directed your way is something that should be up for debate, it’s not, and you deserve to be treated with as much respect and compassion as everyone else.

    However, the knowledge that you sometimes accept deviant behaviour might lead to the kind of insight that helps you build on your self-esteem and boundaries.

    5. Taking all the responsibility

    Gaslighting often results in victims blaming themselves for the abuser’s unacceptable behaviour and mistreatment.

    Researchers explain the impact of gaslighting with the following summary:

    “The effects of gaslighting can turn you against yourself and seep into various aspects of your life.

    It can have you blaming yourself for interactions with different people (not just the gaslighter) that turn sour, and even mundane incidents in your life that go awry, whether others are involved or not” (Lambert, 2021; Mental Health Advocates; 2021, Otis, 2019).

    What can you do to help yourself?

    Mental health treatment

    Recognising the signs of gaslighting can help prevent maltreatment from others and the self.

    If you constantly second-guess yourself, blame yourself for how others treat you, or if you feel overwhelmed, confused, and unable to move forward, it’s likely that you are (unknowingly) gaslighting yourself and need to engage in various self-care measures.

    Healing from knowledge

    Understanding that other peoples’ poor behaviour towards you does not determine your worth as a person and that you are deserving of equality and respect are the building blocks to healing.

    Gaslighting comes in various forms where an abuser may say things like:

    • “I wouldn’t say these things if I didn’t care, would I?”
    • “You seem forgetful and confused lately, and I’m starting to get a little concerned.”

    To counteract the abuser’s claims, you may find yourself:

    • Isolating or lying to yourself and your loved ones to avoid tension or conflict
    • Making decisions to please others and not yourself
    • Constantly questioning your feelings, perceptions, and behaviour
    • Walking on eggshells and being extra careful of the words you use, especially around the gaslighter
    • Disengaging with any interests or hobbies you previously enjoyed

    Getting in touch

    If you want more information about this article or are concerned about your mental health, contact a White River Manor specialist who can help.

    We specialise in treating various mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, trauma, and substance abuse.

    Contact a specialist today.

    Useful resources

    1. How to Recognise Gaslighting and Get Help: Healthline, Susan York Morris and Crystal Raypole, November 24, 2021
    2. 5 Signs You’re Gaslighting Yourself: Psych2Go, Paula_C, January 21, 2022