You May Be The Unconscious Pawn Of Gaslighting.

I'm prepared to say that being gaslighted (gaslit?) by my mother, and several exes, is THE formative experience that has made me the direct (blunt) and too-honest person I am today. I simply don't allow anyone to gaslight me, which drives a lot of people crazy because they'd love it if I shut up once in a while.

My mother had this done to her by her own mother, who did it to everyone. It poisoned the whole family, and since abuse is often passed down from generation to generation, I "inherited" that sad history.

I had no idea what "gaslighting" even meant until recently.
I had no idea that it's abusive to invalidate someone's feelings or impressions in the first place!

And just to clarify my post... Although they may sound similar, gaslighting is different from criticism.

Consider this example behavior:
A person in a relationship is consistently late to dates.

The other partner reacts to this by saying:
"I feel completely stressed out by the fact that you're always late to our dates."

Criticism of the reaction would be (among other possibilities):
"Well, don't you think you're asking a little much? I *did* tell you I had to work late..."

Gaslighting would be:
"What are you talking about? It's only fifteen minutes past the time, that's no big deal, calm down already."

Even though you may believe the other person is overreacting, it doesn't matter! It doesn't matter whether or not 15 minutes is "late" in the Grand Scheme of Things. Why? Because what's late to one is acceptable to another. You are dealing with another human being here, not a set of conventions!

Gaslighting just makes the other person feel as though they had no right to feel stressed out, when they do.
It makes the other person feel as though they have no right to feel what they feel.

It really doesn't matter whether you agree with their reasons or not: disagreements are just that, disagreements. Trying to make a disagreement "go away" by pretending it doesn't (or shouldn't) exist in the first place is akin to asking the other person to "not be such a damn bother".

Do you really want to treat people like this?
Do YOU want to be treated like this?

I didn't think so.

As a young child and later a teenager, I was consistently made to feel as though I was imagining my depression because my mother believed I was "overreacting". She told me I was imagining her overly strict treatment of me, which was confirmed later on on multiple occasions, including by therapists.
I was made to feel as though she had the right of every situation when I didn't do exactly as told, and I was just being childish and immature for being annoyed at having all my efforts thrown out the window.

I was consistently told that "the real problem was with me", that "there was no problem", that "I was creating the problem".
Sounds familiar?

Let me tell you this:
If you are at all committed to having a working, healthy, sane relationship with ANYONE (parents, significant other, children, bosses, employees), you will learn to recognize gaslighting behavior, and you will prevent it both in yourself, and in others around you.

Nobody should get to invalidate others' feelings just because they're too lazy to deal with other people.
Here's some tips to avoid it:

If you don't have the time to deal with a situation, clearly express that. Examples:
"I'm sorry, I feel overwhelmed right now, we should talk about this later."
"I can't deal with this right now, it'll have to wait."
"Let me think for a while before I answer."

If you don't know what to say, clearly express that. Examples:
"I have no idea what to reply to that."
"I need to think before I can answer your concern."

(I may add more later.)

The important thing is to make the other person feel as though they matter. Because they should.

Here is more reading for the interested below...
Most of these articles are written from the perspective of women being manipulated by men, but don't let this fool you: my mother was very adept at gaslighting my father, and I know my grandmother was the same with my grandfather.
Wonderatrix Wonderatrix
31-35, F
6 Responses Dec 9, 2011

My boyfriend does this all the time. It leaves you feeling crazy and depressed and strips you of every ounce of self confidence. Leaves you feeling as if your feelings or thoughts do not matter. Very depressing.

Get away from him it will only get worse.

Very insightful!

I realize this is an old post, but thank you for sharing! I broke up with my girlfriend about 6 months ago and I was so messed up afterwards. I couldn't figure out why i doubted myself on nearly every thought. I was more confused then ever before. After reading your post and looking into gas-lighting I realize what was going on. I can't believe I didn't figure it out until now. thanks again!

I never knew what this was--being gaslighted until I watched the movie. It kind of all made sense then.
My first (now ex)husband did it in such a way that I never even realized it was happening--it was so insidious and slick. When we divorced, I had fled the country and moved home to the states, where I entered therapy. It took probably 5 years to come around to feeling like myself again(or close to it). And I swore it would never happen again...In waltzes husband number 2.
I never 'got it' when it first started happening. We'd fight and he'd blame and the cycle would continue. Things progressed to the point where he'd tell me he left the outside light on for me when I came home from work--but he never did. It was a total fabrication...but he totally expected me to believe it. I know as god is my witness, that the light was never on--not once...but he truly, really believed it was. That was the moment I realized what he had been doing and that I need to stop and get out.
That was the tip of the iceberg for gaslighting...He is an expert at gaslighting. He was no where near as smooth as the first husband, but he's much much more unrelenting. He finds ways, both big and small, to manipulate my reality and mess with my mind.
Now, I call him on his behavior. I've ignored too much for too long. Every single time he tries gaslighting me, I say, "You're gaslighting me...stop it!" It doesn't stop him, but it has made him aware that I'm on to him...that I'm aware of his manipulations.
Consequently he has 'discarded me'...Now *he* wants the divorce I asked for a year ago. Now, *he* tells me how worthless I am and how I'm nothing and has pretty much discarded me like a used tissue. I'm fine with that though. He won't get by my defenses now. My walls are up, my heart has hardened, and he won't hurt me again. He knows this and is most likely out searching for more unsuspecting victims now. Needy women who think they can trust him because he's a "nice guy"--what a joke. I just feel sorry for the next innocent he destroys. I can't save the world though--just myself, and I'm getting out while I can.

My goodness. I didn't even know this had a name.<br />
Excellent post. Thank you :)

Thank you! :)

The manipulator in a gaslighting strategy has to out think his/her victim unless there isn't an end game. Which if there is a game, it has to be the "long game" instead of an instant game.<br />
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Recently I've blew up at a terd that I've had problems with for the last 7 or 8 years. Whenever he had the chance, he would tell me to "stop ******* with this..." or "what the **** do you want..." and the last one "don't ******* tell me what to do..." I know he is a manipulative POS and finally called him out on it. Apparently this was a divisive action, because the parents who watched me call him out, took sides. Parents that are good people, by their actions sided with reason. Clearly the Parents that only think of winning and losing as the options...took his side. Either way, I put my position on the table without caring for his or anyone else's feelings on the matter. There is no doubt I would smash him down to his shoes if I could legally get away with it.<br />
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I'd heard the term of gaslighting before, but didn't have a clear definition of it. Very good piece.

Thank you! :)