You’re not going mad, it’s gaslighting!
It’s so easy to start to believe you are going completely mad when you are or have been involved in a toxic or narcissistic relationship. In fact, I think this is one of the most damaging issues.
Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse and it causes you to question yourself, your thoughts, your memory and your sanity. You may think you are losing the plot completely. So I just want to tell you right here and now that are completely sane and normal. You really are!
My personal term for gaslighting is head fuckery as to me there is no better way of describing it. That’s what it does to your mind. It normally happens so slowly and insiduously that you don’t realise what it is going on but before you know it, you feel confused, unsure of yourself, scared to speak out and you have no idea of what is real or imagined.
The way that gaslighting happens is often compared to the frog in a frying pan story. If (for some weird and wonderful reason which I have yet to fathom) you wanted to cook a frog and you dropped it into a pan of boiling hot water, it would leap out as soon as it felt the heat. However, if you put the frog in a pan of cold water and then turned the heat on the lowest setting, it would stay there, not noticing the very gradual rise in temperature until it’s too late for it to do anything and it ends up getting boiled!
And that’s exactly what happens with gaslighting. You just don’t notice it happening until it’s too late. So how do you know if you’ve been subjected to this?
The warning signs of gaslighting include:
- Being told you are too sensitive, that you constantly over-react and take things the wrong way
- Confusion – your memory of events is constantly brought into question so that you are no longer sure of your own reality
- Turning things around – you become responsible for any negative situation, the cause of an argument or you take the weight of ownership for something when actually none of it was your fault. The gaslighter always becomes the victim
- You are constantly told that other people are liars, manipulative or can’t be trusted so that you don’t know who to believe or trust (this is quite often used to alienate people from family and friends)
- Things that are near and dear to you are discredited – your beliefs, your children, your competence at work, your family, your capability as a mum/daughter/wife/friend etc
- Blatant lies – often told with such conviction that you start to believe them
- Intermittent praise and complements so that you think the perpetrator actually has your best interests at heart
If all this sounds alarmingly familiar, recognising what’s happening is a big part of moving on. It’s not acceptable behaviour and you absolutely deserve better.
Learn to listen to and trust your intuition. Our internal guidance is very strong and accurate once we learn to tune into it. If something inside you is saying ‘this isn’t right’ (even though your head might be spinning round in circles not knowing what to think) then it probably isn’t.
Take some deep breaths and centre yourself daily.
With more awareness of gaslighting techniques, you can start to pre-empt trigger situations and arm yourself to handle them differently.
Put some strong boundaries in place. Question whether you need to hold on to the relationship because if someone is gaslighting you, they really don’t have your best interests at heart (whatever they might say!).
Start to shift your thoughts from being a victim to an empowered woman. Once you step into your own being, it can really unsettle the gaslighter as you are no longer putty in their hands!
Talk to a trusted friend or relative so that you can get an independent perspective on whether it’s you who is going mad!
Remember, it’s their stuff, not yours.
Most of all, get back into the habit of believing and trusting in yourself. It will take time but YOU CAN DO IT!
In the words of boxing legend Muhammed Ali (yes, I know, a slightly odd one to pick for inspiration but it’s so appropriate!):
“I know where I’m going and I know the truth, and I don’t have to be what you want me to be. I’m free to be what I want”
If this has struck a chord, please feel free to join our closed Facebook community Thunderstorms and Rainbows for a nurturing, heart and soul approach to recovery. And if you are ready to make some serious changes in your life, click here to book in a call with me.