It becomes difficult, after a while, to identify why it is that you feel so alone and hollow.
In another type of gaslighting, the gaslighter is always transformed into the victim. Whenever you bring up a problem, you find yourself apologizing by the end of the conversation.
For me, these were the worst exchanges.
Every gaslighter/gaslightee relationship is different, but for me, there was a very specific pattern. I would say something to him. He would have a very strong emotional reaction to it, far above what I would have anticipated. I would backtrack to try to figure out what I had said and how to make it better.
He would accuse me of inconsistency when I backtracked.
I would try to explain that I was adjusting to try to communicate best with him because clearly I was failing.
He would tell me that my inconsistency implied that I was lying.
I would say, “No, no, I know I’m not lying. Maybe I just can’t remember it right.”
“It seems I can’t trust your memory,” he would say.
We would never return to the original issue. I usually ended up crying hysterically.
4. It’s Normal Not to Be Able to Remember What Happened
This, more than anything, is something I wish I had known.
It was a secret I kept, that fed my self-doubt and guilt for years after I left. I used to blackout. I remember conversations where I would start standing in the kitchen and end up in a ball on the floor.
Just days after it happened, I wouldn’t be able to remember what happened in the time in between. I wouldn’t even be able to remember what the conversation was about. My abuser accused me of abuse while I was with him – and then publicly for years after.
It’s one of the reasons I left – because I couldn’t figure out what I was doing or how to fix it, and I couldn’t bear the thought that I might be abusive to someone. I’ve ripped my memories apart, trying to figure out what it was that he experienced. What it was that I did.
And I have found some things in me that needed to change, as all people who look deeply at their abusive tendencies will find. But I couldn’t, in my own memory, find what it was that he saw in me.
I could not find the narcissist. I could not find a vicious manipulator. I could not find the home wrecker. But I had black spots in my memory. Completely black. And I wondered , Is that when it happened? Is that when I abused him?
Losing spots in your memory makes it very plausible when someone tells you that they cannot trust your memory. It makes it very plausible when they tell you that you are abusive.
But it’s normal to lose your memory when you’re being gaslighted. In fact, it is one of the signs that you should look for. It’s a good sign that it might be time to leave.
5. There Are Distinct Stages (And These Stages Can Progress After the Relationship Is Over)
A gaslighter doesn’t simply need to be right. They also need you to believe that they are right.
In stage one, you know that they’re being ridiculous, but you argue anyways.
You argue for hours, without resolution. You argue over things that shouldn’t be up for debate – your feelings, your opinions, your experience of the world.
You argue because you need to be right, you need to be understood, or you need to get their approval.
In stage one, you still believe yourself, but you also unwittingly put that belief up for debate.
In stage two, you consider your gaslighter’s point of view first and try desperately to get them to see your point of view as well.
You continue to engage because you’re afraid of what their perspective of you says about you.