10 Things I Wish I’d Known About Gaslighting Before It Happened To Me

10 Things I Wish I'd Known About Gaslighting before it happened to me

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.

Read 15 Signs You’re A Victim Of Gaslighting

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.

Winning the argument now has one objective :  proving that you’re still good, kind, and worthwhile.

In stage three, when you’re hurt, you first ask, “What’s wrong with me?”

You consider their point of view as normal. You start to lose your ability to make your own judgments. You become consumed with understanding them and seeing their perspective. You live with and obsess over every criticism, trying to solve it.

Looking back, I see that I was deep in stage two when I left the relationship. However, I continued to try to have a friendship with him for months after. I longed for resolution, understanding, and forgiveness.

And when I finally went no contact, instead of healing, I actually moved into stage three. I didn’t understand, nor did I know how to solve, the gaslighting that I continued to do to myself after the relationship was over.

If I could go back and give myself one piece of advice, it’d be to go no contact immediately for at least a year. And maybe that’s what others might need, too.

It’s really, really hard. It’s hard because it may still feel like that understanding and resolution is right around the corner. It’s hard to let go of that.

But think: You don’t have to yet. Just commit to a year. Because anyone who isn’t abusive won’t punish you for the space you need to heal.

And when I say “no contact,” I mean complete no contact. Distance yourself from mutual friends. Block your gaslighter on social media. Ask your friends not to give you any new information about them unless it directly pertains to your safety.

Fuck anyone who says you are being unreasonable.

You need this to heal, and you need the space to learn how to stop gaslighting yourself.

6. There Are Distinct Traits That Make You More Susceptible to Gaslighting, But They Can Also Be Super Powers

There are three tendencies that will pull you into a gaslighting exchange. These tendencies are the need to be right, the need to be understood, and the need for approval.

Additionally, certain traits – such as being empathic, being a caretaker, needing to see your partner in a positive light, and being a “people pleaser” – might make you more susceptible.

But I would strongly urge you to not go in and try to crush these wonderful things about you.

You care strongly about your ideas, and about other people. You want to understand and be understood. You care about your effect on other people, and you’re willing to change to accommodate the people around you.

And ironically, your gaslighter probably told you that you were selfish and cruel and oblivious. And then perhaps your therapist told you that you need to stop caring so much because it draws you into abuse. What to do?

Empathy is important. It’s important for all of us. It makes me angry when people tell me that my empathy is a weakness. My empathy is a superpower. My desire and ability to empathize kept me locked into a cycle of abuse, yes. But my desire to empathize wasn’t the problem.

The ability to hear criticism and then to change yourself for the better based on that feedback is also a fucking superpower. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. My problem was not my willingness to change, but my willingness to change for the wrong reasons.

Change should make you bigger. It should increase your tank of self-love. It should make you stronger, clearer, more directed, more differentiated, and more compassionate.

The pain of growth is different than the pain of destruction. One will fill you with love and pride, even when it’s hard, and the other will fill you with shame and fear.

No one should use shame or fear to try to get you to change. When they do this, they’re not asking for change – they’re asking for control.

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Cynthia Evans

Cynthia Evans is an intuitive spiritual blogger, enlightening and empowering people with her blogs on spirituality, energy work, self-love, spiritual wellness, healing, mindfulness, self-development and so on. She enjoys helping people to achieve their greatest dreams and ambitions by sharing valuable tips based on personal experiences.View Author posts