7. You Know What Your Truth Is – You Always Have, and You Always Will
Your gaslighter doesn’t see you.
You are a shadow standing to the side, trying not to attract attention, while they shower their image of you with love and attention. And no matter how much your mind is in knots, you know this to be true.
You know the space you occupy, even if you hate yourself for it. If you look back, if you look inside, you will see that you always knew that something was wrong.
It may feel like you lost your core. But it was always there.
The alarm system always worked. You just learned to stop listening to it. You have not lost as much as you think.
8. The End Game Is Not Confrontation, It’s Non-Engagement
A really common trope I see in movies and literature is the survivor who confronts their abuser. They confront them years later, and in that moment show themselves and their abuser that they don’t have to be afraid anymore.
I crave that catharsis because I am afraid. But I can never address that fear through confrontation. I can only address it by confidence in my ability to set and enforce my own boundaries.
When you engage in any way, you tell your gaslighter and yourself that your reality is up for debate.
Your reality is not up for debate.
If you’re like me, you’ve had a million conversations in your head, and it’s those conversations that are killing you. Your reality is not up for debate. You don’t have to rehearse for a conversation that you will never have.
It’s ridiculous when someone tries to tell you who you are, what you feel, what you think, what you intended, or what you experienced. When it happens, you should be angry, puzzled, or maybe even concerned for them.
You might stop, stunned, and ask, “What would make you think that you could know what’s inside of me? Are you okay?”
Instead, many of us will find ourselves trying to reach understanding.
No, that’s not what happened, that’s not what I felt, that’s not what I feel!
And this is a reasonable response – to a point. But if the goal of the conversation is to exchange power, and not to exchange understanding, you will never, ever, ever win.
I would like to propose that one solution to feeling less susceptible to gaslighting is to learn how to identify the objective of a conversation.
A conversation with the purpose of mutuality should not make you feel afraid, ashamed, disoriented, or confused.
You don’t have to figure out what it is they’re doing, you only have to figure out what you are feeling. You only have to know when mutuality is no longer the objective and learn how to stop engaging when that happens.
- “We’ll have to agree to disagree.”
- “I don’t like how I feel right now, and I want to finish this conversation later (or never).”
- “You’re trying to tell me what my experience is, and I’m not okay with that.”
- “Don’t contact me again.”
“Communicate, communicate, communicate,” right? “You can solve anything with enough communication.”
That might be a mantra, but it’s wrong.
You can solve a lot of things with communication, so long as the objective of both people is understanding. But the minute someone tries to replace your experience, it’s time to stop communicating, at least on that subject.
9. You Must Confront the Threat
Every gaslighting exchange exists under the shroud of some kind of threat. For my relationship, the threat started out as disapproval, then it was the relationship that was threatened, and eventually, the threat escalated to his own life.
I had no ability to confront or resist the gaslighting until one by one, I confronted the fears that these threats produced in me.