This means, for instance, that if I ever got angry or upset about the fact that members of my family habitually called me by homophobic and ableist slurs, making me unwilling to spend my time with them, I was simply having a manic break and that all of my anger was me “exploding” and being manic.
Or if I was uncomfortable spending time with friends or family members that didn’t respect my boundaries or identities, I was simply “letting my anxiety get the best of me” – and, again, when I got angry about the fact that this was happening, it was blamed on my mania.
The thing about gaslighting is that it’s an especially terrifying tactic because it makes the victim feel as if they cannot trust their own mind, that their memories and experiences are not valid or trustworthy, that their reactions are illogical and irrational.
For people who already have a fluid perception of reality, this can make you feel as if nothing you take in is real or can be trusted.
And this mistrust in yourself also makes it extremely difficult to identify when you are the victim of gaslighting.
So, How Can I Tell If I’m Experiencing Gas lighting?
One of my biggest motivations for writing this piece is that I had gone my entire life being gaslit by parents and partners alike. It had gotten to the point that I questioned the validity of all my responses to violence, questioned whether or not I was capable of knowing when I was being abused or not, and had begun to think that maybe every instance of abuse I’d experienced really was all in my head.
But then I was told about gaslighting – and everything started to zoom into perspective for the first time in a very long time.
So, how can you tell if this is happening to you? Here are some questions that you can ask yourself.
1. Do You Question the Validity of Your Memories and Experiences?
Gaslighting puts you in a position where you don’t trust what you remember or what you experience.
Thus, one of the biggest red flags that you’re experiencing gaslighting is that you’re quick to question or outright dismiss your memory of a situation.
If you are in an involuntary habit of second guessing things that you remember, especially memories that involve abuse or hurt, you have most likely been put in a position where you have been conditioned to second guess yourself.
2. Are There People in Your Life Who Actively Discredit Your Memories and Experiences?
Gaslighting is the process of others conditioning you into distrusting your own sense of reality.
There are many phrases that you may hear over and over that have led to you distrusting yourself, such as:
“You’re too sensitive.”
“You never remember things correctly.”
“How would you know? Your memory is awful.”
“You’re always making something out of nothing.”
“You weren’t right about this last time.”
“You can’t even remember [where you put your keys/where you parked the car/what you had for breakfast]. Why should I trust your memory of this?”
“You don’t even know what abuse is.” (Or “You have never seen real abuse.”)
If people in your life are using phrases like these ones to convince you that you’re wrong about what you remember and how you feel, you may be experiencing gaslighting.
3. When You Call Someone Out on Hurtful or Abusive Behavior, Are They Quick to Dismiss Both You and the Situation?
Another way of belittling someone’s experiences and memories is to outright dismiss claims of hurt or abuse.
This includes diverting the conversation, ignoring what you’re saying, and refusing to engage in a conversation about things that have hurt you.
Some red flag phrases for this dismissive behavior are:
“Why do you always have to bring this up?”
“I’m not dealing with this nonsense right now.”