Furthermore, gaslighting is commonly used to discredit the lived experiences of mentally ill and neurodivergent folks, which is both abusive and ableist.
In my own personal experience, it’s been used to make me feel as though all of my anger was rooted in my mania, and that all of my reactions to people doing me harm were overreactions.
For example, the most pervasive form of gaslighting I’ve experienced in my home is the “blame everything on the ‘mental illness’” approach. It’s as if because I experience mania, I can never be justifiably angry; or because I experience depression, I can never be sad or hurt about something outside of myself; or because I am neurodivergent, that mine is always the last account to be taken seriously.
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.