If someone in your life cannot (or will not) let you speak to your experiences, and instead insists on turning it into a conversation about themselves, the conversation is not a healthy one.
Some red flag phrases for this tactic are:
“You always make me out to be the bad guy.”
“Constantly bringing stuff like this up makes me feel bad/is hurtful to me.”
“I’m actually the one hurting.”
“You don’t know what abuse is. Saying that I’m abusive is hurtful to me.”
“Pretending I’m hurtful/abusive makes you the bully.”
If these phrases are a constant in your life, if you feel like you’ve been conditioned into mistrusting your own memories and experiences, you have most likely been the victim of gaslighting.
So, What Can I Do?
Now that you understand what gaslighting is and maybe identify with it, it’s time to think about how you can work through and change the situation.
1. Recognize It
The most important, and sometimes hardest, part of dealing with gaslighting is realizing that it’s happening.
If you start to think that you’re experiencing this, go over the warning signs. Make sure you know what the red flags are. And when you’re put into situations where your experiences are dismissed or belittled, start looking for these warning signs.
Take note of the people in your life that make you feel this way.
When you try to bring up feelings of hurt or anger, see if you can take note of particular phrases or behavioral patterns that could indicate that you are being gaslit.
If you start to realize that these phrases and red flags are present in your life, take note of who is saying them, and take note of how often they are being said.
Abuse is a pattern. And once you know how the pattern presents itself, it becomes easier to spot. Once you begin to become aware of this pattern you can start to build up your self-trust again.
2. Trust Yourself
This is much easier said than done.
When you’re a victim of emotional and mental abuse, it’s extremely difficult to put the pieces back together and relearn (or begin to learn) how to trust your own mind.
What can be the most helpful is to constantly remind yourself that these things are being done to manipulate you. Once you’ve spotted the red flags and the patterns, hold onto them. Remind yourself that this is an abuse tactic, and that will help you realize that your inability to trust yourself is not an objective truth.
Actively affirm your memories and experiences. When you’re being told that you “never remember anything right,” for instance, intentionally remind yourself that this isn’t true.
Positive self-affirmations are critical when learning to trust yourself again.
When you are experiencing gaslighting, try to think things along the lines of “I am capable of knowing what I saw/heard/felt,” “This is only being done to hurt me,” and “My feelings are valid.”
3. Push Back
Pushing back is something that isn’t always possible for people. Many people are in situations where they’re financially dependent on their abuser, are minors living with abusive parents, or are at risk for increased abuse and physical violence if they push back.
However, if you’re in a situation where you feel like pushing back is an option, go for it.
Call that person out on it. Let that person know that they’re actively dismissing claims you know to be true. Letting them know that you’re sticking to your guns and standing by what you remember causes the abuser to begin to lose power.
Some quick come backs to push back with include “Ignoring what’s hurting me is abusive,” “Dismissing my feelings won’t make me forget that you’ve hurt me,” and “I know you’re trying to manipulate me, but I stand by what I said/felt/heard/saw.”
These types of phrases bring attention to the patterns and behaviors that those who are gaslighting you don’t want you to see.
And hearing yourself validate your own feelings and experiences will also help you really learn to trust yourself again.
When you have this power – your own sense of truth – stripped away from you, it’s hard to feel like that voice inside your head can do anything but lie to you.