A term that’s popping up more and more often these days is G A S L I G H T I N G.
Have you heard anyone talk about this? Have you experienced gaslighting yourself?
The term “gaslighting” has been used… to describe efforts to manipulate someone’s perception of reality.
~ from Wikipedia
Gaslighting is often referred to as a tactic of narcissists
Which is true. But an even bigger truth is that gaslighting is everywhere.
It’s so much a part of our culture, that its become a normal way of speaking and relating. Which can make relationships icky and difficult to understand!
But let’s take a look at other examples of where gaslighting shows up in our culture
Women’s fashion magazines have been gaslighting us for decades, telling us what beauty is and isn’t. What’s hot and what’s not. What’s in fashion and what you absolutely can’t wear or do. Gaslighting is marketing that triggers feelings of FOMO, or of being not good enough. In fact, the entire “beauty” industry is based on gaslighting women into believing they aren’t beautiful enough.
Trashy gossip mags gaslight people into believing the “facts” they print about celebrities. When in most cases those stories are total rubbish made up to sell more magazines and convince you that you know stuff about famous people. So-called reputable news sources commonly publish information that’s untrue, but people buy into it because it’s in the newspaper.
Right now, it’s popular for those who find Greta Thunberg unbelievable to gaslight her. To say she can’t be who she is. That she’s just a puppet. Dismissing her because of her Aspergers and/or because of her age. This attempt to change the narrative around Greta’s identity is gaslighting.
And then there’s the politicians of the world. They’re so busy gaslighting each other and their constituents that no one can trust a word most of them say!
Gaslighting is also when someone uses their authority to convince you of their version of the truth
To convince you that what you’re thinking and feeling is WRONG. That they are right, and they know better.
Recently I found myself replying to a well known author’s post on Facebook, in which he claimed the only right way to treat and heal trauma is via a modality he is trained in. Basically any other practitioner of other modalities are in their ego, and they could be dangerous, and you should “beware”.
I wasn’t having any of that.
I asked him to give his readers tools and useful knowledge instead of offering up fear mongering without any ways of learning how to actually be more aware. So I thought I’d take my own advice…
So, how do we combat gaslighting?
First, we have to be able to detect what’s going on. It helps to keep a check on your boundaries, and make sure you’re not handing authority or power over to anyone, and to do the ongoing work to develop discernment.
I’ve talked about boundaries a lot on my blog, and with clients in my clinic. I’m convinced it’s The Lesson of Our Time. Good boundaries mean we can deal with power dynamics in our interpersonal relationships in a way that’s healthy and respectful for everyone involved. Including yourself!
Basically if you’re looking at anyone, whether they’re a friend, lover, practitioner, boss, doctor, teacher or anyone else through rose-coloured glasses, then you’ve already handed them your power.
And anytime you hand over your power, you’ve opened your boundaries, ripe for some boundary violations.
I’ve done it. We’ve all done it. We’re not taught about boundaries or discernment as part of our education.
The only way we learn is to reflect on previous experiences, and learn to trust ourselves and our intuition (which can be a powerful guide).
Eventually, you learn to say NO. To reject the version of events being peddled.
No thanks. That’s not my reality!
Discernment is a useful skill
Discernment helps us to listen with more clarity to what people are saying and/or observe what they’re doing.
If someone’s words and actions don’t match up, that’s an instant red flag, right?
Here are some other Red Flag Moments:
- When someone puts a lot of energy into convincing you their opinion is right.
- When someone takes a position of “I am right, and I am more right than anyone else”.
- When someone repeats “facts” with a sense of authority but can’t actually back up what they’re saying.
- When someone seems to be applying pressure for you to believe their version of events.
There’s dozens of possible red flags to look out for, and the key is actually learning about yourself. What are you susceptible to? What tends to impress you?
Those are your triggers, because if someone can dazzle you with their knowledge or opinions in those areas, then you’re likely to believe them without ever seeing any proof around what they’re saying or their authenticity. Generally speaking, we want to believe we’re being told the truth. It suits our survival patterns to believe we can trust in what someone is saying or doing.
Additionally, highly sensitive people – which is a LOT of people these days – tend to be people-pleasers, and so they’re more likely to believe what someone says, even if it’s total BS.
Other examples of gaslighting can be highly insidious
Such as when a parent conditions a child to believe the stories they tell the child about themselves.
If a parent has unresolved trauma patterns, inherited belief systems they haven’t worked through, and/or any kind of mental illness or personality disorder, then it’s likely that they will gaslight their children – intentionally or not.
For example: many children were brought up being repeatedly told who they are…
You’re stupid; you’re annoying; you’re too sensitive; you need to stop acting like XYZ; you’re the clumsy one; you don’t know when to stop; you always have to have the last word; you should be more/less like your sibling. And so on.
It might not have even been malicious. This sort of thing can just be parents doing what they learned from their own parents, and passing on the behaviour unconsciously.
Unfortunately, impressionable young minds hearing words like this over and over again can’t help but assume what they’re being told is right. And so their identity forms around false ideas that they’re defective humans. Other people are okay, but just not them.
However, it’s completely untrue.
And it’s all GASLIGHTING
If your childhood was infested with this sort of behaviour, it’s trickier (but not impossible) to learn how to spot gaslighting as an adult. This is because as a young person, you became used to accepting the opinions of people in authority about yourself, as if they were facts.
It’s surprisingly common for children to have been subjected to gaslighting by parents, family members or teachers.
There’s a lot of unlearning to do in these circumstances, but it is absolutely doable. You can learn how to recognise gaslighting for what it is – an attempt to manipulate and control. You can learn what your physical response to gaslighting feels like.
For example: you might find yourself recoiling from the person you’re talking to, even though everything seems perfectly fine on the surface.
The interesting thing is that our bodies often “know” much more quickly than our conscious mind when someone is acting manipulatively. So if you learn to take cues from your gut reactions and feelings, eventually you’ll figure it out much faster.
It comes down to this: taking responsibility for our lives and beliefs
Other people will do what they do, and you can’t control their behaviour.
However, you don’t have to buy in to anything that you’re being told, or sold. You don’t have to believe what someone else says, even if they claim they understand things that no one else does.
Learning to trust and have faith in yourself is the key to developing your discernment, and ability to reject information you’re being fed if its not right for you. That feeling that something’s off is usually never wrong.
So, lovely people, what do you think? What are your experiences of gaslighting?
Amanda (Ambha) Roberts is a Kinesiologist, Intuitive Healer, educator and facilitator based in Melbourne, Australia. She offers Kinesiology sessions both in-person and via Skype/Zoom all over the world.
Amanda facilitates the popular Facebook group - Empowerment for Sensitive Peeps - to support all highly sensitive people and emerging empaths. She is also the co-creator of Adventures of Staria, which includes a series of Staria cards, and an upcoming book for children (including inner children).