This article will examine everything you need to know about gaslighting, its effects on its victims, and what you can do to stop being a gaslighter.
“You are crazy.”
“You are too sensitive.”
If you often use these phrases, you could be a gaslighter. Gaslighting is a form of manipulation in abusive relationships. It is common in a romantic relationship; however, you can gaslight your family and friends.
You are a gaslighter if you mislead the people around you and create false narratives, making them question themselves. You make the people around you feel like they are losing their sanity. So, how do you stop being a gaslighter if this is you?
To stop being a gaslighter, you need to understand the harmful effects of your behavior. Gaslighting gives you control over your victim; you break down their trust in themselves and make them dependent on you.
Gaslighting is harmful to your victims because it makes them disoriented and hyper-vigilant. It also causes anxiety and depression, in addition to low self-esteem.
Understanding and addressing your gaslighting behavior is the first step to stopping being a gaslighter.
Gaslighting is manipulating your victims to gain power over them and make them dependent on you.
You learn gaslighting by watching others. If you are a gaslighter, you may have gained this behavior by watching people get what they want and control people. A gaslighter needs to have people do what they want, and other people’s needs do not matter.
People with personality disorders like narcissistic personality disorder are more prone to be gaslighters.
According to a 2020 study, people with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) lack empathy, need attention, and think they are better than everyone. If you have these qualities, you may be a gaslighter.
Gaslighting is most common in romantic and heterosexual relationships where the man exacts power over the woman.
Gaslighting happens slowly; during the honeymoon phase, the gaslighter gains their partner’s trust and begins to suggest their partner is not reliable or they are mentally unstable.
As time passes, the victim starts questioning their ability to make decisions and wonder if their partner is right and if they are mentally unstable.
Eventually, the victim will stop believing in themselves and give the abuser more power. They will rely on the abuser for all their decisions. They will also feel like they cannot leave the abusive relationship as they think they cannot make their own decisions.
Gaslighting does not only occur in romantic relationships; some of the other interactions gaslighting can occur include the following;
Child-parent relationships– abusive parents will gaslight their children to undermine them. They will not listen to their children and dismiss their feelings.
For instance, if a child cries, the parents will tell them they are too sensitive. If a parent tells a child to do something and the child asks, they will say, “because I said so,” without explanation.
Medical gaslighting– according to CPTSD Foundation, medical gaslighting is when a medic dismisses your health concerns. They may tell the patient they are imagining the symptoms or give curt answers to their questions, hurting their esteem.
Racial gaslighting is when you apply gaslighting techniques to a racial group to discredit them. For instance, they may say an activist campaigning for change is crazy.
Political gaslighting is where a political figure manipulates information to control people. For instance, a politician may imply that critics of their administration are crazy or create controversies to deflect attention from their flaws.
Institutional gaslighting– this happens in institutions where they portray whistle-blowers as incompetent or institutions that lie to employees about their rights.
The emotional and psychological impact of gaslighting on the victim
Gaslighting is a psychological abuse and will affect the victim long after they cut ties with their abuser.
According to Dr. Amelia Kelley, a trauma-informed therapist, and co-author of What I Wish I Knew: Surviving and Thriving After an Abusive Relationship, gaslighting has many long-term effects. Some of the effects include;
- Low self-esteem
- PTSD symptoms
- Suicidal thoughts
Recognizing Gaslighting Behavior
In order to stop being a gaslighter, you must recognize your gaslighting behavior. Unfortunately, many gaslighters deny they are gaslighting and will, therefore, not stop gaslighting others. So, how do you know you are a gaslighter?
Here are a few signs you are a gaslighter.
- You dismiss other people’s feelings– if you often dismiss the feelings of people around you, you are a gaslighter. For instance, if your partner comes to you with a problem, you tell them they are being “too sensitive.” You are a gaslighter.
- You think you are better than everyone– if you always think you are better than other people around you and want to have all the power, you are a gaslighter.
- Countering– if you make people question their memory, make up new details about the situation, or blame them for what happened. You are a gaslighter.
- Withholding– you refuse to have discussions with people, and you accuse them of trying to confuse you if they talk about a situation.
- Deny– if someone brings up something you did, you deny it or tell them you don’t remember.
- Diversion– when someone brings up your behavior, you change the subject or say they are making it up.
- Discrediting– you discredit your partner. For example, you tell people they can’t remember things; they make things up, or they get confused.
Understanding The Motivations Behind Gaslighting Behavior
Why do people gaslight? Gaslighting is about control. The gaslighter wants to have all the power and weaken the spirit of their victims. A gaslighter wants to appear blameless and create chaos in the victim’s mind.
According to Stephanie Sarkis, psychotherapist and author of Gaslighting: Recognize Manipulative And Emotionally Abusive People And Break Free, there are two main reasons gaslighters behave the way they do.
Sarkis says, “It is either a planned effort to gain control and power over another person, or it is because someone was raised by a parent or parents who were gaslighters, and they learned these behaviors as a survival mechanism.”
On the other hand, if your parents showed you that you could do no wrong, you are likely to become a gaslighter.
Gaslighting may stem from personality disorders like narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). If a person has NPD, they will have a false sense of self-importance, which makes them manipulate others to get their way. As a result, they will not accept blame even if they are to blame.
Avoiding accountability is another motivation for gaslighting. Gaslighters do not want to be accountable for their actions.
For instance, if you are cheating and your partner asks you about it, you tell them they are crazy, or it is all in their head.
The Impact On Relationships And Communication
Gaslighting has adverse effects on any relationship. Some of the negative effects of gaslighting in relationships and communication include the following;
Gaslighting causes distrust in a relationship. If you gaslight your partner, they will not trust themselves as you will make them doubt their abilities.
2. Communication Breakdown
If you gaslight your partner, they will avoid talking to you. Communication is the cornerstone of a relationship; without it, the relationship will fall apart. When you gaslight your partner, you cannot have a constructive conversation.
3. Unresolved Conflicts
You will have many unresolved conflicts if you cannot communicate with your partner. Moreover, you will blame your partner for everything and deny doing anything wrong.
For instance, I have an ex who was a bit older than me; he was 13 years older, and every time we argued, it would lead to him telling me that I was young and needed to grow up. As a result, we never solved any conflicts, and after a while, I got tired of him belittling me and walked away.
4. Vulnerability Stops
One cannot be vulnerable with someone who makes them feel bad about themselves. So, if you gaslight your partner, they will stop being vulnerable with you as they do not trust you to acknowledge their feelings. After all, no one wants to be told they are too sensitive or crazy if they convey their feelings.
5. Mental Health Issues
When you gaslight your partner, you will bring about mental health issues in your partner. They will develop anxiety and depression.
If you continue gaslighting them for a long time, they may develop PTSD. When your partner is anxious or depressed, they will not want to see you or communicate with you.
6. Creates Confusion
When there is gaslighting in a relationship, the victim gets confused as they do not know what is real and what is not. As a result, they question every decision they make and end up feeling unstable.
For instance, if you keep telling your partner that they do not remember things correctly, they will doubt their ability to remember situations. Moreover, if you deny things, they will not know if what they know is real or not anymore. It leaves the victim in a state of confusion.
Steps to Stop Being A Gaslighter
If you are a gaslighter, you must amend your ways. It is a toxic trait and affects the people around you negatively. If you want to stop being a gaslighter, here are a few steps you can take.
1. Apologize and take responsibility for past gaslighting behavior.
Acknowledging your mistakes is the first step to change. If you want to stop being a gaslighter, you should take responsibility for your behavior and apologize to the people you gaslit.
Stop making excuses for your behavior and start making amends. Talk to the people you have gaslit and ask for their forgiveness. Remember, the best apology is changed behavior, so change your behavior after taking responsibility for your mistakes.
2. Learn To Communicate Effectively And Assertively
To stop being a gaslighter, you should learn to communicate effectively and assertively. Learn to stand up for yourself while respecting the other person, their rights, and their opinions. Assertive people can communicate without upsetting other people or getting upset.
- Talking openly about your feelings– you should speak honestly and openly about your feelings and explain the problems you are going through.
- Actively listening to your partner– you should strive to listen to your partner and understand their perspective actively. It shows empathy and emotional intelligence.
- Be grateful for everything your partner does, no matter how little.
- Take responsibility for your mistakes and apologize for them.
3. Building Accountability And Actively Working On Change
Be accountable for your actions and avoid shifting blame. You can only stop gaslighting by taking responsibility for your actions.
If you made a mistake, accept it and ask for forgiveness instead of denying it and making others feel like they are crazy for seeing the mistakes.
4. Practice Empathy And Active Listening
To stop being a gaslighter, you should practice empathy and active listening. Some of the active listening skills you can practice include;
- Being fully present in the conversation enables you to concentrate on what your partner is saying. Put away your phone and any other distractions. Avoid zoning out of the conversation and give all your attention to the speaker.
- Pay attention to gestures– when communicating, pay attention to the non-verbal cues of your speaker. These will help you better understand their state of mind. For example, it will tell you if they are nervous, happy, or sad. You should also use non-verbal cues to show you are paying attention. Smile, nod, and lean in towards your speaker.
- Maintain eye contact– eye contact shows that you are present at the moment and concentrating on what your speaker is saying. You should hold eye contact for at least five seconds and look away briefly; otherwise, it will get weird and uncomfortable.
- Ask open-ended questions to help your speaker open up more. It also allows you to learn more than closed-ended yes and no questions. Open-ended questions show you are interested in the conversation.
- Reflect on what they are saying. Listen and think about what your speaker is saying before you answer, do not listen to answer but to understand. It reduces miscommunication and makes the speaker feel validated.
5. Encourage Open Communication
If you want to stop being a gaslighter, encourage open and honest communication with the people around you. Give them space and time to communicate their feelings without fear of judgment.
6. Seek Professional Help
If you want to stop being a gaslighter and have tried everything, you should seek professional help. A professional will help you understand why you are a gaslighter. If it stems from your childhood, they will help you heal the childhood trauma so you may stop being a gaslighter. ‘
Moreover, a professional will give you tools to help you make amends and stop being a gaslighter.
They will also talk to your partners to help them heal from gaslighting and show them how to recognize signs of gaslighting.
Additionally, a professional will help you recognize triggers that bring about your gaslighting tendencies. They will also show you how to manage your emotions and develop healthy coping mechanisms.
Final Thoughts on how to Stop Being A Gaslighter
Gaslighting is a form of manipulation in abusive relationships. Gaslighting is toxic and has negative effects on a relationship. It breaks down communication and causes distrust and unresolved conflicts.
Moreover, gaslighting causes adverse mental health issues to the victims, including PTSD, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, trauma, self-doubt, and even suicidal thoughts.
Gaslighting is common in people with personality disorders like a narcissistic personality disorder. Additionally, if your parents were gaslighters, you are more likely to be one. Another motivator of gaslighting is a lack of accountability.
Signs of a gaslighter include; thinking you are better than others, dismissing other people’s feelings, denying your mistakes, and discrediting other people.
To stop being a gaslighter, you should take responsibility and apologize for your mistakes. It will also help if you practice active listening and assertiveness. Finally, it would be best to encourage open and honest communication with people around you.
If you need help to stop being a gaslighter, seek professional help. A professional will help you recognize your triggers and work towards healing.
Photo by Alex Green on Pexels.com
Sarah Williams is an author at CandidHaven.com she is an expert in human psychology having graduated with an M.S. in Psychology.
Sarah has extensive experience in relationships and dating therapy having worked for over 6 years with different groups of people including teens, dating couples, and married people.
She is a lover of life, and self-development and believes everyone deserves to be in a fulfilling relationship. Sarah loves reading self-help books and doing research on human psychology.