We rely heavily on our experiences, and phrases like: “I’ve seen it with my own eyes,” or “I remember this time…” start the conversation about a past event. After all, you trust that what you’ve experienced is true… right? But what if you’re told that you’re “wrong?” No matter what happened in the past, there’s that one person who “remembers it right” or knows something that you don’t. You probably have heard the word gaslighting or manipulation before. These are situations where your experiences are invalidated and questioned in a way to manipulate you. Standing your ground is hard, so we’ll be looking at five ways to respond to it.
But First, What Is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a form of manipulation where the manipulator – or gaslighter – tries to convince you that you cannot trust yourself; your memories, feelings, and experiences are all “wrong” and theirs are “right.” They may convince you that you are fabricating scenarios, exaggerating details, or overreacting to situations. Therapist Alyssa Mancao from MBGRelationships in 2021 explains that to further their false narrative, they may lie about details, minimize feelings, or bring in other people to their side (Mindbodygreen 2021). The goal is to win your trust so that you are dependent on them than yourself. This type of manipulation can be extremely distressing to the person experiencing it. So what are some ways you can fight against it?
Boundaries are important for your well-being in any situation. When dealing with someone trying to gaslight you, it’s important to maintain and uphold clear boundaries to protect yourself. Staying firm in what you believe, experience, and feel may make the gaslighter more frantic, but letting them know that you will walk away or discontinue the conversation if they keep manipulating the situation will keep them from having power over you. It is also important to make sure you follow through on your boundaries if they don’t stop to discourage them from their behavior. Therapist Alyssa Mancao states that gaslighting falls under a spectrum and so do gaslighters. Some are aware of what they’re doing while others do not. A gaslighter’s intentions can be all across the board and can be hard to guess. Manacao argues that regardless of what they’re thinking or what their motives are, you should set and uphold your boundaries to limit their power and protect yourself (Manacao 2021).
Remain Confident in Yourself
Confidence is always key, especially when dealing with a gaslighter. When someone makes you doubt yourself and how you think, feel, or remember, it is important to identify that this is manipulation, and to hold true to what you believe in. Part of this can be achieved through self care practices like talking about your situation with others, writing down your thoughts and feelings, and affirming to yourself that your perceptions are valid. When someone is gaslighting you, they are trying to kill your self-confidence, so fighting against this will be in your favor. Crystal Raypole, a psychology writer from Healthline in 2022 explains that while it’s true that you cannot remember every small detail in a situation, you’ll likely remember the important details that the gaslighter is trying to make you forget. She states that it’s important to do whatever it takes to maintain your confidence in your experience. You may never seem to satisfy the gaslighter, but you can feel assured to yourself that you stood your ground.
Have Proof, If Available
Having evidence in any form; screenshots, recordings, etc. is helpful in multiple ways, but not necessarily how you think. It’s very likely that your gaslighter will not be convinced by anything; that no amount of evidence will ever convince them to change their mind. However, it is affirming for yourself to know that your perception is validated and that you’re not going “crazy.” So while providing proof to someone may or may not be effective, it’s important to be firm in your stance and to follow through with your boundaries to remove yourself from a situation. Therapist Alyssa Manacao suggests journaling your experiences and your thoughts about them. She suggests that in doing this, you will build your confidence in your perspective AND have a record of events in a situation.
Talk with Others
Having a strong network of people, whether they are family, friends, or mental health professionals is crucial. On one hand they can help affirm your beliefs and build your self confidence. On the other, they can provide you emotional support when dealing with a toxic situation. Another benefit is that having other people involved in a gaslighting situation can help dissuade the gaslighter as they may find it harder to manipulate multiple people. Therapist Alyssa Manaco argues that many gaslighters try to isolate you and make you dependent on them, so they’ll likely work at minimizing your circle. Talking with others helps keep you independent from them and less likely to trust their judgement over your own.
Know When to Walk Away
You may feel hopeless when dealing with a gaslighter. They will take every opportunity to manipulate you, despite your best efforts. Knowing when to walk away, whether it’s from the conversation or for good is important. Additionally taking steps to improve your situation may include talking with your HR department if the situation is work related, legal consultation, or turning to a mental health professional to help process your emotions. Psychologist Dr. Gabriela Sadurni Rodriguez from The Psychology Group Fort Lauderdale emphasizes the importance of doing this, and the importance of being confident in yourself. Gaslighting is extremely taxing on you mentally and emotionally. Over time, you may start to feel that your manipulator is right and will find yourself turning to them before anyone else. It’s important to keep within your support network and make steps to take their power away. Being confident in your experiences, setting boundaries, and walking away when they’re violated is important. Often times, their goals are to gain complete control over you, so every instance where you fight against it, is a step forward for you.
While gaslighting along with all the other types of manipulation are extremely hard to navigate, it’s important to do so for your wellbeing. Getting in touch with the right people, resources, and professionals can be a great way to find your way out of these situations and improve your life. While you may feel that all hope is lost, working side by side with the right person will help you rebuild a new life. Let us know what your thoughts are on this topic. Are there any other tips you can think of? Let us know in the comments!
- Mindbodygreen. (2021, April 27). What Do You Say When Someone’s Gaslighting You? A Therapist’s Go-To Comebacks. www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/how-to-deal-with-gaslighting
- Raypole, C. (2021, September 9). Think You’re Being Gaslit? Here’s How to Respond. Healthline. www.healthline.com/health/how-to-deal-with-gaslighting#involve-others
- Rodríguez, G. S. (2021, May 14). Gaslighting: How to Recognize it and What to Say When it Happens. The Psychology Group Fort Lauderdale. thepsychologygroup.com/gaslighting-how-to-recognize-it-and-what-to-say-when-it-happens/