Gaslighting is an insidious and dangerous form of emotional abuse used to manipulate, gain power and control, and cause you to doubt your perception or reality. Become aware that this behavior is due to the abuser’s shame and insecurity, not yours. You will begin to feel frustrated and angry trying to have a conversation. They will not be able to hear how you feel without making you feel that you have done something wrong. The gaslighter is very good at maintaining a victim mentality, especially when challenged or questioned. Eventually, you may become very reactive and try to defend yourself which pleases them because it makes you appear even more unstable. It is often called crazy-making behavior.
The gaslighter will challenge your memory, tone, words, and intelligence in manipulative ways, undermining your confidence. The longer this goes on, the deeper your self-doubt and trust in your own instincts can become. You may become very confused and even question whether you are going crazy. A person who comes off as charming and seductive may also be a liar and manipulator. It may take you time to wake up to this abuse because in between the undermining manipulative behaviors you may feel sincerely, comforting and loving expressions. This serves to confuse you even more and it is done deliberately.
If you have loved, trusted and formed an attachment, it will be easier to believe the lies in the beginning and question yourself. It is often easier to stay in denial than to accept the truth and begin to move toward a breakup. Recognize patterns in a person’s behaviors and see it for what it is by seeking support and validation. In this, you will begin to recover your power and self-esteem and become less reactive.
Steps to Break Free
- See it Clearly – You can not begin to heal until you accept that there is a problem in the behavior dynamic. Notice the patterns and cycles when this behavior is likely to happen. This begins by educating yourself and seeking support. The more clear you become, the less reactive you will be to the abuse.
- Recognize the Grief – Accepting the character issues of someone important to you creates loss. You will not be able to engage in a close relationship with someone who does not know how to relate in mature ways. The grief process will lead to acceptance that you can not change anyone but yourself.
- Boundaries – Learn to implement boundaries to protect yourself and shut the behavior down. Detach from engaging with the behavior and create safety for you to discern how to move forward.
What does grace have to do with it?
For the woman, or man, led by the Spirit, the available grace of strength and wisdom to help you discern is invaluable. In prayer and meditation, Spirit longs to give you the answers you seek, but you have to create the stillness to listen and be led. It may even mean that you are led to the right professional for you to share your story with or help you heal.
There is great discernment, soul searching, and professional counsel needed to determine if the person who is abusing you can take responsibility and make changes. The perpetrator may be too high on the spectrum of narcissism, or sociopathy, to illicit lasting – if any – change. Listen to your body. Give yourself the time you need to understand your role in allowing it.
Feeling emotionally safe in a relationship so that you can grow into wholeness is God’s desire for you. Ask for the grace you need to find your clarity and truth.
Thank you, Donna, for sharing this powerful article!