Gaslighting has been on the rapid rise since 2013, reaching its peak when it was dubbed the “buzz word” of 2018. However, in recent years gaslighting has taken a more insidious turn, with people beginning to question if they might be gaslighting themselves.
No, you aren’t being too sensitive.
Yes, you are qualified enough to ask for a raise at your job.
No, you can’t “change” your partner’s toxic traits.
Yes, you can do better.
Gaslighting has become somewhat of a buzz word in the psychological, relationship and self-development spaces of 2021. It’s often used to characterise a form of manipulative behaviour, commonly from parents, friends, bosses, intimate partners, or even medical professionals. However, a new phenomenon has more recently be discovered: the ability to gaslight yourself.
Psychologists classify gaslighting as a manipulation tactic, whereby the manipulator undermines and questions the victims integrity, leading them to doubt their own reality and memory of the situation. It has become such a forewarned pattern of behaviour due to the subtlety of its harm. If someone is continually gaslit, with their perception of self-belief repeatedly minimised, the seeds of self-doubt planted by the gaslighter can be internalised – thus transferring the cycle of being gaslit, to gaslighting yourself.
In simple terms – repeated abuse can cause one to become their own abuser.
What does self-gaslighting look like?
Simply, self-gaslighting can look like the suppression and ignorance of your emotions, thoughts, and intuitive feelings – thus rendering them as “dramatic” or “unnecessary”. More specifically, the Moon and Manifest Podcast notes that a tell-tale sign of self-gaslighting is when one repeatedly second-guesses and rationalises away their intuition. We’re all familiar with the strong gut-feelings we have when we are hurt by someone, or we know we are unhappy in some aspect of our lives. But if someone becomes susceptible to self-gaslighting tendencies, this “intuitive knowing”, becomes no longer a guidance system, but a voice consciously ignored in favour of more sabotaging thoughts.
A classic and common example of this is often seen when an individual is hurt by someone but dismisses their feelings of sadness or offence in the vein of – “I’m being too sensitive about this, it’s not a big deal.”
Self-gaslighting can also manifest in the workplace – with persistent and public critiques of performance, exclusion, gossip and belittling of efforts being internalised to create the perception that one isn’t deserving of working there. To prevent this self-gaslighting-induced imposter syndrome from emerging in the workplace, two more obvious scenarios that demonstrate gaslighting in a working environment could be:
- Your boss doesn’t remember you handing him your report last week, even though you are sure it happened, and you did the work. The gaslighter remains adamant they never got it, which leads you to question whether they are right, and you are misremembering – despite your previous certainty.
- Your boss tells you it isn’t a big deal if you miss the morning briefing, but when you do, they criticise you for it – leading you to question your commitment to the workplace, and worthiness of obtaining the job.
Whether you are experiencing gaslighting in the workplace or in a relationship, the consequences remain the same, and it often results in this internalised behaviour pattern that means the gaslighter no longer needs to do the heavy lifting – but rather you are doing it yourself.
Self-gaslighting in motherhood
Another scenario where self-gaslighting behaviours can manifest, is within mothers who undermine and question their ability to parent. Although gaslighting relationships between parents and children have been widely researched and reported, the ability for a parent to gaslight themselves, is less covered.
As parenting is already a famously challenging time – mothers who are trapped in patterns of self-inflicted gaslighting can begin to doubt their parenting capabilities and downplay the struggles of raising children under the guise of “other people have it worse”. These self-manipulative behaviours are detrimental to the mental health of whoever is experiencing it, however self-gaslighting in parenthood, if left ignored, can lead to more severe afflictions like parental burnout.
There are a myriad of different strategies and processes to try and reverse the entrenchment of gaslighting tendencies in oneself.
The first step to subvert self-gaslighting behaviours, is to become more self-aware. Being self-aware of your surroundings, interactions, thoughts, and feelings can reverse the psychologically distorting effects of self-gaslighting.
Self-awareness is ultimately about being confident in who you are and what you feel – in other words, being assured in your intuition. When one becomes self-aware, they have the ability to recognise the problem – in that they are gaslighting themselves – gain perspective on the origins of problem and begin to understand their feelings objectively.
Affirming your emotions
When one is in the process of understanding their self-sabotaging behaviours, Healthline Australia proposes a process of “affirming emotions” to counteract the aspect of self-gaslighting that tells you your emotions aren’t valid. An example of affirming your emotions when someone gaslights you, can look like this.
- Gaslighting: “I didn’t mean it like that, you’re exaggerating, you’re crazy”
- Self-gaslighting: “Maybe I am crazy. I know they love me, and they wouldn’t have meant it like that.”
- Affirming emotions: “I remember how they worded it and I stand by how it made me feel. They should not have said it.”
If the clutches of self-gaslighting are too entrenched in you that these self-talk methods aren’t working – psychologists strongly recommend Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which focuses on restructuring the way individuals think and process emotions, hoping to lessen the distortion that self-gaslighting causes. It’s important to note that CBT has been likened to gaslighting when not performed properly, as the psychologists attempts to render clients issues as a product of their mental distortion, can sometimes seem like an “it’s all in your head” approach. However, a psychologist or therapist who is aware of the dangers of gaslighting and self-gaslighting, can utilise CBT as a tool to minimise the self-doubt and re-arrange clients’ thoughts in the correct way – without making them feel as though they are “crazy” or at fault.
You are not alone.
Most importantly, if you have been experiencing self-gaslighting, it’s important to know that you are not alone. Gaslighting and self-gaslighting has become one of the most dangerous behaviour manipulations of the past couple of years, and a phenomenon that has been well researched.
It is imperative that if you think you have been subjected to self-gaslighting, reach out for support – whether that be to a trusted friend, partner or professional – and try to begin by validating your feelings. Everyone deserves to feel confident in themselves, their intuition and their relationships, and with the right approach, self-gaslighting won’t stand in the way of that.