Recently a woman reached out to me saying that she had caught her husband on a date with another woman. As she watched him and the other woman embrace and kiss, she felt a rage overcoming her body. Yet, instead of confronting him then and there, she decided to wait until he arrived home.
Armed with photos she accused him of cheating on her and asked him how many other times it had happened. He shrugged and answered, “I wouldn’t have cheated on you if you gave me what I needed in this relationship.”
Suddenly she felt like it was her fault all over again.
The reality is that gaslighting can cross boundaries. I have learned that even if you know that someone is gaslighting then you need specific methods to protect yourself.
Sometimes we can’t just cut a toxic person out of our life. Perhaps your co-worker is gaslighting you, or it’s a family member… or it’s in your relationship. Ultimately you have to be on guard for your own heart and your own mind and practice discernment to figure out who in your life is emotionally abusive.
Here are four ways you can protect yourself against gaslighting no matter what situation you find yourself in:
#1. Constantly keep your guard up
When I was younger, I would let anyone in and believed that everyone had good intentions. This naive outlook made me a prime target for a manipulative older man.
My guard was down because I believed the best in him. At the time I didn’t realize that he had been gaslighting me from the very beginning. I had no idea what was happening… I just began feeling confused, disoriented. and anxious.
Then, I began to do my own research and learned that I was being manipulated. I began putting my guard up and his attempts to confuse me no longer worked. Eventually, I ended things but didn’t let any of my emotions out when I did. I knew that if I showed any weakness he would try to sucker me back in, so I said my break-up pitch and walked away from that toxic situation.
#2. Hold to what you believe to be true
The moment when you start doubting your recollection of events is when the gaslighting allows the manipulator to gain control of the situation.
One of my siblings is toxic and there have been numerous times when he has denied our shared experiences or put his own spin on them to make himself the victim. There is a photo album from a vacation we took when we were young and he still denies events that happened and tries to make me feel crazy when I bring up specific instances.
It doesn’t work because I know what transpired and I don’t let myself doubt that belief. Don’t let someone alter what you know to be your own reality. Continue to strengthen your mental clarity in order to protect yourself against someone manipulating your own thoughts.
#3. Keep a record of events
Years ago I was in a relationship with a narcissist who continually gaslighted me when it came to our finances. I became so frustrated that I was spending all the money and he contributed nothing even though he denied it and said I was exaggerating. I started keeping a record of all of our expenses and calmly showed him.
He conceded slightly and tried to turn the situation around but it was much more difficult for him to gaslight me when I had written proof of my expenses.
I wouldn’t normally recommend confronting someone who is emotionally manipulative (they can spin things in a way that is almost impossible to win) but writing down events is going to allow you to look back to confirm that your reality is what you thought it was, not the web that the manipulator is spinning.
#4. Don’t feel like you have to argue with them
It’s perfectly fine to walk away from a situation or to say that you don’t agree and stop engaging after that point.
Trying to argue with a manipulative person, in general, is exhausting and it’s going to be extremely difficult to ever have a constructive conversation because they only see things their way.
When I tried to argue with my ex there were so many times when I knew that I was right, but I was so exhausted by our conversation that I just stopped responding. My silence would result in him believing that he had, “won,” but in reality, I was saving my energy to start the process of walking away from the relationship.
Manipulation is subtle. Someone will start gaslighting you about the smallest things such as whether or not you locked your car until it’s about bigger things such as your feelings and an event that transpired.
Unfortunately, it’s a technique that is loved by manipulators because it can make their victims doubt themselves, and in turn, give up their power.
Don’t allow that to happen to you. Identify when you feel like someone is causing you to doubt yourself and take the measures needed to ensure you know your own truth.
Once you are confident in your reality and you refuse to let anyone shake that confidence, they lose all of their power over you.