by: E.B. Johnson
Are you being abused by a gaslighter in your life? There are all kinds of ways in which these toxic individuals can wreak havoc on our happiness and our futures. From blame shifting to denial and distraction — being honest and upfront is the only way to stand up for ourselves and protect ourselves from the gaslighters and other toxic abusers that exist all around us.
The underhanded tactics gaslighters use against you.
When someone uses gaslighting against us, they undermine our sense of reality and refuse to take accountability for their actions. There are certain tactics that these individuals like to use against us, secretly, so that they can manipulate our emotions and take advantage of us. Are you being gaslit by someone that you love? Admitting the signs is a necessary first step in protecting ourselves against them.
Playing blame games
Does someone close to you always reverse the blame when they do something wrong? Usually this happens when they accuse you of doing the bad things they’re doing. Maybe (out of fear of getting caught in an affair) they accuse you of cheating with someone at work. It’s all about avoiding accountability when there are real issues to be resolved.
Deflection comes standard
Deflection and distraction are favorite tactics of the gaslighter. Both sneaky and snide, this usually takes place when you try to confront the gaslighter about their behavior. When you bring up their issues, they may deflect by bringing a totally unrelated mistake of your own. They can also change the subject in order to deflect and avoid taking responsibility.
Detachment from reality
Gaslighters as especially good at denying reality. A sneaky tactic, they will wiggle their way out of accountability by lying about facts. No matter what evidence you present them with, they will deny it to the point that you feel crazy. They don’t care about your reality. They live in a reality of their own, and in that reality they aren’t ever wrong. It’s always someone else’s fault.
Because a gaslighting person is incapable of taking responsibility for their actions, beliefs, or behaviors, they often have to rely on invalidation in order t make themselves look better. They will cut you down to others and call you “crazy” to your face, all in an effort to sew the seeds of doubt that make you look incompetent or unreliable.
A gaslighter has to keep their enemies on the back foot in order to wriggle out of the trouble they always get themselves into. One secretive way they do this is by undermining their competitors, and sabotaging them in the eyes of others. Does your loved one go out of the way to make you look bad — even when you aren’t fighting? Public humiliation and undermining is always a red flag to be aware of.
How to protect yourself from gaslighters.
You can’t afford to ignore the gaslighter in your life. You need to take steps to protect yourself against them. Create rock-solid boundaries that you don’t let them overstep. Open up to people you can trust. Build up your self-esteem, and keep a record of their bad behavior. Above all else, though, disengage from their bad behavior and consider yourself and your future. Is this really want you want? People who don’t honor you don’t have to stay in your life.
1. Build more solid boundaries
There’s no denying the power of boundaries in dealing with gaslighters. Setting boundaries allows us to protect ourselves and communicate our ultimate desires and needs. More than that, it helps sets the tone for the relationship. Gaslighters are less likely to sneak around and try their secretive tactics when they know they’re dealing with someone who recognizes their boundaries and stands by it.
Build up rock-solid boundaries and stop allowing the gaslighter to transgress those boundaries. What you say goes as far as behavior and treatment of your physical and emotional bodies. Gaslighters will deflect and deny in order to push you around, and they will even seek to invalidate your integrity.
Draw the line. Make it clear that the only people who are allowed in your life are those who are respectful, and those who take accountability for their poor behavior (or the mistakes that they make). The more concrete your boundaries are, the harder it becomes for the gaslighter to work in secret. Stand strong in yourself so that this toxic individual can’t separate you from yourself. You have a right to expect respect from the people you bring into your life.
2. Open up to someone you can trust
Gaslighters work hard to confuse us and undermine our sense of reality. That’s why it’s so important to open up to others. We can’t always see the chaos that’s going on with the gaslighter in our lives. Speaking up to someone we can really trust is key in getting a better sense of where we’re at and what we’re experiencing. Explain what’s going no, and don’t hold back for love or loyalty. Explore the situation and the right way forward will become more clear to you.
Open up to a friend that you can trust. If possible, seek to invest in someone who is removed from the situation. The more distant they are, the better. Otherwise you risk putting someone in the middle, or engaging with someone whom the gaslighter has already gotten their manipulative tentacles into.
If you can’t find someone that you trust, sit down with your counselor or therapist and explain what’s going on. Describe the gaslighting behavior that’s occurring and how it’s making you feel. This person is an ideal confidante, because they are removed to a higher place of perspective. Their wisdom and experience in similar situations can help highlight solutions you didn’t consider along the way. Don’t suffer in silence and don’t suffer alone. Let someone help you on your journey to freeing yourself from the gaslighter.
3. Increase your self-esteem
There’s no moving beyond the gaslighter without a solid sense of self-esteem. You need to know who you are and what you want, and it needs to be so clear to you that you don’t allow anyone else to interfere. Believe in your right to take up space. Beyond that, love yourself and hold yourself in the highest of regards. When you raise your self-esteem, you lower the chance that someone (like a gaslighter) will be able to upset the balance…and your happiness.
Rebuild your self-esteem. You need to be secure in yourself. The gaslighter capitalizes on our insecurities and makes us feel weak so that they can avoid responsibility and maintain control. It’s all a mind game. Being secure in self is like lining your mind with impenetrable armor.
Fall in love with yourself. Become your own best friend, lover, and champion. Be ready to stand up for yourself because you genuinely want the best for yourself. Celebrate your body, your mind, and all the victories that have brought you this far. Accept yourself as a whole and complete person with a mind of your own. Sure, all of this takes time — but it is one of the greatest defenses against gaslighting. The clearer (and more confident) we are in ourselves, it becomes impossible for the gaslighter to shift reality around us.
Putting it all together…
Are you dealing with a gaslighter in your life? Their tactics are secretive and severe. They undermine your happiness by denying reality and devaluing your integrity in the eyes of others. When you’re dealing with a gaslighter, you come to feel as though you’re crazy and you can even lose touch with your sense of self. These are not people to be tolerated lightly. You can’t afford to suffer their abuses if you want to be connected in peace and mutual respect.
Create rock-solid boundaries that you can stand behind. No matter what the abusive or toxic person wants, stand beside your values and the facts of the situation. Don’t let them disrespect you. Open up and share what’s going on with people you can trust. They can help you reflect on what needs to happen next, and they can also help you rebuild your self-esteem. Keep a record of their bad behavior and refer back to it often so that you can see the patterns unfolding. Before they totally destroy your sense of self, disengage and look at what’s going on. Stop trying to force them to see reason. Consider what you want for yourself and your future. The best way to deal with a gaslighter is to remove them from your life.
- Stark, C. (2019). Gaslighting, Misogyny, and Psychological Oppression. The Monist, 102(2), 221-235. doi: 10.1093/monist/onz007
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