Let’s Talk About Gaslighting

My Notes Through an Insidious Mind Game

Lisa Martens
Jun 28, 2019 · 4 min read
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She is crazy. Photo by Hanna Postova on Unsplash

Here are the best hits from the gaslighters records:

You’re overreacting.
You’re being emotional.
You’re not being logical.

Like touchstones, like a north star, the gaslighter will come back to these statements or some variant of them.

If you come to a person and express your feelings, and they proceed to explain why your feelings are “wrong” or why you shouldn’t have them, then you are encountering gaslighting, my friend.

Take the two conversations. Which is gaslighting?

“This comment my cousin left on my Facebook makes me so angry.”
“It was really petty. I understand it’s upsetting. But we have a nice day planned. Let’s go have a good time, and forget all about it. You can even hide your posts from them from now on so they don’t comment again.”

Versus:

“This comment my cousin left on my Facebook makes me so angry.”
“Why would it make you angry? It’s just a comment on Facebook. If that makes you mad, I don’t even want to tell you what some of my family members say and do. You get upset too easily. You’re so sensitive sometimes. You’re overreacting.”

If the second one feels familiar, perhaps causes you to be irritated, or to feel like you’ve swallowed something metal and pointy, you’ve been gaslit, my friend.

Feelings are not wrong. Feelings do not go away just because someone else had what they think is a “worse” experience. Feelings do not respond to reason.

Feelings respond to understanding. To being heard and respected.

If someone does not make room for your feelings, they are gaslighting you.

Gaslighters like to believe that they are not emotional creatures. That they are rational, and they are right. You are emotional. You are wrong. You are…female.

But the need to constantly be right, the need to constantly feel right, to have those victories, to have that superiority…

is in itself an emotional need.

This can be hard for a gaslighter to understand. But once you see that they need you to be wrong to fuel an emotional need inside of them (and they do not wish to see their needs as emotional), then the powers of gaslighting will stop working on you, my friend.

Many people know by now to avoid someone who says “my ex was crazy.”

But, you may be thinking, what if their ex really was crazy?

My response: A mature person doesn’t talk about their ex that way, even if they were emotionally unstable.

I have a relative whose ex wife did very questionable things. I have another relative whose ex husband had severe anger issues. Neither of these relatives talks badly about their ex.

Instead, they say things like, “I did my best to work things out, but it wasn’t meant to be.”

Someone being emotionally unstable is still no reason to call someone crazy.

Gaslighting is everywhere, and it’s insidious.

Here is a checklist of things that have helped me recognize gaslighting in its tracks:

  1. Am I afraid to tell this person my feelings, or set boundaries?
  2. When I do set boundaries, does this person understand them, or do they belittle them and try to worm around them?
  3. If I tell this person that I am upset, do they try to make it better, or do they seem to relish in the idea that I am wrong for being upset?
  4. Does this person call everyone in their life “crazy” or “emotional” or “sensitive”?
  5. Does this person seem to need to be “technically” right, the same way 1 a.m. is “technically” tomorrow morning instead of late tonight? Does this tendency extend beyond fact and is inappropriately applied to feelings?

Once I realize I’m being gaslit, I do not shrink my feelings. Shrinking feelings is what the gaslighter wants. They want you to back down so they “win” and can keep belittling you and disrespecting boundaries.

You get smaller and smaller.

I let my feelings grow. I’m armed with statements like, “That is what I need, and I’m asking you to respect that, even if you do not understand it. You do not need to understand my feelings or agree with them to respect them.”

This is a logical statement, and it seems to work well for people who may not even realize they are gaslighting. It frames your feelings as logical, in a strange way.

However, if a particular gaslighter wants more control than that, they will become angry. They may try to pick a fight. You’ll really see their true colors then.

They may move on and leave you alone once their tactics fail.

I do not believe every person who does this truly intends to do this. They were raised in environments where discussing feelings was discouraged, where the only acceptable feeling was happiness, and everything else was considered “complaining.”

And so they squished their “negative” feelings down and logic was a useful tool to do this. They rationalized their feelings away.

If you put a lid on gaslighting, and the person straightens out how they communicate with you, you may be introducing them to a whole new way to relate to others. They may begin to understand that they can talk about their own complicated feelings. And that is beautiful.

If you put a lid on gaslighting, and the person does not straighten out, and instead decides to stop talking to you…well, you just saved yourself a lot of grief.

Energy Turtle Expressions

Productive Artists Are Healthy Artists.

Lisa Martens

Written by

Books, articles, tip jar.: https://linktr.ee/lisathewriter 📚 Collab? lisa.snetram@gmail.com

Energy Turtle Expressions

Dispelling the notion of the perpetually suffering genius.

Lisa Martens

Written by

Books, articles, tip jar.: https://linktr.ee/lisathewriter 📚 Collab? lisa.snetram@gmail.com

Energy Turtle Expressions

Dispelling the notion of the perpetually suffering genius.

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