Bipolar 2 From Inside and Out

Healing From Gaslighting

Apparently, gaslighting has become the new “thing” in pop psych circles. We see article after article warning of the dangers of gaslighting and how to spot a gaslighter. I have written a few such articles myself:

Who’s Crazy Now? A Guide to Gaslighting (https://wp.me/p4e9Hv-pm)

Gaslighting and Bipolar Disorder (https://wp.me/p4e9Hv-C2)

When Men Aren’t the Gaslighters (https://wp.me/p4e9Hv-Cu)

Is it time for another? I think so. Now that more people know about gaslighting, they need to know how to heal after the experience, as they would after any kind of emotional abuse.

Because that’s what gaslighting is – emotional abuse. But it’s a specific kind of emotional abuse. In gaslighting, one person in a relationship (romantic or familial) denies the other’s perception of reality and works to convince the gaslightee that he or she is the crazy one in the relationship. As in other forms of emotional abuse, the gaslighter may try to isolate the victim from friends and relatives, give intermittent reinforcement (insincere apologies) that draw the victim back into the relationship, or denigrate the person with insults.

But the heart of gaslighting is that denial of the other person’s reality. The abuser says, in effect: You can’t trust your own feelings. My view of the world is accurate and yours isn’t. You’re crazy. (Of course, the gaslighter may also use the familiar techniques of emotional abuse as well: isolation, insults, projection, and belittling.) But gaslighting is unique because the perpetrator distorts a person’s world view, sense of self-worth, and belief in him- or herself.

Healing from gaslighting is not easy, but it can be done. Here is some advice from me, a person who was a victim of gaslighting but is now healing.

Get as far away from the gaslighter as you can. Yes, this may mean cutting off contact with a family member, if that’s who is doing the gaslighting. It may mean leaving town. It does mean making a sincere and lasting emotional break.

Do not maintain contact with the gaslighter. You may think that once you have broken free from the gaslighter, he or she can do no further harm. This is just an invitation to more emotional battering.

Name the abuse. Say to yourself – and possibly to a trusted person – this was gaslighting. I was emotionally abused and tricked into thinking I was crazy. My worldview was denied and my thoughts and emotions were said to be invalid.

Feel the feelings. It may be some time before you can admit to or even experience the emotions that gaslighting brings. Your first reaction may be relief (at least I’m out of that!), but there may be years of anger, frustration, fear, and rage lurking behind that. It may take work to surface those feelings and feel them and recognize that they are valid.

Get some help. This can be a therapist who specializes in treating victims of emotional abuse or it can be a supportive friend, family member, or religious counselor. It should be someone who can listen nonjudgmentally, validate your perceptions of reality, and sympathize with your situation.

Do not try to get revenge. This is just another way of reconnecting with your gaslighter. It gives the person another opportunity to “prove” that you are crazy.

Develop new relationships. It may seem like there is no one in your world who will understand and be supportive. For a while, you may not be able to trust enough to have another close friend or lover. You may have a lot of healing to do first. But remember that gaslighters are in the minority; most people don’t do that to people they profess to care about.

Give it time. It may take years to fully get over the experience. (I know it did for me.) Maybe don’t go directly into a rebound relationship. You need time and space to work through your feelings and rebuild your perception of reality.

Just know that gaslighting doesn’t have to be a way of life. It can end when you gather the strength to break away from it. You can heal and take back what you know to be true – that you are a person who is worthy of love. That your perceptions and feelings are valid. That you don’t have to live by someone else’s view of what is real. That you are not crazy.

 

Comments on: "Healing From Gaslighting" (8)

  1. Thanks for validating me. It is definitely true how detrimental gaslighting can be, but there’s hope for healing, as you so eloquently describe. I still struggle with not initiating contact with the people who gaslghted me the most (my parents). I don’t feel going no contact is an option, but I hope I’ll learn at leas tnot to initiate contact.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was in touch with my gaslighter too for a while, because I thought I owed him money (another invalid perception he fostered). Then I realized that I was just prolonging things. But I know it’s harder with family.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. After 11 years of distance from my ex, who has been able to continue the abuse through our children, I am finally learning about this form of abuse. I recently got to have a good conversation with his latest ex, who with support from friends and family, recognised the abuse much quicker than I and kicked him out. He was successful in isolating me from everyone and everything that I held dear (punishment for leaving him), so I have just struggled on trying to figure out what was wrong with me. Within a few days I have had clarity and confirmation that I have indeed been a victim of real abuse, and now I finally have someone (an ally) who understands exactly what I’ve been through – his wiser recent ex! She is so lovely and has opened my eyes. Funny timing that old friends who shunned me are now admitting that they were wrong. I think if they hadn’t recognised my good heart and intentions over 20 years of friendship, then they’re not worthy of my time after 11 years of isolation. It’s nice to hear of their regret though. Should I reconnect?

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    • It’s up to you, of course, but I would. I have friends that have fallen away that I would dearly love to be in touch with again. But you don’t have to decide right away. Give yourself more time to heal before you make any sweeping decisions.

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      • I have previously reached out to my ex best friend, at crucial times, when we both lost our beloved mothers etc. She seemed receptive then but never followed up. She’s now telling my daughter of her regret but when urged to get in touch she said she’d have to think about it and that maybe it’s been too long (even though she’s missed me heaps 🤔). I’m definitely going to leave that to her to decide. Others have reached out, which has been heartwarming.

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  3. Thank you for posting this it was exactly what I needed to hear. I finally l left my job after being gaslighted by my boss. It was a horribly emotional experience. It has been over 4 months since I left and I still have anxiety from it.

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