How to Survive Gaslighting in a Culture of Manipulation

In the last couple of highly digitalized and social media-driven years, this generation has successfully brought some “miniature” and internalized issues, right in the middle of that Instagram feed spotlight.  What was once “the norm” has since been publicly shamed and called out, especially when it comes to social issues concerning young women and the struggles we face in a seemingly “man-made” world. 

But in the name of equality, we’ve also recognized some issues men face all throughout their upbringing and life in general.

Now, before any major topic reaches the surfaces of interactive apps and angry Twitter mobs, its origin is a quiet storm, bubbling just underneath the surface. We’re talking messy breakups, family frauds, therapist’s offices, and all other forms of emotion in between four walls where love once flew freely. 

Gaslighting, to be exact, is just one of the drops that overflew the cup – resulting in a mass social media discussion that has since been brought into the real world as well. 

What does Gaslighting mean? 

Gaslighting is a humble description of such a big culture of manipulation that lies behind it. In hypothesis, when a person tries to alter someone’s self-perception and memories, uses manipulation tactics and emotional abuse for self-gain, as well as, developing excessive possessiveness in the process, all points to this dark and twisted rabbit hole called Gaslighting. 

In glorified movie magic language, making someone feel like they’re “crazy”, all while lying and hiding truthful evidence is all an act of gaslighting too. And in a culture where information is only one or two clicks away, anyone and everyone can be both a Gaslighter, and a victim

In order to recognize this type of “threat”, the best way to shield yourself from unconscious gaslighting is by verbalizing the oppression. In other words, here are some common…

Gaslighting Phrases

Before getting into some actual phrases and indicators someone is gaslighting you, let’s get one major thing out of the way…

Gaslighting is abuse!

And according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, more than 38 million men and 43 million women will experience some sort of psychological and emotional abuse throughout their lifetime. 

In an attempt to lower that horrifying number all the way down, we as a society need to personalize and then recognize these individuals before they do any actual harm. Here are just some emotionally aggressive verbal cues to keep an eye out on…

  • “You’re just being too emotional and defensive”!

Granted, some people tend to use their emotions as an initial response to either criticism or hate due to past traumatic experiences. However, that does NOT give the other individual or party the right to devalue their pain by deeming their emotions as “wrong” or invalid. 

Furthermore, when a gaslighter uses the phrase “you’re being too defensive”, they want to convince you that you have no valid argument to defend yourself with, resulting in you believing that whatever hurt you, hurt you for a logical reason

After a while, an individual will be made to automatically believe they are always in the wring, all while having this self-doubt cloud hovering above their head wherever they go.

  • “Stop imagining things that never happened”!

Similar to the movie Inception, a gaslighter will work around the clock to create an idea in your head before you even have time to think of one on your own.

The dark philosophy behind “that never happened” is the gaslighter wanting to rewrite history to better fit whatever narrative they wish to roll with. For example,  depending on the picture they’re trying to paint, they need to make you believe you said certain things when you didn’t, or that you stayed quiet when you haven’t

Either way, “you are the one who misremembered the situation, not me” only lessens your credibility and mental stability. 

Alternatively, you may also get the occasional: “You’re just being paranoid”, “You’re overthinking it”, “Stop being so dramatic”…

  • “Can’t you just take a joke?”

This one can hurt more when we’ve faced a group of people and not just one person. When “a joke” is taken too far, it’s hard for the group to sympathize with the ordeal or hard feelings related to the joke. 

The bottom line is when it’s not funny, it’s just not funny

The gaslighter wants other people to “laugh” at what only they know will hurt you in order to put you further down. All while sinister laughter plays around as if you were the main protagonist in a psychological horror film. Your gaslighter, though, is no Guillermo del Toro. 

  • “Why are you making a big deal out of this”?

Gaslighters like to diminish and invalidate how we feel by intellectualizing their own thoughts and feelings under certain circumstances. They want to explain our feelings and the reaction to them as exceeding the norm, meaning it’s not their fault for making us feel that way, but it’s our own fault for feeling that in the first place. 

It’s a dark and twisted philosophy that lies behind your average gaslighter. Recognizing one through their own verbal articulation is the first step in the right direction. Step two on the other hand is how to deal with gaslighting, as it can get quite claustrophobic.

In order to get out of a toxic relationship filled with gaslighting, we first have to take a look at what the victim mentally goes through.

A psychotherapist and author of the book Gaslighting: Recognize Manipulative and Emotionally Abusive People—and Break Free,  Stephanie Sarkis, has quite a lot to say about the topic. 

Her “three victim stages” of being gaslighted go a little something like this…

  • Denial. Our initial response to someone trying to change our reality and warp the way we see ourselves is denial in its purest form. They can’t convince us much, but they plant this seed of doubt that further expands into borderline paranoia. 
  • Defensiveness. Once that seed grows its first leaf of self-doubt, we start to form a defence, as if the accusations are true, to begin with. After a while, the gaslighter has us where he wants us…Defending ourselves with no weapons on the enemy’s field or unknown territory.
  • Defeat. We often fall under the gaslighter’s spell after months or even years of trying to defend our name and being, against a seemingly invisible self-doubt poltergeist. The defeat stage is very sad, depressing, and completely character-destroying. This usually results in you having zero trust in yourself and your judgment

So…how to stop gaslighting? How to get out after experiencing all of this? Is there even a way back…to yourself? As we’ve mentioned before, this could happen to anyone, anywhere. In a relationship, at school, your home and there’s even gaslighting at work.

No matter the location, the premise stays the same – Someone trying to change the way you see yourself and your surroundings for personal gain. But how do we respond and get rid of this mind parasite?

Take Back Control Over Your Own Life: Surviving Gaslighting Culture

As  Stephanie Sarkis writes, “I tell people to focus on how they feel during a conversation rather than what is ‘right’. “It’s OK to say, ‘I don’t care who is right or wrong, but the way you are talking to me is aggressive and abusive. I won’t continue this conversation.”

It’s hard to lose track of who we are when all we listen to are non-established “critic” reviews of our character. As simple as it is, listening to your heart and feelings works wonders when the otherwise rational part of your body has been “damaged”. 

Just because the brain stores all rationality doesn’t mean your thoughts are rational all the time. And just like that, the mind can turn on itself, like a mental autoimmune disease of sorts, making it impossible for you to tell what’s real and what’s not after a while. 

 “Often the only way to stop the gaslighting is to walk away from the relationship,” which can also be an office, a friend, or even your own family. 

Distancing yourself from the person or people making you doubt is the best thing you can do, no matter how hard it is to “quit” someone. 

Sarkis continues, ”Talk to your loved ones or a therapist and make a plan to leave safely. Once you’ve left, you need to go full no-contact because they will try to ‘hoover’ you back in with promises and gifts.”

Allowing someone to fully immigrate into your mind and control the way you perceive yourself and your life is beyond dangerous and hurtful. The pain of emotionally questioning your own being is hard to describe in plain words, and much harder to overcome.

And although possible, it’s better to never dip your toes into that pool, which seemingly has no visible end and will drown everyone unable to make it out dry.

 

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