Early in the 19th century, the ability to have lighting in the home was made possible by utilizing natural gas and this replaced the need for lighting candles. The term gaslighting became popular in a movie from 1944 called Gaslight. The movie is about a newly married woman who slowly over time is made to believe she is crazy by a man who is manipulating her. The movie is set in the era when homes were using gaslight. The young wife began to see the gaslight flicker and go on and off. Eventually, the man is exposed for what he is doing, and the term “gaslighting” has become a well-known term to describe narcissistic and manipulative behavior.
If you have not seen the movie, I highly recommend it. I didn’t fully understand the term until I saw this movie. I was in a work situation at the time and it brought to light full-on what I was being exposed to. Even understanding what I was going through, I continued to stay in the situation. I’m still recovering from this experience.
Yesterday I saw a picture/Instagram that triggered my emotions related to an experience with a gaslighter. I didn’t realize at first what was happening. In the early phases of being set up to gaslight, you are taken in as a trusted and valuable person. You are made to feel like you have worth and are needed. For someone who has been a people pleaser (and there are reasons for that which I will talk about later), when someone makes you feel like you have worth, you become loyal to them. This is so incredibly damaging long term.
By the time I realized something was not right, I was healing from a very traumatic personal situation and didn’t have the emotional strength to take on the fight. I knew the situation was being manipulated but I didn’t understand the depth of it until I watched the movie Gaslight. I didn’t address the issue head-on. With gaslighters, it doesn’t matter anyway because everything you present them with is twisted and turned around.
I left the situation at one point but came back because I missed the beneficial components of the environment. When I returned, I knew what I was coming back to, but thought I was strong enough to put up boundaries to not be confused by the behavior of the other individual.
You can encounter gaslighting behavior in any relationship, whether it be your partner, work supervisor, pastor, friends, family…any relationship. When you understand the behavior, you can begin to set boundaries or leave the relationship. I knew toward the end of this work situation there would be a change coming soon, but it left me with feelings of anger, mistrust, and some undiagnosed PTSD. (Post-traumatic stress disorder).
Signs of gaslighting behavior:
- Even when you have proof, the manipulator will deny they did anything
- You are accused of things they do themselves (like being on Facebook or on your phone at work when they are constantly on there themselves)
- You are not permitted to have an opinion
- You are keeping journals of actual events to have proof that you aren’t crazy
- The gaslighter will try and pit people against each other, and makeup things to take your support system away from you
- You are never right, even when you are right
- You are always having to defend your reality
- You begin to feel your own self worth slipping and you don’t trust your own inner gut feelings
This list is not an all inclusive list. The topic is deep.
If you find yourself in this type of situation there are several things you can do:
- Find a trusted person you can talk to
- Find a counselor who specializes in this area
- Arm yourself with scripture that supports and strengthens who you are in Christ
- Reformat your self-talk
- Remove yourself from the situation
- Set healthy boundaries
- Don’t be with your gaslighter alone (I’m not trained to help you if this is your spouse, please seek counseling with a trained counselor)
- Learn to recognize the signs early on in a new relationship
I’m working through a workbook called the Gaslighting Recovery Workbook: The Complete Guide to Recovery. This is available on Kindle, as a paperback and hardback. This book doesn’t come from a faith-based viewpoint but is a good foundation to understand and work through this experience.
We can also in turn be the manipulator and not realize it. Arm yourself well with the understanding of manipulation and gaslighting. I had a situation in my own home this morning where I realize my behavior toward my husband was a form of manipulation. As I worked through that workbook, I realized this, and immediately called him and apologized for my behavior.
Forgiving those who I feel took advantage of my vulnerability took time. Forgiveness was not overnight but I came to the fork in the road where I could have remained angry or bitter, or I could choose the higher road. I decided if I remained in that angry state I was actually giving my power away. I was not willing to give my power away any longer. I released the situation to God and began to reclaim the wholeness God had for me.
Don’t allow another person to manipulate your self-worth. You were created in the image of God. The enemy would like nothing better than to dilute your worth. If you TRULY can see yourself as God sees you, your purpose is unstoppable! We are spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually in the image of God. Genesis 1:27. If you’ve realized you have been the victim of gaslighting, you don’t have to stay in that space. Don’t give place in your mind from these lies that come to destroy us. You are MORE than a conqueror!!!