“Gaslighting” refers to a tactic abusers use against their victims.
In order to prevent their victims from escaping an abusive situation or seeking help, abusers say things to their victim and manipulate the situation and people around them in order to get the victim to question their grasp of reality.
It’s hard to set a limit, escape a situation, or seek help if you think you’re the one who is going crazy.
Gaslighting is very often used by abusers who have more situational or social power than their victim.
A power differential, especially in social influence, makes it easier for them to enlist other people or draw on their reputation to help them make their victim feel crazy.
Gaslighting is a form of deception— but it’s not just lying.
We do not gaslight ourselves. Gaslighting is done to us.
Some of us have been so gaslit for so long, they can’t imagine truly trusting themselves or their perception of a situation.
Victims of gaslighting often believe that they are at fault for pain that has been inflicted upon them.
Gaslighting hits at the core of our self-esteem and self-trust.
When it comes to trauma recovery, there is always a subset of people who think they’re being helpful in emphasizing the symptomatology they say we inflict upon ourselves.
There is often someone telling us to “stop gaslighting ourselves.”
These people may mean well— when they say “stop gaslighting yourself,” I assume what they mean is, “be honest with yourself” (about what you need, about what your challenges are, about what’s happened to you.).
But to say “stop gaslighting yourself” is to deemphasize what was done TO you— and to overstate the role we supposedly play in our own self-deception.
If your self-trust or self-esteem has taken a hit because of what you’ve been told and how you’ve been treated in a relationship, it is not because you’ve been “gaslighting yourself.”
It’s because someone has related to you in such a way as to stoke your anxiety and self-doubt.
Gaslighting is an abuse tactic.
It is something that was purposefully used against us— not accidentally.
“Stop gaslighting yourself” always struck me as functionally similar to “stop hitting yourself.”
Nobody wakes up in the morning and decides to inflict abuse tactics upon themselves.
Healing the damage gaslighting has done to our self-confidence and self-trust does not begin and end by telling ourselves that we are “gaslighting ourselves.”
It begins with acknowledging that we’ve been manipulated.
How we were related to— what we were told about ourselves— absolutely impacts our perception of how at fault we are for our pain.
But that’s not us “doing it to ourselves.”
That’s us dealing with the fallout from what was done TO us.
Sometimes people seeking to “empower” us in trauma recovery unwittingly slip into victim blaming.
They may not mean to— but it’s super important we be VERY deliberate about how we think and talk about our symptoms and their causes in trauma recovery.
We need to be crystal clear about the fact that we didn’t ask for this.
We didn’t deserve it.
We didn’t do it to ourselves.
Even if the fallout from our painful past includes habits of thinking and self-talk that perpetuate our pain, that’s not us “doing it to ourselves.”
There’s a fine line between empowerment and self-blame.
Especially when we HAVE been gaslit into thinking that we’re probably “doing it to ourselves.”