Hidden Signs of TOXIC Gaslighting | How it Breaks You & 2 Ways to Deal With it

If you keep repeating a falsehood with enough conviction, people will start to believe it. This tactic is also used by gaslighters and toxic people, a

The law of propaganda, as used by one of the Nazi leaders, states that if you repeat a lie multiple times, it becomes the truth. Essentially, the idea is that if you keep repeating a falsehood with enough conviction, people will start to believe it. This tactic is also used by gaslighters and toxic people, as well as narcissists, to gain ultimate control over their victims. By repeatedly stating their version of events or reality, they make it increasingly difficult for their victims to hold onto their own beliefs and perceptions. This can be incredibly damaging to one's mental and emotional wellbeing, and it's important to recognize when this type of manipulation is occurring so that you can take steps to protect yourself.

They make you distrust yourself

Toxic individuals often use manipulative tactics to control their victims. One common tactic is to repeatedly question their sense of reality, sanity, reactions, perception, and memory of facts. They belittle their victims and make them feel like they're lying or exaggerating. This can be done repeatedly and with such conviction that the victim starts to doubt their own memories and perceptions. As a result, victims may start to feel like they're paranoid or that they have mental health issues, like depression or anxiety. This type of manipulation can be incredibly damaging and can make it difficult for the victim to trust their own instincts and perceptions. It's important to recognize when this type of behavior is occurring so that steps can be taken to protect oneself from further harm.

The ultimate form of control is when this type of manipulation comes from someone you trust, such as a loved one, close family member, spouse, partner, cousin, sibling, or parent. It can be incredibly difficult to question the motives or intentions of someone you're close to, which can leave you feeling like you have no choice but to believe them. As a good-natured person, you may assume that others speak the truth and think things through before speaking. However, when someone repeatedly questions your reality, sanity, reactions, perception, and memory of facts, it's important to recognize that they may be manipulating you. This can be difficult to accept, especially when it comes from someone you love and trust, but it's crucial to protect yourself from further harm.

Over time, this kind of manipulation can cause you to stop believing in yourself and start relying on others to define reality for you. You may begin to rely on their memory of events and what they're saying, even if it contradicts your own experiences. Let's take a look at some examples, although it's important to note that these are unique to specific situations.

Example 1: When the husband invalidates his wife's need for emotional fidelity in the marriage.

I had a client whose husband was spending too much time at work, particularly with female colleagues, and speaks to them flirtatiously, but came home and screamed at his wife and treated her rudely, and the wife confronted him about it, he would deny any wrongdoing and accuse her of being paranoid. He would say things like "You're just being paranoid, I'm not having an affair. That's your problem. You're always judging me." This was an example of gaslighting, where the husband dismissed his wife's discomfort and concerns, and manipulated her into questioning her own perception of the situation. He did not address her need for fidelity in the marriage or show her any love or affection. 

When my client came to me she was plagued with self -doubt. She was questioning if she was right in thinking like that and almost apologizing for even raising it before her husband. She had internalized her husband's gaslighting as self talk. She had begun to "gaslight herself".

Example 2: A wife gaslighted her husband when he was really sick

I had a male client who was a victim of gaslighting. He was feeling sick at work . He called his wife, who also worked in the neighborhood, and told her about his condition. He asked her if she could give him a ride home, saying that he really needed to take care of himself (they lived in the U.S where public transport isn't easily accessible.). She replied, "Didn't you know? I'm actually in a conference." He apologized for not knowing and asked for a ride again. She responded by saying, "It's not so important, there's not much for me to do, but I'm really liking it here. Why don't you ask someone else for a ride?" This left the man shocked.

The client thought to himself, "She's in a conference, I can respect that, but she doesn't have much to do. There's no role for her there, and she's just hanging in there because she's liking it, and here I am sick. She doesn't have the decency, patience, care, and concern to take me home." Somehow, he figured out a ride and went back home to rest. However, he continued to feel sick and had to call the doctor who prescribed some medicines for him. However, he was too tired to drive and get his medicine.

He called his wife and said, "I'm at home, can you hurry up a little bit? I think I'll feel better if you're here with me. Also, these medicines need to be picked up by the pharmacist. Can you please do that?"

"How did you come back home?" she asked.

"I took a cab," he replied.

"Oh, if you were well enough to come back home on your own, I think you're just overreacting to all of this. I'm still in the conference and I'm meeting someone at Starbucks, I'll come later," she said.

Despite feeling disappointed and frustrated, he didn't want to argue anymore and simply replied, "Okay, I'll see you later."

She came back later and didn't get the medicines, and then she said, "Oh, you're just doing fine. There's nothing wrong with you." He asked her, "Why did you not come to pick me up when you were not doing something so important at the conference?" She responded, "Hey, but you're fine. You just came back on your own. If you were not fine, you would not have come back home." The man questioned her, "What do you expect? You wanted me to come in an ambulance? That's when I would get your attention." She replied, "I think you're just doing fine. I'm going to the gym now because I think you're absolutely okay and I'm just going to work out and come back." The gaslighting continued, and the man became more and more frustrated. When he started screaming, she asked, "What are you screaming about? I didn't do anything to you." (The narcissists are great at gaslighting and even more skilled at reactive abuse - they push you to react and blame you for it).That's when the man said, "Exactly! You didn't do anything for me when I needed you the most."

Gaslighting is a harmful manipulation tactic that can make you question your own reality. 

3 Stages in gaslighting

There are different ways in which gaslighters can do this, such as putting you down and invalidating your experiences. This is all done to gain control over you. In general, there are three stages that you go through when being gaslighted. 

Stage 1: Disbelief, where you may find it hard to believe that the gaslighter is intentionally deceiving you.

When someone is gaslighting you, they typically don't start with gaslighting right away. First, they "love bomb" you by showering you with affection and praise, making you feel hooked into the relationship. They give you all the good stuff like flowers, love, and fuzzy feelings. But eventually, they can't keep up the facade and start gaslighting you. This is because they don't really know how to love or have empathy for others. Gradually, they begin to invalidate your experiences and put you down in order to control you. There are different ways they may do this, and it often follows a pattern of disbelief, defense, and depression.

Gradually, they start gaslighting you. They show you so much love and affection that you start believing what they're saying. You begin to doubt yourself and your own experiences. But you still hold onto your disbelief and confidence, and you stand your ground. As you confront them, you say, "No, I don't think so. I think you have the wrong idea. This is not how it happened. This is how it happened."

Stage 2: Defending

The next stage is when you begin to defend yourself. You feel exhausted from constantly being questioned and invalidated, and you desperately want the other person to understand your perspective. You question whether the gaslighter might have a valid point, but you keep defending your own experiences and telling them that their point of view is not right. As a fair and honest person, you also try to see things from their perspective and wonder if there's something you might be missing. However, as you defend yourself, you become increasingly confused. The gaslighter keeps repeating their lies, and you start to wonder if there might be some truth to their perspective. It's like that saying, "Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth."

Stage 3: Self-Doubt and Breakdown in self-confidence

As gaslighting continues, you begin to lose touch with reality and doubt yourself. When you start to see things from the gaslighter's point of view, you may begin to question your own perception and start to think that maybe they are right. Eventually, this can lead to a deep sense of depression, particularly if the gaslighting is focused on something that you are already unsure or lacking confidence in.

As humans, we all have our insecurities and vulnerabilities, whether it's about our looks, skills, or abilities. Unfortunately, some people can use these insecurities against us, and this can lead to a form of emotional abuse called gaslighting.

One common example is when a woman is not very confident about her cooking skills. Perhaps she grew up in a family where cooking was not emphasized, or she had a bad experience with cooking in the past. Her partner, who may be aware of her insecurity, may use this to his advantage.

Every time she cooks something, she is looking for some appreciation, praise, or feedback. But instead of giving her the support and encouragement she needs, he criticizes her cooking. He may say things like, "this is not good," or "you need to work on this." He may not give her any positive feedback, even if the food tastes good.

Over time, this constant criticism can wear her down. She starts to doubt her own abilities and may begin to feel like she is not good enough. She may feel that she is failing at something that is important to her, and this can lead to low self-esteem and low self-confidence.

The same thing can happen to a man who is not very confident about his looks. Perhaps he has always been self-conscious about his appearance, or he has had negative comments from others in the past. His partner, who may be aware of this insecurity, may use it to control him.

She may make comments about his appearance, saying things like, "You really need to work on your hair," or "That shirt doesn't look good on you." She may not give him any positive feedback, even if he looks good.

As with the woman in the previous example, this constant criticism can wear him down. He may start to doubt his own abilities and may begin to feel like he is not good enough. He may feel that he is failing at something that is important to him, and this can lead to low self-esteem and low self-confidence.

The ultimate goal of gaslighting is to make the person doubt themselves so much that they become totally dependent on their partner. They may begin to feel like they can't make any decisions or take any actions without their partner's approval. 

Eventually, the constant manipulation and doubt can break a person down, leading to emotional breakdowns and even mental health issues. It's important to recognize the signs of gaslighting and seek help to break free from the cycle.

Strategies to deal with Gaslighting

Low Contact

When dealing with people who are gaslighting you, one suggestion is to establish low contact with them. Going completely no contact may provoke them and lead to further attempts to destroy you. It's important to maintain some level of relationship with them, but set clear boundaries and limit communication. Avoid getting too involved in conversations with them and don't engage in unnecessary engagements. By keeping the communication to a minimum, you are not giving them the impression that you have figured them out. Instead, maintain cordiality and answer as much as required, while also keeping your boundaries clear. This way, you can protect yourself while also keeping the relationship civil.

Connect back to your true well-wishers

Gaslighting can have a deep impact on your sense of self-worth and it can be difficult to break free from the constant doubt that it creates. One way to protect yourself from gaslighters is to connect back with your well-wishers who know you for a very long time, preferably from your childhood. By doing this, you can find a support system that can help you stay grounded and remind you of who you really are. As Robin Stern, American psychoanaylst, Yale University puts it, "It's important to reconnect with friends and family members who remember who you are and who can remind you of your strengths and your goodness."

It's also important to recognize the need for validation that gaslighting can create. While seeking validation is a natural human instinct, it's important to find it from healthy sources and not from those who are manipulating and controlling you. By connecting with your well-wishers and focusing on your positive experiences, you can find validation from those who truly care for you and want to see you thrive. As author Amy Marlow- MacCoy, puts it, "You are worthy of love and validation, and you can find it from those who truly see and appreciate you for who you are. 

True well-wishers are the ones who have always been there for you, who know you well, and who genuinely care about your well-being. By connecting back with them, you can learn how to treat yourself better and regain your lost confidence.

They can serve as positive role models, showing you what healthy relationships and interactions should look like. Observe how they treat you. By doing so, you can learn to treat yourself better and regain lost confidence. By applying their positive behaviors towards yourself, you can unlearn the negative effects of gaslighting and regain your sense of self-worth.

Connecting back with your well-wishers and treating yourself better can help you break free from the cycle of self-doubt and low self-esteem caused by gaslighting. It may take time, but with patience and support, you can rebuild your confidence and self-esteem.

Connect back to who you used to be

Connecting with your past achievements and positive experiences can also help you build your self-confidence and overcome the negative effects of gaslighting. By reminding yourself of your past successes, you can regain a sense of control over your life and remind yourself of your worth. 

When you remind yourself of the things you have accomplished and the positive feedback you've received, you can begin to build yourself up and restore your sense of self-worth. It's helpful to take time to reflect on your past successes and identify your unique talents and strengths. This can involve writing them down or even creating a visual representation of them.

As author Lundy Bancroft says, "Take time to remind yourself of your successes, your talents, and your strengths. Write them down if you need to. These are the things that make you unique and special."

Get help. Alone can be hard

If you're seeking to heal from gaslighting abuse and regain your confidence and sense of validation, consider joining our EASE coaching program. Our program offers one-on-one coaching, group coaching, and courses for coaching and healing. Many individuals have successfully healed and returned to their potential through our program, reducing their susceptibility to toxic individuals. If you're also interested in helping others in this regard, you can consider joining the EASE Coach Certification Program

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Categories: Narcissism