Editor’s Note: If you arrived here without reading Word Of The Year, Gaslighting part one, that’s fine; however, you may want to check it out for some of the back stories on Gaslighting Relationships and why it’s such an important issue for you to know.
Still with me? OK!
So far, we’ve covered how to identify gaslighting, a sub-category of psychological abuse. Once the abuse is recognized for what it is, it’s hard to unsee it, but that can happen. If you believe you may be the object of a gaslighter, you have decisions to make. One of them could be to ignore it, justify it by buying the abuser’s excuses, and do nothing. You may not be ready to make a change yet because it will be hard. No soft selling, how hard it will be.
When It’s Time To Get Out Of The Gaslighting Relationships
But if you do want to get out of it because you see yourself as sustaining gaslighting either in a personal relationship, at work, school, church, anywhere, here some tips for getting your life back after gaslighting:
- Meet with your most trusted confidants in private. Being the scapegoat of a gaslighter often results in depression and anxiety to say the least. You need your people around you. Even if you haven’t seen them in a while chances are they would be so happy to hear from you!
- Let your true friends and loved ones listen to you and, in turn, listen to what they have to say. Tell them what you are thinking and feeling. Let them validate you. This may take many conversations with several people. You may consider finding a good therapist if you don’t have one yet. Take your time talking out loud. Resist the urge to defend the abuser. After being hidden and silent for a while this by itself can be a challenge, like someone turning on a bright light when you’ve been in the dark for a long time.
- Look out for the reset when you break off the relationship, quit the job or distance yourself from the abuser. Often when the abuser is confronted and the mask is stripped away they fall back and return to love bombing. They will make an outstanding effort to lure you back with all the shiny things, but it won’t last.
Watch out For A Change In Relationship Tactics
I’ve known abusers to suddenly come up with a big engagement ring and propose. Literally a shiny object! Another, already married spouse spent a fortune for a fancy couples’ retreat and while there was so performative (acting as if he were the dedicated, selfless spouse), it ultimately had the opposite effect. The wife left, convinced more than ever that she had to leave the relationship. A gaslighting boss, when the employee resigned from their job, was told, “You know you’re a lousy writer. Your flaws will follow you wherever you go. How about a promotion? I can give you 10% more salary.” That was my first boss many years ago. I can still feel the whiplash trying to keep up with the pivot.
- Then the real nasty comes out. Most of it will be like being shot at from a smurf gun once you realize how pathetic the gaslighter is. However, there are some cases when the abuser is seriously threatening. Then you have reason to be cautious.
You have dared to say no to someone who thinks they have all the control. You have challenged their power, taken it away and they can’t have it back. This will provoke anger. How much are they able to control their anger? If that is at all in question, never be alone with the gaslighter ever again. Be sure you are in a psychologically and physically safe space. Have people around you that have your back. Mostly whatever nasty stuff they try to hurl at you e.g. “You will never find a job, [boyfriend, partner] as good as I was again!” becomes sad in the light of awareness. But still, your safety is paramount.