Hands down, the most popular post I have ever written is: Bullies Are Cowards and Why I Refuse To Turn the Other Cheek.
I have received over twenty thousand page views for that one post alone and hundreds of emails from people who have shared heartbreaking bullying experiences with me.
But a recent incredibly hurtful and personal experience, immediately followed by a comment I received yesterday from a man named Jack after he read my Bullies Are Cowards post prompted me to write about gaslighting.
“I never said that.”
“It’s all in your head.”
“You’re too sensitive.”
“I was just joking around.”
“Oh, stop it.”
“Why are you taking things so seriously?”
“You misunderstood what I said.”
“That never happened.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You’re making a mountain out of a molehill.”
“You don’t need to get angry over a little thing like that!”
Misinformation, disinformation, alternate theories, alternative facts, distorted view of events, outright lies.
Did you ever wonder why someone you trust would rewrite history?
And after listening to them tell their version over and over and over again, did you ever question that maybe it didn’t happen the way you thought it did?
Or second guessed yourself, and even doubted your own sanity?
If you’re nodding your head yes, don’t worry. You’re not going crazy. It’s not you. And it’s happened to the best of us.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt bullied, discredited, victimized, minimized, and alienated.
As a result, I was often left with questions about myself, wondering if I was being overly sensitive, silly, neurotic, or downright unhinged.
Gaslighting is a manipulative attempt to plant seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or members of a group, hoping to make those targets question their own memory, perception, sanity, and order of things.
Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, gaslighters attempt to destabilize the target and delegitimize the target’s beliefs.
The term comes from a 1938 London play, about a sadistic husband who is trying to drive his wife insane, titled “Gas Light.”
The drama popularized the term “gaslighting” where the narcissistic abuser manipulates the mind of a victim by presenting fiction as fact, causing the victim to question reality.
Gaslighters come in all forms: Family members, friends, spouses, teachers, health professionals, bosses, authoritarian regimes, government officials, and yes, even the President of the United States.
There is some good that can come from all of this altering of reality and facts though.
The liars and deceivers who gaslight will eventually be exposed for who and what they are and/or slip up.
But don’t wait around for that to happen.
Here is what I’ve learned over the years, and sadly, more recently, when a friend of a friend attempted to gaslight me.
The only reality you can control is your own. Distance yourself as much as possible. Walk away if necessary. Don’t engage. Don’t let anyone wear and tear you down. Don’t give into lies. Stay informed. Trust your instincts. Never give up on the truth. Resist and persist.
And above all love and believe in yourself.