Not just in personal relationships, gaslighting can also occur at the workplace – and worse, over an entire society. From politicians to TeenVogue, everyone seems to be talking about it,
But what does “gaslighting” mean exactly?
Gaslighting by definition, is a psychological term and:
“Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done slowly, so the victim doesn't realize how much they've been brainwashed. For example, in the movie Gaslight (1944), a man manipulates his wife to the point where she thinks she is losing her mind.”
She wasn’t crazy! You’re not crazy!
I mean, we’re all a little “take off your top” crazy vs “Silence of the Lambs” crazy though, ammiright?
This article will explore what gaslighting is and how to recognize it in your own experiences, as well as tips and tools as to how to avoid it (or get away from it) altogether!
Getting Ghosted is History – And The Burn of Getting Gaslit is Real
It used to be that getting ghosted was the worst thing – that someone would just suddenly and unexpectedly shut off communication with you.
“Victims” of ghosting may get stuck playing the “what ifs” and “I shouldve’s” and all sorts of hypotheticals in their minds. Or out loud. With friends and family. For days/months/as long as needed to process.
Or maybe they become rife with anger, deflection, resentment – “oh he/she was a <asshole, narcissist, loser> anyways.”
But – holding onto anger and resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
The silver lining in getting ghosted is that it is usually on a 1:1 level (outside of the immediate/friends of the ghostee as collateral damage). It can even be comical. There is no shortage of sites and articles dedicated to getting ghosted.
Ghosting has also become an increasingly pervasive symptom of online dating.
Ghosting by nature is one-sided. It’s unexpected. It’s sudden.
And – it can be easier to “write off” because often times, the act of ghosting says more about the ghoster than the ghostee.
There is always an opportunity for self-reflexivity – and you can take those learnings as a down payment for a happier future.
Getting gaslit can have much more significant – and lasting impact – than getting ghosted.
Getting ghosted feels like a walk in the park compared to getting gaslit.
Identifying Gaslighting in the Workplace & Society
Girlboss, recently discussed the origins of gaslighting and how prevalent it is throughout society.
“A lot of people think it’s just in an intimate relationship, and that’s not necessarily the case,” Dr. Lauren Hazzouri says on the podcast. “It can be within your family, it can be in a friendship, it can be in the workplace, it can be anywhere.”
Gaslighting at the Workplace
Examples of Gaslighting in the Workplace include:
Some folks leverage gossip as a way to gain ammunition, as well as consensus-gathering.
- Find yourself in a culture of Mean Girls? These are some helpful resources:
- The Memo – Dealing With the Office Mean Girls
- Assholes: A Field Guide: How to Deal with Difficult People At Home or at Work
- Business Insider – 9 Useful Strategies to Dealing with Difficult People at Work
- Find yourself in a culture of Mean Girls? These are some helpful resources:
A boss or colleague may take credit for an idea shared with them, only to then pitch it as their own, or “tweak it” to make it better. In which case, are you sure it’s your idea?
- According to the Career Contessa, in “Gaslighting 101: Are You Being Manipulated at Work?”
- “They Throw In Just Enough Positive Reinforcement To Confuse You – If you were constantly criticized, with no compliments balancing out the crap, you’d just quit, right?
- If You Challenge Them, They Lash Out At You – “You’re being so irrational!” “Don’t you think you’re overreacting?” With these responses, the gaslighter not only dismisses your emotions, but deflects their own responsibility for their behavior. Beyond that, they make you feel crazy for even speaking up, making it more likely that you’ll let it slide in the future.”
You could also be part of your own problem.
Are you are gaslighting yourself?
Consider this – everyone else isn’t “stupid, bitchy, dumb, annoying.”
Or maybe they are, then why would you subject yourself to that each and every day?
Whether your clients, colleagues or consumers – you are the words and language you use.
You WOULD be crazy to think otherwise!
And you certainly aren’t going to change a culture that just isn’t a good fit for YOU.
It could just be personally off brand and not a good fit.
You’re not going to stop Cheryl from being Cheryl.
Or that one department for being known as <insert insult here>
You aren’t crazy – but you got gaslit. By yourself.
When you share collective success and vision, with a mutual level of respect – the juice is that much sweeter. If you feel friction – are you part of the solution, or contributing to the problem?
Remember the humanity of business:
- Be tough on facts, not people
- Take feedback seriously, but not personally
- Be accountable and act with integrity
- Drive collective success and individual excellence
- Know your boundaries – You can be aware and know when it’s time to leave a table that no longer serves you
Gaslighting in Relationships – Including With Yourself
As the ever-great-and-timeless Carrie Bradshaw would say,
“the Most Exciting, challenging, and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself. And if you find someone to love the you you love, well that's just fabulous.”
You are the language that you use, the people you surround yourself with, and the choices you make.
You can control that narrative.
First and foremost, it is important that you speak kindly to yourself. Because if you can’t, how can you expect anyone else to?
Spotting Gaslighting in Relationships
Once you’re treating yourself like the <fun-inspiring-kind-motivated> insert YOUR personal inspo here, here’s how to ensure you set yourself up for personal excellence in a partnership:
- Define Boundaries – Rose Lawrence, psychotherapist and owner of Mind Balance, told Girlboss, “it’s important to place boundaries early on. Ask yourself what does respect look like to you? “If you cannot identify what your boundaries are with other people,” she says, “Then you will not be able to identify when someone has crossed the line.”
What are your non-negotiable?
What are your life goals? How do YOU define happiness? Success?
What are your love languages and those of your partner?
2. Practice Mindfulness – as best possible, try to focus on the present. Don’t get caught up too far in your/their past, or spending too much time thinking in the future.
Mindfulness: The Surprising Skill You Can Use to Stop Gaslighting
3. Focus on feelings instead of right and wrong- In vox.com’s “How to Spot If You’re Getting Gaslighted,”
“It’s easy to get caught up in wanting to be right or spend endless hours ruminating about who’s right. But determining who is right and wrong is less important than how you feel — if your conversation leaves you feeling bad or second-guessing yourself, that’s what you need to pay attention to. Having a sense of psychological and emotional well-being in a relationship is more important than who is right or wrong in any conversation”
Remember, “Your experiences and emotions are true, valid, and have always been. It is the malicious actions of power and control from someone else that made you question your worth.” Mindcology
Warning Signs | How Gaslighting Can Manifest in Relationships, as shared by Mindcology, you might:
- “Begin to feel as though you are overly sensitive to everything – you may be overly apologetic to your partner because they make you feel you should be apologizing.
- Feel as though your partner diminishes your feelings or experiences through non-argumentative ways. (ex. “I was joking” or “You’re so sensitive”).
- Feel as though you must walk on eggshells around your partner, concealing your true emotions and thoughts.
- Start to believe that everyone around you feels the same way about you as your partner.
- Begin to feel the inability to make decisions due to your experiences of ‘always being wrong’
- Remember being a different person before the relationship, one with confidence and joy.
- Begin to withdraw from family and friends to avoid feeling the need to explain or justify your partner’s behavior.
- Feel threatened or insecure around your partner for fear of their criticism or hurtful behavior.”
Whether you've been gaslit, ghosted, orbited or (insert the latest damaging trend here), Crystal Rice, LGSW, a therapist practicing in Pennsylvania and Maryland, says having a name for the behavior you're experiencing can be beneficial for understanding what happened to you, and figuring out a way to move past it.
Whether in the office, a romantic setting, or even with yourself, hopefully this article gave you some additional tools and points to consider.
Do you have any other tips and tricks to help with getting through gaslighting?
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Seriously, please! I want to know! Comment below.
If you or someone you know is suffering from an abusive relationship
CONTACT THE National Domestic Violence Hotline