Did You Know That You Can Gaslight Yourself?

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse, usually done by one person to another, where they manipulate that person and minimize how they feel so that they start to question their own reality. Self-gaslighting can also happen, but instead of an abuser doing the manipulation, you start to manipulate yourself.

You start discrediting your emotions and may even try to convince yourself that you’re remembering things wrong. How do you recognize the signs of self-gaslighting, and more importantly, how do you stop?

Where did the term “gaslighting” originate?

Recognizing the signs of self-gaslighting starts with understanding what gaslighting is in the first place. The term gaslighting is now mainstream, but where it originated from isn’t as widely known. It actually came from a 1938 British play (and 1944 film adaptation) called “Gaslight”. In the play, the husband convinces the wife that she’s going crazy when she starts to question why the gas lights keep dimming in their apartment. In reality, he was the one doing it, but he convinced her that she was imagining the whole thing, essentially driving her insane.

An abuser who uses gaslighting does something similar, making their victim feel like they imagined the abuse, or that the abuse wasn’t as bad as they think until they are so disoriented that they don’t know what to believe anymore.

How is self-gaslighting different?

Instead of someone else convincing us that we’re imagining things, or that we’re overreacting, with self-gaslighting, we convince ourselves. We suppress our own thoughts and emotions almost immediately until it becomes second nature and the only way that we deal with any sort of conflict.

What does self-gaslighting look like?

 Self-gaslighting involves a lot of invalidating yourself and doubting your own feelings. It can sound like:

“I’m being too sensitive.”

“I’m being over-dramatic.”

“Did that even happen?”

“Maybe I’m just imagining things.”

“Maybe this is my fault.”

“It isn’t actually that bad, is it?”

“If I were just a stronger person, I wouldn’t be feeling this way.”

“Maybe I’m not worth believing.”

“Why can’t I just get over this?”

“It’s probably just all in my head.”

“I’m too much/not enough.”

“They love me, so I know they didn’t really mean it.”

How do I stop self-gaslighting?

If you want to stop gaslighting yourself, or even being the victim of someone else gaslighting it, the first step is to recognize that gaslighting is a very real, very harmful form of abuse. What you are experiencing is not okay, and you don’t deserve it.

Once you validate that what you’ve experienced is real, you can begin the process of healing from it, and ensure that you don’t experience it again. Here are some questions you can ask yourself when you feel like you’re being pulled back into the cycle of self-gaslighting:

  • Where are these thoughts/opinions even coming from? Usually, those who self-gaslight have experienced traditional gaslighting before, and those thoughts and opinions originally came from their abuser.
  • Would I speak to someone I love like this? Start speaking to yourself like someone you care about.
  • Can I think of this thought as a person? Talk to the thought and imagine yourself setting boundaries with it. Tell it to get out of your head, the same way you would tell an abuser to get out of your life.
  • Is this thought really that important? Most of the time, our negative thoughts don’t actually matter to the grand scheme of things, we just make them important. Take the power back from the negative thought by instead focusing on something positive.

Remember, you don’t have to take this type of abuse from anyone, and you certainly don’t need to take it from yourself. Your feelings and emotions are real and they are valid, and you deserve to be treated with respect from others, and most importantly, from yourself.

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Essential Resources

If you’re facing legal/custody battles, a mental health crisis, an urgent medical issue, serious emotional problems, including suicidal thoughts, please seek help from the appropriate professionals near you.

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The National Domestic Violence Hotline
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