It’s a term that still feels 𝘪𝘭𝘭𝘶𝘴𝘪𝘷𝘦 and slippery for me; I don't want to accept that someone I have put so much trust in, is psychologically manipulating me.
However, the experience is so tangible in my body that I cannot deny what is happening. I know I am not the only one who experiences this. My hope is that whether you wonder if you are being gaslit, or you know you are, that you find courage to be a stand for yourself amidst the confusion of this toxic and painful experience.
See me! Hear me! I'm not crazy!
For me, it begins when I have an emotional response to a situation with a trusted one; this is what gaslighting in a relationship looks like for me. When I express where I am at (what I feel & what I need), doing my best to take responsibility for myself and my feelings, things suddenly get turned around on me, as if I have done (said, understood, expected, perceived, emoted) something wrong.
It feels confusing and yucky.
Internally, I have a need to be seen and heard in my experience, without it being about anything (i.e. ME) being right or wrong.
I used to try to explain myself over and over again, unskillfully seeking to be seen and heard…Maybe if I say it this way, they will understand me.
Part of me really (really) wants them to acknowledge me and take responsibility for anything they may have contributed to my suffering.
As long as I stay fixated on that goal, however, I will continue to suffer. I will be disappointed over and over.
The reality is that the other person doesn't have the capacity to see or hear me.
The remedy is to tend to my own heart: to acknowledge myself; face my disappointment, frustration, sadness, hurt; meet my own needs that are showing up. I used to think this was a stupid and unproductive idea. I used to think there was no way it would help. I used to be afraid that if I faced my own heart breaking, it might do me in. I know now that this is a remedy that will set me free.
The Gaslighter doesn't have the capacity to see or hear the one they are gaslighting.
Gaslighting is toxic and painful. The one who is doing the gaslighting doesn't have the capacity to see or hear you. That sucks! Especially when they are someone you have trusted and who you believe loves you. Dear one, they don't have the capacity to acknowledge you or take responsibility for anything they may have contributed to your suffering. You do not deserve to be treated this way, but it is up to you to stop the pattern. The remedy always begins with being willing to turn towards yourself and tend to your own heart.
The remedy always begins with being willing to turn towards yourself and tend to your own heart.
Turn Towards Yourself
Turn towards your tears, sadness, anger, confusion. See your own heart breaking. It will not do you in; it will set you free.
I did this during my morning meditation time just the other day:
With my hand on my heart space, I could feel the warmth and firmness of my own presence.
In my mind, I acknowledged the most recent scenario full of signs of gaslighting...of having things turned around in a way that left me feeling unseen, unheard and kind of crazy. I felt a wince on my face as I allowed myself to remember the scene.
Taking a few deep breaths in and out, I whispered to myself, like I was talking to my little girl: "That was really painful when he said that to you. I know you felt so confused because you were trying to understand and there didn't seem to be anything that made sense. Honey, it didn't make sense because what he was saying didn't match what you experienced. You are not crazy, you are not wrong."
The Burn Off
There is a burn-off time after we realize things like gaslighting, betrayal, meanness. Let it burn off. Tend to your heart with gentle presence.
When the burn off is over, you will know because remembering the situation won’t ignite such a charge in you. To any charge that does continue to pipe up, repeat the process: turn towards yourself, acknowledge your experience, remind yourself of what is true. Let any secondary burn off happen, like a child still whimpering after the sobbing has subsided. This is a healthy recalibration of our internal experience; this is the work of exercising your soul. It is as if our inner child is regulating herself.
As you are able to be with your own pain and honor your worth; when you are able to see reality for what it is and know your truth, you increase YOUR capacity to stand up for yourself as any future gaslighting unfolds.
Without making the other person wrong, be clear about what you are willing and not willing to do. Here are some examples:
I am willing to acknowledge that we have different memories of what happened; I am not willing to debate about my experience.
I am willing to acknowledge what I hear them saying; I am not willing to agree that they are right and I am wrong.
I am willing to express myself as long as I feel that I am being heard; I am not willing to continue engaging in the conversation if I don't feel that I am being heard.
I am willing to walk away from the conversation, even if it feels undone.
I am willing to be with myself while the burn-off happens.
This is not for the faint of heart, my dear, but you are not faint of heart.
You are strong, courageous and ready to live into your fullness. The time is now.
With so much love for you, Rachel ✨
Rachel Sartori is an Embodiment and Wholeness Coach. She is kick-ass and heart-centered whether she is showing up as a workshop/retreat facilitator, a private coach, a writer or a speaker. Rachel invites you to exercise your soul, and participate in the healing of your own heart and the world around you. With Rachel, all is welcome, all the time.
Read: Exercise Your Soul: Ignite Healing and Wholeness in your Life and Live from the Inside Out