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What is "Gaslighting" Really?

By now everyone has heard the term gaslighting at least once and everyone has a general understanding that it's something bad or toxic and it happens in relationships; but if you ask someone to define the term they might realize they don't fully know. The reason for this is that certain terms become very trendy and overused in the world of social media; which can actually lead to weaponization rather than what they are meant to be... warning signs. Before I discuss what Gaslighting is let me tell you what it is not; gaslighting does not mean that a person doesn't know how to communicate well, so before accusing your partner, friend, co-worker, or family member of using gaslighting against you ask yourself if they really do desire to discuss things or resolve a problem and just really don't know how.

OK, so the basic definition of Gaslighting is: when a person refuses to accept responsibility or hold themselves accountable for something they did wrong, and instead attempts to make the other person feel like their grievances, beliefs, or experiences of the situation are wrong. People who use Gaslighting have a lack of insight into the things that they do and will usually find a way to make themselves the victim or make the other person in the wrong even if they are clearly the wrongdoers.

So, what does that look like? let me give one example of Gaslighting being used in a romantic relationship: A married couple has been together for several years and just like many couples they are experiencing difficulties in their relationship, communication, quality time, and intimacy. One has repeatedly asked the other to go to couples counseling, have more date nights, or even read some articles together so they can work on it together, but their response is that they don't need it or it's a waste of time. The individual who considered therapy to be a waste of time betrays the relationship by stepping out of the agreement and is having an emotional or physical relationship with someone else. Upon discovering the betrayal their partner is hurt and decides to confront them about it, asking for answers, assurance, and comfort. Instead of responding with open communication, honesty, and a desire to work through the issues or make amends the partner who committed the betrayal responds in anger, defensiveness, and blames their partner for what they did. They tell their partner they stepped out of the relationship because they weren't getting enough attention, making themselves the victim. They do such a great job at defending their point that the partner who was betrayed now blames themselves and feels that it is their responsibility to make amends and feels guilty for causing this to happen...

Hits different when you read it that way don't it?

Here are some more examples of ways people avoid accountability: Denial- the gaslighter will deny the event ever happened at all or will insist that you are remembering the event incorrectly "No that is not how that happened, you are wrong" Distraction- "let's not talk about that right now what's the name of your favorite restaurant?" Ignoring or Avoidance- gaslighter ignores everything you are saying and stares at their phone causing you to feel like your words mean nothing.

Gaslighting doesn't just happen in romantic relationships, it can happen in all types of relationships including work. If you find yourself constantly questioning your own beliefs or viewpoints or asking yourself if you are completely without insight then listen to your instincts. Gaslighting is a type of manipulation that causes a person to doubt their own beliefs, sanity, or memory. If you feel like this might be happening to you tell a friend you trust, prioritize self-care, set boundaries that allow you to be in tune with your own thoughts and values, and seek out a professional who specializes in this type of behavior,

Healthy communication and relationships have the core component of respect and value compromise above being right. You deserve to be heard

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