Gaslighting is a very toxic form of manipulation that often goes hand-in-hand with narcissistic personality disorders. It's a form of mental abuse in which one is manipulated into doubting their memory, perception, and sanity, often used by narcissists in order to get what they want.
I was gaslighted once, before I knew what it was. I told a friend that they were wrong to do something. I expected some backlash and anger. I did not expect what happened.
I knew they had some narcissistic traits. They could be arrogant and haughty and had a sense of entitlement. They were quite charismatic and used that to get their way and to get people on their side in the case of a disagreement. From the start, if I did something they didn't agree with, they would react with some scorn and loftiness, not a lot, but enough to make one feel like they were stupid for not doing things their way or for not knowing something they did. Same for if something happened that they didn't like; they would react like it was the end of the world, like the people who had made that happen were idiots, and try to get people to agree with them. But they were a good friend, so every time something like that happened, I brushed it off.
Then I was the one who did something they didn't like. I told them they were wrong.
They turned it on me. It was my fault, everything was my fault. Their behavior became my fault, the drama was my fault. They told me I was being irrational and unreasonable and that never had they ever had something tell them what I had, it just was not normal. It was my fault because how were they supposed to know I was so crazy? According to them, I didn't know what was normal, and they continued to push that. They told me that what I knew to be true simply was not real, trying to get me to doubt my beliefs and perceptions.
They told me I was being immature in doing things that had nothing to do with them, but they were convinced that they did. I was stupid for telling them otherwise. They were incredibly condescending and continuously tried to make me feel like I was less than.
They made me feel like I was crazy and unreasonable and immature, that I was overreacting.
As a consequence of the gaslighting, I felt physically ill and depressed and had periods of uncontrollable shaking from the anxiety it induced. I started to believe that I was all the things they said I was and to question myself. And never had I ever felt so out-of-control and hopeless.
Even after I told them that I understood where they were coming from and that I hoped they understood me and asked if we could talk after we had both cooled down, they didn't stop. They continued to push that I was being unreasonable, that they had never meet anyone who had asked for the things I had asked for, that my behavior was not normal. They told me that I was making myself look bad, claiming that posts I made were all about them and everyone knew it, even when they had nothing to do with them.
It was not enough to lash out at me or to bring people who had nothing to do with our argument into it. Because I just told them that I understood them and did not give them what they wanted by telling them they were right, they brought my family into it too. They told them that I was really unstable and that they should keep an eye on me.
Once I discovered what gaslighting was and figured out that that is what had happened, I was so incredibly relieved. Gaslighting is one of those tactics that loses power once you realize that is what is going on. Once I understood why things were happening the way they were, it stopped being so stressful for me and started being more sad. Because I knew that the only way the situation would get better was either if I gave them what they wanted and thus more power over me, or if I cut ties. I knew that they wouldn't stop or admit to what they were doing, and continuing to let them be a part of my life would be toxic.
If you find yourself combating gaslighting in your life, here are a few things you can do. First of all, recognize what is going on. Once you realize that you're being gaslighted, it's much easy to come to the next realization in that the problem is not you, it's them. Secondly, go with your gut and trust in yourself. Understandably, this one is hard because that is the opposite of what your gaslighter is trying to get you to do. But if you know in your gut that something is off and that you aren't overreacting or being unreasonable, trust in that. It gives you a lot of power. Third, find a support system that the gaslighter won't have any power over. They will remind you that you are not crazy and help you through it. And finally, cut ties with the gaslighter. No one should have that much power over you. If you're going to maintain a sense of self, something has got to change in regards to the gaslighter's presence in your life.