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Is it Gaslighting Or is it Me?

Relationships | Attie Murphy | 8 mins

What is gaslighting? Psychology Today states, "Gaslighting is an insidious form of manipulation and psychological control. Victims of gaslighting are deliberately and systematically fed false information that leads them to question what they know to be true, often about themselves." There are many misconceptions about gaslighting now that people apply the term to countless scenarios that are far from it. Gaslighting differs from common manipulation because the goal of a gaslighter is not only to get what they want but to control someone else's actions and thoughts. If you're questioning, "Is it gaslighting or is it me?" you probably know there's something off in that relationship. Someone is saying that you're the problem, and part of you believes that, but you know your intentions don't line up with those accusations. Even if you've made mistakes, you don't have to accept mistreatment or deception. You can free yourself from lies by comparing them to the truth.

This is the truth: 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” - Jeremiah 29:11-12

Gaslighting isn't about you (unless you're the one doing it). Only your Creator can tell you who you are. When others degrade you, it reflects their character more than yours. Compare your actions to God's Word, and know that God loves you no matter where you’ve been, what you’ve done, or what’s been done to you. When you place your identity in Jesus, you can know that anyone who calls you worthless is lying. You aren’t perfect, but you are more valuable than you can imagine. The more you focus on what God says about you, the more you will see reality in the presence of lies.

Fools are unwise and deceptive.

They don't care about respect and discourse. If you're wondering if someone is gaslighting you, look at how they account for their actions. Do they listen when you try to have a meaningful discussion? Or do they brush aside your feelings and claim to do no wrong? A common tactic for gaslighters is to say, "I only did that because you made me." If they hurt you, it's because you backed them into a corner. They'll claim you did to them what they are doing to you. When someone continuously insists you are doing something, you begin to doubt your perspective. Gaslighters usually don't have much defense beyond weaving a web of lies. They don't have a leg to stand on when it comes to personal responsibility. So they project their insufficiencies onto someone else. You can't outsmart a gaslighter because they don't base their logic on knowledge; they base it on fabrication. You "win" by doing the opposite of what they're doing.

“...Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” - John 8:31-32

Gaslighting - When I was 9, my toys and gifts kept disappearing, and my Mom's husband (at the time) complained that I was losing them all. After a while, my Mom became suspicious as my sister and I were insistent that we hadn’t moved our things. Whenever my Mom brought it up, her husband would call her crazy and say something to me like, "Why are you making this up?" Eventually, my Mom found all the toys stored in a cupboard that I couldn't reach. He-who-will-not-be-named was gaslighting us both. This is just one example of how gaslighters will use little things to make you doubt yourself, even when you don't see any motive for them to lie.

Not gaslighting - Most of us have told someone we’re “busy” when we were at home watching Netflix. We tend to tell these little half truths when we don’t want to deal with the disappointment of others. In close relationships, this can look like, “I forgot we were going out tonight.” or “Sorry I didn’t run that errand, I thought I told you I’d do it tomorrow.” That often isn’t gaslighting, but can be a part of the pattern if there’s consistent blame-shifting. If the person admits accountability, then they probably aren’t gaslighting you.

Note: A behavior may be unhealthy even if it's not gaslighting, but it's critical to establish gaslighting because it is a deliberate pattern of control. Also, if you’ve recognized harmful behaviors in yourself, know that God wants to help you work through the source, and you don’t need to hold on to shame. Look at what the Bible says about selflessness and take accountability with the person(s) you hurt.

Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips and spreads slander is a fool.
Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.”
- Proverbs 10:18-19

Have self-control and let them self-destruct.

It's tempting to push a gaslighter into defeat, but that will only stir the flame. If you proudly decipher their game, gaslighters will lash out and attempt to defame you. Instead, it's better to rise above and detach from their control. I can't tell you exactly what to do in your case, but it's imperative to seek support from trustworthy and mature people. Gaslighters often try to isolate their victims, so it's a good idea to block contact with them if possible. If the person is your spouse or a family member in your home, it’s critical to physically separate for the time being if you feel unsafe. 

“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” - Psalm 34:18

Trust God's plan and justice.

Once you realize you've been dealing with a gaslighter, the hardest part is coming to terms with the control they took from you. How can you move on if they continue to spread lies about you? How can you hold your boundaries if you keep them in your life? What if they gaslight someone else and get away with it? Those are all questions that take in-depth knowledge of your situation, and you can reach out for counseling or join a group with others who understand what you’re going through. The longer you were gaslit, the longer the recovery process may take, so don’t push yourself to “feel normal.” Counseling can make a big difference, as victims of gaslighting often feel lost, confused, and unsure of their identity. It’s okay to face those feelings, and having someone help you understand the truth is crucial.

In every step, know that God sees so much more than we do. He brings justice and changes hearts. God will never forget about you or your battles.

Here are some resources to keep on hand: 

Find counseling
Abuse recovery
Marriage groups
National Domestic Violence Hotline
A deeper look at gaslighting

Written By

Attie Murphy

An avid writer since the age of 5, who loves to explore new ideas and places. Inspired by Jesus, books, and travel.

Published on Sep 29, 2022