You, Me and Self-Gaslighting
Self-gaslighting is injurious to health
Many people gaslight themselves unknowingly. Have you ever told yourself that you’re acting too strongly in the face of something that actually bothered you or hurt your feelings?
Disregarding your own feelings and invalidating them becomes a problem because you don’t pause to understand the reason behind your initial reaction. Essentially you’re jumping from point A to C without acknowledging Point B.
In the long run, this kind of repeated behaviour can manifest negatively in various aspects of your life. Constant self-gaslighting can cause you to question everything about yourself.
Why does self-gaslighting happen?
Some psychologists think that other types of gaslighting, such as gaslighting by a spouse or romantic partner, and gaslighting by a parent, may develop into self-gaslighting. In other words, self-gaslighting is when we continue where the previous gas-lighter left off. The only difference is that we now gaslight ourselves.
Self-gaslighting can happen when we internalise abuse from external sources and try to make sense out of things using a distorted lens. Common phrases we often use when self-gaslighting can sound something like:
“Maybe it wasn’t that bad.”
“Maybe I’m just overreacting or overthinking this.”
“I’m sure that’s not what he/she meant by that.”
Some psychologists think that other types of gaslighting, such as gaslighting by a spouse or romantic partner, and gaslighting by a parent, may develop into self-gaslighting.
Signs of self-gaslighting
Signs of self-gaslighting can look something like (but not limited to):
- Making excuses toward others’ negative behaviour
Have you ever experienced someone acting badly towards you and thought, “Maybe she’s just having a bad day” or “Maybe I’m just overthinking this”?
Another indication of self gas-lighting is the persistent need to rationalise and justify the inappropriate bad behaviour, derogatory remarks, or abuse of others.
- Invalidating your feelings
Using excuses like “Maybe I’m too sensitive” or “Maybe I’m overreacting to this” to brush off your hurt feelings or emotional turmoil over something that clearly caused those feelings in the first place can also lead to gaslighting yourself.
- Ruminating about your past
By repeatedly reliving past events or situations while also reflecting on how you should have reacted or what you might have done differently, you can gaslight yourself. Self-blame and rumination can result from the belief that you could have acted differently to make things better and the need to mentally run through various scenarios of how you might have acted differently.
- Constantly second-guessing yourself
One downfall of self-gaslighting is that it makes you feel like you can’t trust your own decisions. You constantly go over your decision and think of various other ways in which you can avoid or ignore the problem. Continuous self-doubt breeds uncertainty, which can affect how confident you are in your choices.
The old saying ‘we are our own worst critics’ is particularly accurate for people who self-gaslight.
- Questioning your memory to a point of distortion
People who have experienced abuse experience this frequently. In some cases, when a victim recalls their abuse, those around them are quick to steer clear of the topic or insist that the abuse in question never occurred. When this happens, you start thinking perhaps you’re imagining things and the abuse didn’t happen.
If this keeps happening, you’ll eventually start to doubt other memories or events in your life. In the end, this might plunge you into a mental black hole where you start to doubt your perception of reality.
- A highly critical inner voice
The old saying ‘we are our own worst critics’ is particularly accurate for people who self-gaslight. You interpret any imperfection in your performance as evidence of your incapacity. You beat yourself up if you fail a test. You believe the worst of yourself and conclude that you’re unlovable because of one bad relationship. Everything you say and do must be flawless, otherwise, you’lll perceive it as a failure. It’s important to remember that nobody is perfect and mistakes are a part of life. We live and we learn.
- Self-blaming for things that are often out of your control
When other people treat you poorly, you start to believe that it is all your fault. You always manage to place the blame on yourself even when it may not be your fault in the first place. With self blame, you may also be highly critical of yourself and judge yourself harshly.
Break free from the vicious grasps of self-gaslighting
- Get a blank canvas (such as paper or journal) and write down whatever that crosses your mind
It can be singular words or your feelings. Write them down and try your best not to over analyse whatever you’re writing. Do also try your level best not to insert any form of judgement or try to give meaning to whatever that you’re penning on the paper.
Remind yourself to take a moment to breathe when your mind is trying to make sense of everything. Spend a few seconds refocusing and feeling the ground beneath you. Try to concentrate on what is going on right now by tuning in to your surroundings and your senses. This could be the distant sound of birds chirping or the noise of a busy city. Stay attuned to whatever that’s happening in the present.
- Practise asking yourself these questions
When in face of turmoil and on the cusp of self-doubt, asking yourself these questions may be helpful.
- What’s really going on? / What truly took place?
- What is the problem?
- What is making me feel this way? / Why am I feeling this way?
Remind yourself to take a moment to breathe when your mind is trying to make sense of everything. Spend a few seconds refocusing and feeling the ground beneath you.
- Practice selfcompassion and self-love
Don’t dwell on mistakes and “what ifs” for too long. Do your best to avoid criticising yourself for things you feel you could have done better. Accept yourself for who you are, flaws and all. Learn to observe your thoughts without judgement. At the beginning, it may be difficult to break away from the cycle of self gaslighting. However, it gets easier with practice.
- Speak to a therapist or a mental health professional
Please consult a mental health professional if you believe your mind is distorted and find it difficult to distinguish between the truth and gaslight-produced fiction. These experts are adept at guiding you through your thoughts with useful mental exercises. Speaking with a mental health professional who isn’t involved in your personal events or your life in general also gives you the chance to view things from a clearer, more detached perspective.
Gaslighting yourself carries equal weight and consequences as being gaslighted by someone else. It can leave deep scars however it’s also worthy to note that these scars are far from being permanent.
In the long run, self awareness is the key that helps with level headedness, silencing the negative voices in your head and gives you the power to decide on how you react to things around you. Please remember that you matter, your feelings are valid and we see you.
Please do not hesitate to reach out for help if you or a loved one are suffering from anxiety, depression, anger issues or other mental health conditions. You may call Talian Kasih at 15999, Befrienders at 03-795 68145 or the emergency hotline 999.
Source: Healthline, Psychology Today, Happier Human, Well + Good