Gaslighting. It’s really a thing?

I was not aware of this term gaslighting until about two years ago. Guess I was living under a rock…I kept hearing people refer to it in my circle of confidents, so I finally asked. It was hard to imagine that there was a term for what I experiencing. Like this happens to frequently enough that there is a definition?? Gaslighting: “to manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.” Thank you Oxford Languages. Holy moly!! That is intense! You mean a colleague would or could do this in a corporate setting. Do they know this? Sounds like something that could only happen in toxic romantic relationships. Oh crap we can have just as toxic relationships with those we work closely with? I see a professional divorce in my future….Lightbulb moment!

I started thinking about my self-doubt. Why was this coming up for me again at this stage in my career? I was getting loads of positive feedback from those around me. More and more responsibility. Why was I feeling like an imposter (see Imposter Syndrome, still a thing). But there was another part to this. It wasn’t just that I couldn’t pick myself up by my bootstraps, or take feedback. It was a barrage of manipulation in thinking that I wasn’t seeing reality, that what I was perceiving was wrong and my intuition was failing me. Now I am not saying I don’t have things to work on, we all do. But when someone, usually a person in a level of powers, preys on those “areas of opportunity” to make you question your thoughts, perception, and judgement, that is where things take an ugly turn. Was my memory going? I certainly am older now, I do have child, which “they” say pregnancy brain starts at pregnancy and lasts until college. Maybe I wasn’t “getting it”. That is also what people who manipulate the situation say. “You don’t get it”. Maybe the Peter Principle hit here and I was out of my league? Although, evidence would not support that. How could I tease out my own areas of improvement and those of sabotage? I enlisted a team. First a therapist. Then a coach. Then some colleagues, good surround sound.

My therapist, who at one stage I was employing on a weekly basis, was working in overdrive reframing for me because I was so far down the rabbit hole of being gaslit (not sure that is a word), that I could not see clearly. – Side soapbox – self pay, healthcare needs to include appropriate mental health services. I started taking anti-anxiety medications to combat the constant barrage of negative thoughts that I hadn’t experience since my early 20s, the constant overthinking that I was doing something wrong because it felt like everything I did and thought was questioned. I can say honestly, I don’t believe (most) people know they are doing this. I think this is a learned behavior, a way of coping, a way people think they are appropriately challenging others. I don’t believe people maliciously say, “ohhh I can’t wait to gaslight Barbara at every step”. But, there is a sense of superiority and strategic manipulation that goes into making sure you always have the upper hand. That is why gaslighting is so dangerous.

When I decided to start this blog I had a long list of topics I was feeling passionate about from personal experiences. I am now having a hard time digging into that raw emotion. This is a good thing. We heal. Fitness is measured by how quickly you bounce back from a work out. How quickly your heart rate comes back down to normal. I am happy to report that in less than 2 months I am feeling back to myself. I am resilient. I have a high fitness level to heal myself. Although my child and this home schooling is still testing my patience, and confidence in my parenting skills. I am no longer questing in an unhealthy, pervasively compulsive way how I view situations, why I take certain actions, or over analyze every interaction. I self-reflect in a positive way to continue my personal growth, but it is not tied to my self-worth or sanity. We do heal, but do we need to be hurt to grow? Be kind to each other.

Published by rachaelsarahgass

Working mom, wife, friend, sister, organizational psychologist, learner, coach. Kindness Counts. People First. Integrity Always.

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