You Could Be 'Self-Gaslighting' Without Realizing. Here's How To Break The Habit

Gaslighting has a negative connotation with good reason. At its core, gaslighting is a form of manipulation. Unfortunately, gaslighting can occur in any relationship. A lover, parent, siblings, and even a boss can gaslight you. The term stems from a 1938 play called "Gas Light." The plot centers on a husband that attempts to convince his wife that she's going crazy to swindle her out of her inheritance. Psychotherapist Jeremy Bergen explained this phenomenon to Brides further and said, "It's a tactic one partner uses in an effort to exert power over, gain control over, and inflict emotional damage on the other."

He added, "Gaslighting is such a malicious form of emotional abuse because it causes you to question your experiences, so it can be difficult to identify the warning signs." Simply put, gaslighting can distort your reality. Signs that your spouse is gaslighting you include lying, denying facts, telling you you're crazy or invalidating your feelings. Experts note that the best thing you can do for yourself if you are being gaslighted is to stop or, at most, reduce communication with a gaslighter. But after leaving a relationship (romantic or otherwise) where you've experienced gaslighting, you might find yourself suffering from various issues, including self-gaslighting.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Signs you are 'self-gaslighting'

Similarly to gaslighting, self-gaslighting is when you invalidate your feelings and reality. Often, this transpires after you've been in a relationship where somebody gaslighted you. Clinical psychologist Dr. Julie Smith explained to PureWow why this happens. She explained, "we can internalize the voice of that abuser so that it becomes the way we speak to ourselves in our own mind." Moreover, this can also occur due to collective gaslighting, which has political and systematic implications (via Cambridge University Press). Signs of self-gaslighting include blaming yourself, lacking trust in yourself, ignoring your emotions, and self-doubt.

Clinical therapist Brit Barkholtz told HuffPost that common things to think about when you self-gaslight yourself are "I'm just too sensitive" or "I'm being dramatic." Per Healthline, other thoughts include, "Maybe it's all just in my head" and "it's my fault."

Of course, this can manifest differently for everyone. In an article for Psychology Today, psychologist Ingrid Clayton spoke about how self-gaslighting affected her. She said, "In my experience, this created a split within my psyche, as though I were two different people sandwiched together: The one who knew what happened — who knew it was wrong and that I wasn't to blame — and the one who had to take responsibility just to survive it." 

Although you can't change the past and the things you've gone through, there are ways to stop self-gaslighting.

Affirm and validate your feelings

The first step in moving past self-gaslighting is confronting the fact that you are doing it. Be aware of the signs and your self-blaming views. Brit Barkholtz noted (via HuffPost), "This is the kind of thing that can be highly individualized and can show up differently for different people." She added, "The more aware of and familiar you are with your own patterns, the easier it is to adjust or reality-test when they happen, or even head them off at the pass when you know you're in a situation that could be triggering." Once you become aware of these manifestations, take a moment to validate and express your feelings.

Barkholtz and other experts recommend getting a therapist to help with this process and break the self-gaslighting cycle. However, if you can't afford therapy, there are other ways to care for your mental health, such as journaling. This can aid the first step of healing from self-gaslighting. Prompts you could write about include discussing why you are self-gaslighting in the first place, why it no longer works for you, and your feelings. Lately, positive affirmations are a must. Instead of blaming yourself or negating your emotions, you can tell yourself that your feelings matter. Ultimately, this can turn a narrative of self-gaslighting into self-compassion.