Gaslighting: what it is and how to recover from the trauma
The term “gaslighting” has been used in numerous articles and appears consistently in social media, but what is it exactly and how can one recover after they have been gaslighted?
What gaslighting is?
Simply put, gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse that is manipulatively used to gain control over someone. The gaslighter will make you question reality, blame you for their feelings or actions, call you crazy and separate you from your own family and friends. In the end, you feel isolated, confused, and completely dependant on the other person.
After a gaslighting relationship ends, it can give way to a multitude of emotions, from anger to relief and even despair. As well as feelings of sadness that the relationship has ended, you may also feel numb as you process everything that the person has done to hurt and control you. You may even feel completely lost as your sense of identity and self-worth have been dismantled by the gaslighter.
It is no wonder that recovering from the trauma of gaslighting is no easy task; however, it is completely possible to heal and find happiness within yourself again.
How to recover from gaslighting?
1. Remove the gaslighter completely from your life. Though it may be difficult at first, cutting off the gaslighter from your life is essential to your healing process. This also means refraining from contact with the gaslighter as they can still do harm even through distant communication. They are well-trained in sucking you back into a relationship with them to serve their ego. No matter how much they say they have changed, do not give them this opportunity—use the strength within you to block their email, number and social media accounts.
2. Allow yourself time to process your feelings. As time goes on, you may experience a range of emotions as your mind processes the psychological abuse you had to go through, and this may take years. Let those feelings surface. Use mindfulness and meditation to be aware of them, feel them fully, recognise them as valid and express them in a healthy way; this can be through journalling, speaking with a trusted friend or using creative arts.
3. Rebuild your sense of self-worth and value. A gaslighting relationship may leave you so disconnected from yourself that you don’t know what you believe anymore. That is why it is important to take the time to reconnect to your identity and regain your self-worth. One way to do this is to write down everything you love about yourself, what you hope to achieve in the next few years, what values are most important to you, and even your fears. Journalling can also help you gain insight on the relationship, and process the painful memories that may come up.
4. Develop healthy, loving relationships. It may be difficult to trust for a while, which is completely understandable. But remember, there are people out there who can and want to love you well and will naturally bring out the best in you. Gaslighters, though they are out there, are not the rule—most people have good intentions with those they love. Believe that you are worthy of having healthy relationships and deliberately seek people who are loving, supportive and kind.
5. Seek help. Open up to trusted friends who can listen to your experiences non-judgementally, offer empathy and validate your emotions. You can also seek the invaluable support of a licensed therapist. BetterHelp.com offer a wide range of information on all things regarding mental-health and well-being, and provide qualified counsellors who specialise in treating victims of emotional abuse. Do not allow shame, fear or guilt stop you from getting the help you need and deserve.
Remember that you do not have to remain a victim forever—with persistence, support and self-compassion, you can heal and claim the truth that you are indeed valuable and worthy of love.
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.