Inner Gaslighting: Are You Gaslighting Yourself?
What is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a form of mental abuse in which a person manipulates another person into doubting their own sanity. The term “gaslighting” comes from the 1938 stage play Gaslight, and subsequent Hollywood classic, in which a husband tries to make his wife think she is going insane. In the play, the husband dims the lights and blames it on an imaginary broken gas lamp.
The term has since been used to describe bullying tactics used by powerful people to manipulate others into questioning their reality and accepting wrong-doing. It is a psychological manipulation tactic, so he can show she’s losing her sense of reality.
Gaslighting can have devastating consequences for mental health. It can foster self-loathing and shatter confidence, cause depression or anxiety or PTSD, and lead to suicide attempts or self-harm behaviors such as cutting oneself.
It is a common term nowadays to describe a form of emotional abuse.
Some red flags for gaslighting are:
- Minimising what you said
- Saying things that they later deny they said
- Hiding things
- Denying they did something with you when they did
Gaslighters use what they know about you, in particular your vulnerabilities, and manipulate you.
If you find yourself doubting your judgments and memories, constantly feeling as if you are frustrated and on edge, or spending more and more time with someone who makes you feel worthless – those are all signs of emotional abuse.
A gaslighter is someone who creates an atmosphere of constant doubt, badgering, and nitpicking for the person they are trying to control. They wear you down with constant criticism. They might say something like “you’re so stupid, no one likes you” or “you can never do anything right.” This is because their goal is to make you believe that you are not worthy or strong enough to live your own life or make your own decisions. They want to control when you speak up, what you say, how much you eat, when you take a break––everything!
What is Inner Gaslighting?
The gaslighting in inner gaslighting means that the person is gaslighting themselves. Inner gaslighting is when people convince themselves that they are in the wrong or their perception of reality is not accurate. Examples of this are people who constantly apologise for things they don’t need to apologise for, feel like they can never do anything right, or go so far as to minimise their own achievements.
It is important to remember that inner gaslighting is a process and not an event. It happens slowly over time so it can be hard to notice, but once you do it becomes easier to identify when you are doing it. When people start recognising this pattern of behaviour within themselves, they can then take steps towards correcting it with professional help if needed.
How to Deal with Inner Gaslighting
Although gaslighting is often associated with other people who are emotionally abusive, you can also gaslight yourself. It refers to the ways we unwittingly create self-doubt, worry, and anxiety in our minds, often because of our perceptions about what other people expect from us.
Inner gaslighters are also known as “self-saboteurs” and these inner voices typically undermine people’s self-confidence. The main goal is to make oneself feel like they’re not good enough and this thought pattern is usually linked to the anxiety and fear of not being successful in life. For example if someone says something hurtful to you, you say to yourself “I’m probably making this into too big of a deal and I’m being too sensitive.”
It’s important for people to realise that this way of thinking can be very toxic. It can cause them to feel unmotivated, stuck, and unhappy in their lives. So if you think you might be dealing with an inner gaslighter it’s important that you take some time for yourself and notice when these thoughts occur.
Inner gaslighters are the voices inside your head that constantly compares you with others, judges you, and makes you feel bad about yourself. They can be a constant distraction from what really matters in life. Inner gaslighters are often well-intentioned but their negative messages don’t help us grow and learn.
Reminding yourself of your strengths is the best way to combat this. Spend some time thinking about what you do well and write down a list of all the things that make you unique.
You need to not fight this inner voice, but counter it by creating an inner loving voice, an ally, one who is on your side, who validates your feelings, says loving things to you. It may feel uncomfortable at first because you learned this behaviour of inner gaslighting and self sabotage in order to survive an environment you were in, with someone who would be threatened by you having self esteem and success.
These behaviours and sabotaging patterns can be changed and improved with therapy, and the more you recognise the behaviour, the more you can work to heal it.