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.
What is Spiritual Gaslighting?
Spiritual gaslighting is a form of abuse that occurs when a person is manipulated to distrust their own feelings, memories, and perceptions, because the abuser will tell them that they’re not seeing reality correctly. It’s using spiritual concepts to shame others into submission, to question people’s spiritual journey, and to pull rank.
In a spiritual context, it happens when someone tells you what you think or feel is wrong without taking into account your perspective or experience. They use spiritual terms or bible verses to cause you to doubt your reality and shame you.
The term spiritual gaslighting has been used in psychotherapy literature to describe what can happen when “mutual faith or belief in one’s religion is attacked”. Spiritual gaslighting often takes the form of an authority figure who insists that they know better about how people should think and behave, and then can pit people against each other by making them believe their viewpoint.
Spiritual gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse that is often overlooked in the realm of mental health. It is not only used by narcissists and sociopaths, but also by religious cults, spiritual leaders and other groups to manipulate vulnerable people.
Spiritual gaslighting includes manipulating a person’s sense of reality to confuse and control them. The abuser will tell blatant lies and deny facts and events from the past to cause confusion, making it difficult for the victim to know what is real or true anymore.
There are many possible reasons why someone may use spiritual gaslighting on someone else, such as self-preservation, power manipulation, jealousy or simple sadism.
I think another angle on spiritual gaslighting is a concept made popular in the last 10 years, spiritual bypassing. Where you go straight to the spiritual and bypass your emotions or its a way to explain something negative. It’s perhaps not as manipulative as spiritual gaslighting.
Examples of Spiritual Gaslighting
Something one of my teachers taught me in a class once was “Empathy Before Education”. I always remember that term. It means that you are caring about what someone else is going through before giving your opinion about what they can do to heal their situation.
Often with spiritual gaslighting there’s a grain of truth in what people say, it’s just that there is some kind of manipulation going on in the context that they say it and why they say it.
1.You Got An Illness Because You Aren’t Spiritual Enough
There are lots of reasons people get sick, one such example of spiritual gaslighting stems from the 1980s when Louise Hay’s book came out “You Can Heal Your Life” where she gave emotional meanings underlying body ailments, it became quite a catch phrase to say to people “what have you done to attract this to you?” As if being of a lower vibration or being too negative or not controlling every situation would mean you would end up ill, as if you were to blame for getting sick.
Sickness teaches us so many things about life, I mean lets face it, we don’t get out of life alive lol We all have to die of something. And something I really believe is that our illnesses are here to heal us. That in healing our illnesses we learn things along the way, virtues like compassion, patience, self care and self love.
2. If You Have Money Issues You Haven’t Done Enough Clearing or Abundance Focusing
This is a hard one as a healer, because on some level this is true. But as far as healing goes, there will always be something to heal. You can always do more healing. I tell people to trust their intuition or their gut about if doing healing on this issue is right for them. And is the time right to work on this.
3. The World Is An Illusion
For a lot of religions or spiritual paths, seeing the world as an illusion is another way to invalidate someone’s experience that they have in the “outside world”. The belief in spiritual circles of “as above, so below, as within, so without”, means that everything stems from the spiritual. So the world is but a reflection of the higher realms, and saying the world is an illusion is just another way to spiritually gaslight people into feeling like what experiences they have in the world aren’t what they feel about it. And what is happening for them really doesn’t mean what they think.
There is a truth in this, but to use this to make someone wrong is spiritual gaslighting.
4. It’s Your Karma
This is a way to explain away anything that happens to you, generally that’s negative. So if you have an accident, if you get sick, if something bad happens to you, then it’s obviously your karma, you must have done something wrong in a past life that you have to pay for this lifetime.
How To Stop Spiritual Gaslighting in Your Life
The first step to stop spiritual gaslighting is to identify the patterns and instances of gaslighting that you are experiencing. The next step is to decide whether or not these patterns and instances are creating distress for you. If they are creating distress, then it is time for you to start taking action by setting boundaries with the perpetrator, being mindful of your reactions, and communicating your needs. Unless of course they are a narcissist or a sociopath, and then you just get the hell away from them.
We have all experienced at least one instance of gaslighting in our lives at some point in time. It happens when someone intentionally tries to make another person question their reality by telling them that they are imagining things or being overly sensitive.
How to Overcome Spiritual Gaslighting
Spiritual gaslighting is a form of emotional manipulation that is disguised as spiritual guidance.
There are three ways to overcome spiritual gaslighting:
- Become aware of your self-talk and self-doubt.
- Learn to trust yourself and your intuition more than any other person or their advice. And if you seek advice how does your body react to that advice? Does it feel good or do you feel shame? Feeling shame is a big identifier of someone possibly trying to have power over you.
- Be mindful and live in the present moment, not in the past or future, but right here and now where you can access your inner peace and self-love.