Many of us have challenging relationships in our lives. The difficult sibling, the uncomfortable colleague, the challenging mother-in-law, or the boyfriend.
Sometimes these relationships can be helped by openness and discussion from both sides. However, some relationships in life seem to be toxic and painful regardless of what you say or do.
Perhaps each time you are with this person you come away confused, not sure of yourself or with an empty, unhappy feeling inside that something really isn’t okay? Surely that wasn’t what you said/meant/intended?
You may be experiencing gaslighting.
Gaslighting often takes away our sense of ‘self’
Definition of gaslighting
The dictionary definition of gaslighting is “is the process of causing someone to doubt their own thoughts, beliefs and perceptions” and it is a form of psychological abuse. As with all things, it exists on a spectrum of mild to severe negative behaviour traits, but at the extreme end it can leave victims confused and exhausted.
In family relationships, when gaslighting is repeated in insidious and subtle ways over long periods of time, it can cause extreme self-doubt and a loss of the sense of self.
Listen to your gut
Often our gut feeling is that the behaviour isn’t okay. However, on the surface things seem so ‘normal’ that gut feelings are easily ignored. This is because our general perception of reality is challenged with seemingly ‘normal’ truths, often about very minor things. For example, “of course I put the bins out”. And that is just the beginning. It is destabilising - rather like putting a lobster asleep in a pot….before boiling it.
An expert gaslighter will curate any existing worries, self-doubt or insecurities and exploit them.
You didn’t have to eat everything did you?” “
Oh dear, drinking us dry again?”
Oh please don’t get so angry all the time”
I’ve been working on this new idea for project x” (when it was your idea all along)
When challenged, the gaslighter will calmly invalidate, ignore or dismiss any objections which leads to more confusion.
How can EFT help us?
As a survivor of emotional abuse, I used EFT to help me deal with years of covert and clever gaslighting. If you are reading this and it resonates, but you are still confused and not sure you will be believed, please know that you are not alone. Covert abuse can take years to unravel and understand.
Often, the first place to start is to acknowledge that this toxic behaviour has happened. It can be very uncomfortable to admit that perhaps a loved one behaves this way, but tapping on that acknowledgement can be a great first step. For example:
Even though they gaslight me, and it was very confusing, I accept who I am and how I feel”
Even though they gaslight me, and they denied my truth, I am learning to love and accept myself anyway”
Even though they gaslight me, and that really hurts, I am willing to acknowledge that this happened”
The importance of validation
If you have an emotional abuser in your life, it is important to note that people who experience chronic gaslighting aren’t stupid or weak. They have, however, experienced cruel and manipulative actions.
Sadly, the person may feel stupid and weak. This is another great place to focus your tapping. Tapping to acknowledge those feelings of weakness - "How could I have been fooled in this way?" can also be very useful.
Being 'body aware'
Crucially, using EFT to be with your body sensations can be the turning point for many who are experiencing toxic relationships.
Gently tap around the points and ask your gut
Does this feel right?"
In my experience, EFT will help you find the answers and start to trust yourself again.
EFTi Executive Director
Kate is an Emotional Abuse & Trauma Specialist
If you are concerned you may be in an emotionally abusive relationship download a free guide HERE