Self-gaslighting is more common than you think, and could be detrimental to your mental health. Here, psychologist Noosha Anzab explains how to spot it – and stop it.
You’ve probably heard it thrown around here and there, but the term ‘gaslight’ means to “induce someone to question their sanity and grasp of reality by malevolently manipulating his or her perceptions”.
Usually, we hear this term when people describe abusive relationships with their bosses, colleagues, friends, family or in intimate relationships.
But what if we are actually gaslighting ourselves? Whilst we’d never consider this happening, it’s actually more common than you think. Here’s how to tell if you’re self-gaslighting.
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How to tell if you’re gaslighting yourself
Questioning the self
Whilst a degree of self-questioning – such as ‘did I turn the stove off?’ or ‘is my reaction proportionate?’ – are perfectly normal thoughts to ponder, things can quickly take an unhealthy turn when the questions become invalidating.
Think of all the times you’ve asked yourself ‘am I being a whinge?’ or ‘am I overreacting?’. Internalised gaslighting usually involves questioning of the self that doesn’t facilitate curiosity or self-reflection in a positive way, but more so asking questions that break down confidence and question our rationality.
Instead, it might be useful to consider using ‘I’ statements rather than questions such as ‘I am responding this way because I am hurt and overwhelmed’.
Minimising the self
We’ve all been there. Having the inner dialogue that says ‘It’s not that bad’, and/or ‘I should have just let it go’ is a total shutdown of one’s own feelings and thoughts, and this internalised gaslighting can wear us down without us even knowing.
What’s more is that we don’t just minimise the self by underrating our feelings and thoughts; we can also be doing this to our memories when we doubt our perceptions and ask ‘did that really happen that way?’.
Instead of constantly doubting our recollections or downplaying our emotions, instead try approaching the self with a little bit of acceptance.
Externalising the internalised gaslighting
When it comes to self-gaslighting, it doesn’t always have to involve an inner dialogue and have to be in our own heads. Sometimes we self-gaslight externally amongst others in a variety of social settings.
Have you ever started a conversation with ‘I’m not sure but…’ or just stayed really neutral, without opinion or participation when in a social setting? These subtle ways of underestimating the self in social settings really make us second guess what we know is true and facilitate self-dysregulation.
To counter this might be a little easier than it seems. We’ve all heard the phrase ‘fake it till you make it’ and this is the perfect space for it. When it comes to social settings, try starting conversations confidently and engaging in conversations that you are interested in rather than ones you don’t particularly care for.
When conversing, you can try approach the social setting through a self-aware space by communicating openly and effectively, using things like ‘In my opinion’ or ‘in my experience’.
Working on both our internal and external dialogues is a great way to stop self-gaslighting all together.
Often times, we have a predisposition to act in line with life’s conditioning and experiences. There is a reason (or many) that we self-gaslight, whether that be internally or externally, and that is something that can be helped with the guidance of a trusted professional. A psychologist or psychotherapist can really help this space and aid in ceasing the devaluing of oneself, building positive changes and increasing trust and confidence in the self instead.
Noosha Anzab is a clinical psychotherapist and psychologist at Lysn. Lysn is a digital mental health company with world class wellbeing technology which helps people find their best-fit professional psychologist whilst being able to access online tools to improve their mental health.