Parents and Gaslighting

“You’re crazy!”, “That never happened”, “You’re remembering things wrong”, “What are you talking about?”,  “You must be confused again”, “You’re overreacting.”

You get to hear them every other day and these statements actually harm you in ways you would never have imagined. In case you didn’t know, this is called Gaslighting. Gaslighting is basically a form of mental abuse in which a ‘gaslighter’ manipulates the ‘gaslightee’ in such a way that the latter begins questioning their own thoughts. They are forced to doubt their thoughts, beliefs, mannerisms, and memories. The gaslighter avoids responsibility for their toxic behavior by lying and denying and making one question one’s memories, feelings as well as facts.

How do I identify gaslighting?

One very important thing to note here is that gaslighting can be unintentional. Irrespective of whether this manipulation has been deliberate or otherwise, it is still gaslighting and is still harmful. Before going into the details, here are a few cues that one might give you so as to help you identify if you are being gaslighted. Gaslighter may:

  1. Belittle you by saying things like “You ought to feel sorry about yourself” or “Oh, where have you ended up?”
  2. Deny facts about what they did with you “We never went there!” or “You are crazy, we never did that!”
  3. Insist they haven’t said things to you “I never said so…”
  4. Tell you things like “You know, the boys in the next class are talking ill of you”, “Everyone in the family thinks you are stupid”.
  5. Hide things away from you and respond with a “How can you forget like that? This is the third time you’ve lost the pen this week”.
  6. Decide things for you “You aren’t hungry” or “You must be tired, you should sleep”

Gaslighting is extremely hard to identify. One cannot argue with the gaslighter and tell them that they are alright and there’s no need for them to point things out for them since the reality seems to be the same as the way the gaslighter says. In case you are a Highly Sensitive Person (or an HSP), it is a lot more difficult for you to truly believe in yourself, fight the world’s version of you and not be a victim of others’ manipulation. Gaslighting takes a toll on one’s psyche and it is of paramount importance that one ensures they don’t become a victim of the same. 

Your parents can be your gaslighters!

Yes! You could be a victim of gaslighting and your very own parents could be your gaslighters. One might wonder why a parent might gaslight their kids and the answer is most likely that this was how they have been brought up. According to Babita Spinelli, a psychoanalyst, parents might not even be aware of how manipulative their words are and how destructive their actions are. This can have a negative effect on the self-confidence of the children and they begin doubting themselves.

Gaslighting is an innate parental instinct that one has so as to keep their children safe. But too much of such manipulation makes the child question themselves. Parental love, after a point in time, turns into this form of emotional abuse. Especially, since parents are the most intimate people to any child, it is easier for the child to trust whatever the parent says. Gaslighting, in this case, happens the fastest for the very same reason. This is not what the parent wants (in most cases) but what happens in reality. 

Dealing with gaslighting parents

It, inarguably, is very disturbing having to deal with gaslighting parents. The first step one has to take is to ease the talk and convey the problem to your parents. Not every parent would be understanding and it could be hard. Here are a few other steps that could help you tackle your gaslighters:

  • Discover yourself – A gaslightee becomes one because they don’t know much about themselves. Becoming aware of oneself is the key. Understand your personality, your convictions, and your reactions. This makes the job of the gaslighter way harder.
  • Get over the sadness – The process of getting rid of gaslighting is extremely draining. You will most probably want to grieve over the happenings around you. This is normal and there is no need to worry about it. Flush out all your emotions and make yourself feel better.
  • Make your own decisions – This doesn’t mean you take very important decisions on your own. Do it, one step at a time. Take small decisions. Buy your favorite food, wear whatever you please, or rearrange your room the way you want it to be.
  • Don’t desire approval – If you are seeking approval, you are falling into the trap of your gaslighter again. So, a big ‘NO’ to asking for someone’s permission. Gaslighters make you believe that they are always right and that you deserve to be loved only when you listen to what they say. So, don’t give anyone the authority to rule your life. 
  • Seek help – Seeking help is not, in any way, a bad thing. We have been conditioned not to ask for help from anyone. But it is very essential for one’s growth and can help them overcome mental issues. 

Gaslighting peers and how parents can come to your rescue 

One clue to figure out if someone is gaslighting you is when you realize you are going insane because of the things that are being said or done by them. Gaslighting becomes a major issue when the gaslightee isn’t able to believe in themselves. Having lived in this world for quite some time, we all know how peers gaslight us (be it intentionally or subconsciously) and how it can harm us in the long run. Especially when we are in our teens, a period of a great deal of turmoil, gaslighting can be a lot more harmful. 

Children can become resistant to gaslighting when they have been raised up well by parents. They must be brought up in such a way they become emotionally strong and be aware of what they are. This helps them assert their personalities and understand what exactly they feel about something or what they are doing. Self-awareness is the key to tackling gaslighting. And we all know how long it takes for one to inculcate this trait. It just can’t be done overnight. As parents craft their children’s personality, they play a major role in shaping the child’s brain and are hence very vital stakeholders in deciding upon how the children tackle gaslighting and how they manage to create their own identity.

Tackling the perpetual

Gaslighting has always existed in the world. It is just that we have a name for it now. We all now know about how harmful an impediment it is to one’s growth. For all the parents out there, here’s a tip:

Instead of  “See, you spilled the milk again”, say “Aww! The milk got spilled. It’s okay. We’ll clean it up.
Instead of “Oh God! You broke this toy again”, say “Oops! The toy broke.”
Mistakes happen, Milk splatters, Toys break. In any case- An innocent child’s spirit should never break because of your immediate unthoughtful reaction. Don’t always blame your child by assuming that he/she always commits mistakes, or knowingly does something.

For everyone who has either been gaslighted or has seen a victim of a gaslightee, don’t let gaslighting be normal because it is not! It should never be so. And help people get out of toxic relationships that cause harm to them. Parents, obviously, play a major role and I’d like to reiterate that the upbringing of a child directly impacts how they see themselves and how they tackle various problems that they come across.

“Some people try to be tall by cutting off the heads of the others”, as Paramahamsa Yogananda said. Yes, these are the gaslighters. Most of them are narcissists, those that are self-centered and don’t really care for others. They subdue others so as to highlight themselves. It is extremely hard to tolerate the mental damage they cause to us. Take a step and cut these toxic relationships off. And if these are your parents, TALK! Dialog is the key. Discuss your insecurities and make them understand you. Walking away from such relationships is not the only choice you are left with- but, if the relationship is getting more toxic, take the cue and just leave. Because better late than never.

Featured Graphic Designer: Vaibhavi Pant


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