Gaslighting Makes the Real Unreal
Gaslighting is a term that is used for someone who is being lied to, but also convinced that their reality isn’t actually real. This term is commonly associated with affairs and cheating. When one person in a relationship has solid evidence that something is wrong is happening, gaslighting may be taking place. This is why this term is often used to describe affair and infidelity situations. In these situations, a person who has been cheated on may be convinced that they’ve made it up in their own minds. This is why this can also be called “crazy-making.”
Many people who have been gaslighted will describe feeling “stupid” after the fact. This is not an issue of intelligence. It’s likely an issue of cognitive dissonance. There is a discrepancy between hope and what is actually occurring. Along with the convincing tone of a partner, the brain can play tricks on you, and actually convince you that the lie is a possibility. That is not abnormal at all.
This is why it’s common for people who’ve been cheated on to feel shame about their past lack of recognition. It’s understandable to have walked into this. Part of the healing process is offering yourself that understanding.
However, it’s also important for you to retrace your steps. I recommend that this is done in therapy, because this can be a tough journey to walk. In therapy, you can identify where the gaslighting began, and what was going on for you at the time. This can help you prevent it from happening in the future.
Whether you stay in the relationship or you go, solid boundaries are the key.
It’s an extremely personal decision to make whether you stay in a relationship after gaslighting, or not. For some, that realization is enough to make the decision to end the relationship. Others want to continue to try and make their relationship work. Either is fine, as long as you know your boundaries.
To know your boundaries, you have to identify what is OK with you and what is not. That’s a more complicated task than it sounds. It’s also impossible to anticipate everything that can occur in a relationship. This process is more about creating a map for the future, that offers you different pathways to use when you need them. It’s less about having solid boundaries in all situations at all times.
After you’ve retraced your steps with a therapist, you’re more likely to feel on stable ground. Boundaries take practice, and with practice, you’ll start to feel reclaimed confidence in your relationships.
Whether you’re staying with someone who has gaslighted you, or not, you might feel a little uneasy about spotting such threats in the future. As you walk further into identifying the things that were happening for you when you were gaslighted, you’ll be better at spotting them in the present. This increased awareness can also improve your confidence. You’re more likely to feel like you can get vulnerable, which will build trust in your relationships.
The gaslighting wasn’t your fault.
Even though you have to retrace your steps, it’s important to know that you don’t hold responsibility for the decisions and gaslighting of your partner. The reason you retrace your steps is to re-ground yourself. Experiences like this can make you lose yourself a bit in space and time. Retracing can help you to re-establish yourself at the present time.
This process helps you to also re-establish a sense of authenticity. This isn’t to say that you haven’t been authentic. Instead, this process allows you to feel more authentic. Centering into that space can be empowering.
If you’ve been in a relationship where you’ve been convinced that reality isn’t really happening, it’s possible that you’ve been gaslighted. This can be a challenging thing to work through. However, with the right help, you’ll find a place of increased confidence and internal trust, which will translate into your future relationships as well.