The term ‘Gaslight’ comes from an old-timey Hollywood movie by the same name. In the movie, the husband would turn the gaslights down slightly to disorient his wife, and whenever she brought it up, he would tell her that it’s all in her head. Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse where the other person is manipulated into doubting their perceptions and experiences.
Self-gaslighting is when we take up the responsibility of manipulating ourselves. We internalise the abuse or the lack of protection from abuse. Self-gaslighting can sound like:
“Maybe I’m overreacting”
“Nothing really bad happened to me”
“Maybe it’s all in my head?”
In self-gaslighting, we suppress our thoughts and emotions and blame ourselves for having those feelings in the first place. So then why do we do it? The abuse (or neglect) experienced in the past may become deeply internalised and it served as a coping mechanism where we were probably able to adapt to unhealthy situations or relationships. It worked as a survival skill, but ask yourself if that’s a technique you still require? Would you be okay if a friend talked to you that way?
With self-gaslighting, anytime we encounter a stressful or overwhelming situation, we do not pause to reflect on our emotions but instead, very impulsively think “I’m probably over-reacting”. We are not validating our emotions, which we have a right to experience and express.
One of the ways in which we can stop self-gaslighting is simply by affirming our emotions and our experiences.
“I’m overreacting to a minor situation”
"My emotions and feelings are valid”
“They probably did not mean it like that, I know they love me”
“I can recognise the tone and words they used, I know how it made me feel”
Affirmations may sound easy but can be difficult to implement and believe them. Working with a professional and addressing the internalised trauma can help with the journey of healing.
Don’t let yourself talk to you like that.