Do you often see yourself seeking validation from your partner? Do you often find your partner dismissing your sense of right, wrong, or what’s real, unreal? Well, you may be under siege. Unconscious gaslighting is real. It does to you what any gaslighting can do to you without the perpetrator realizing it. But how do you identify yourself as being gaslit? Let us explore the subtle nuances of unconscious gaslighting.
What is Unconscious Gaslighting?
To begin with, gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse wherein the abuser dismisses or makes the victim question their perception of reality to undermine how they feel and avoid being held accountable for abusive behavior.
As it is, it is cruel to invalidate or treat anyone in this manner deliberately, but it is also possible to do so unconsciously. It may also be possible for someone to gaslight with nothing but good intentions. That’s strange but true. It is, in fact, possible to fall into the unconscious gaslighting trap when you are taking care of a person with a mental illness.
Gaslighting is a type of abuse wherein the abuser makes the victim doubt their memory, sanity, perception, and judgment. The abuser does so by omitting, denying, or distorting facts, information, events, and statements. The gaslighter often implies that the victim is mentally unsound and directly or indirectly suffers from false delusions and illusions. The most common examples include the abuser insisting on your mistakes even when you haven’t committed any, re-labeling your emotions as ‘inappropriate,’ or making you feel as if you are overreacting to make you blend in.
It often takes time for gaslighting to affect wherein the gaslighter controls fully or aims to control their victims. It causes the victim’s self-esteem to be undermined and not valued and makes them dependent on the gaslighter for validation and emotional support. Primarily observed in narcissists and sociopaths, gaslighting is an intentional behavior where gaslighters often successfully convince their victims to believe in what they say.
Gaslighting is a process of methodical rejection that eventually leads to unsolvable uncertainty in the victim’s mind. It results in the victim losing confidence in their perceptions, intellect, and judgments. It undermines their agency and freedom, making them less or unlikely to recognize an abusive relationship.
What Is Unconscious Gaslighting?
It is a form of emotional abuse that happens without the intention of exploiting others. Still, it is an unconscious practice fuelled by specific objectives, including fabricating facts, deliberate deception, playing mind games, reflexive denial, or hidden agendas.
Unconscious gaslighting occurs in relationships between family members, partners, friends, or situations where an individual is emotionally open and vulnerable. The unconscious gaslighters are, however, unaware of how they make others suffer from their manipulating practices. If there is an intention of malice, it is through some ulterior motive.
Unconscious gaslighting is provoked when a perpetrator finds themselves in specific situations or is approached by particular persons. It is seldom provoked when the issue under denial is incidental or trivial. This kind of situation could, however, be prevented by ignoring that person or avoiding those topics. Nonetheless, if there are multiple negative topics, and the person has a crucial role in our life, then there may be several chances of sparking a gaslighting effect.
But, in any case, the final effect is the same as in the case of conscious gaslighting, wherein the victim ends up doubting their judgment, memory, and sanity.
Why Do We Accept Unconscious Gaslighting?
There could be numerous reasons we continue to accept abusive behavior or conscious/unconscious gaslighting towards ourselves. It could be because we are co-dependent, identify ourselves more with the abusive partner, or are used to such toxicity.
Since we are often bogged down by guilt and shame, we are often unable to look beyond them or understand how to deal with them.
Gaslighters strategically distract their victim from their abuse by drawing their attention away from it or providing an alternative coping mechanism. Unconscious gaslighting may occur while a victim is undergoing acute trauma, including physical, sexual, or verbal abuse.
The victim often has a high need for approval and validation and quickly feels guilty, unworthy, and rejected when the perpetrator disapproves of them and their behavior. It, eventually, reflects in the way we treat ourselves.
Unconscious gaslighting can be triggered by external circumstances or a person’s unconscious values and self-talk. Identifying the signs of unconscious gaslighting is challenging as it is quite an intricate form of manipulation that stems from the depth of the unconscious mind.
Signs of Unconscious Gaslighting in a Relationship
There are some glaring signs of unconscious gaslighting in a relationship that you can look for such as –
- Your Partner Dismisses or Invalidates Your Feelings
When you share your feelings with your partner or bring up a concern, they may persuade you to think that you are the one at fault or overthinking.
- You Find Yourself Doubting Your Reality
Every relationship is fraught with challenges, and sometimes that implies monitoring your behavior. However, when you start doubting your reality to the point where you feel like you are losing it and it is difficult to trust yourself, it is a significant sign of being gaslit. The most challenging aspect about being gaslit is that it happens over time and is not easy to detect.
- They Never Let You Express Yourself During a Conflict
When engaged in an argument with the person who gaslights, you might feel like they are constantly pushing you back and not letting you explain your perspective.
- They Don’t Apologize When You Express How Hurt You Are
If you tell your partner how hurt you are and are met with a lack of empathy, that is a red flag. If they don’t apologize but instead convince you that you shouldn’t feel how you are feeling or think what you are thinking, that is another telltale sign of gaslighting. If you exhaust yourself trying to justify your feelings and your partner is unwilling to take accountability for their actions, you are being gaslit.
- Your Partner Blames You or External Circumstances
In the event of a conflict, if your partner often blames you or blames their actions on external factors, that is a sign of gaslighting. People who gaslight might divert the topic to something you have done instead of addressing their actions. Some partners take it as far as belittling you by calling you ‘too sensitive’ as a way of avoiding accountability for their actions.
- They Make You Believe That You Are Not Doing Enough For Your Relationship
When your partner places the blame on you when you try to voice your concerns, it may make you feel that you are not doing enough for the sustenance of your relationship. Over time it can cause you to internalize the feeling to the point where you believe yourself to be at fault.
- Using Your Voice Brings Feelings of Guilt
You may get to a point where sharing any feeling with your partner is difficult. If the thought of sharing a feeling or a concern starts making you feel guilty, it is a sign of ‘control’ in your relationship. If you feel voiceless or suppressed, you are gaslit.
How To Handle Unconscious Gaslighting?
In case of unconscious gaslighting, the perpetrator has to ensure that the target remains in their thrall instead of questioning their accusations. They are aware that when they force the victim to degrade or lose their self-esteem in an unhealthy or negative manner, they become more compliant. That is what a victim has to challenge. The perpetrator has to be told they are not slaves.
Whether you are triggered by something or someone is not an unusual phenomenon. It happens to many people. But you can always see the situation from the perpetrator’s perspective, scrutinize their actions, and make an informed decision.
Living in a world or being surrounded by people who put you down can make it hard to care for yourself emotionally. However, you can use methods to help heal your feelings and cope with negative or triggering situations. If you feel like you cannot handle it all by yourself, reach out to see a counselor and learn about the techniques suggested by them.
Strategies To Handle Unconscious Gaslighting
- It helps to take responsibility for life’s choices and control your life the way you want it.
- Seek help and get support. Don’t be afraid to express yourself.
- Realize that you are not crazy, the way your partner would have you think about yourself.
- Everyone has flaws and imperfections. But that doesn’t mean you have to be constantly judged for your flaws. No one is ‘wrong’ by nature. So, don’t accept it when you are told so.
- Dare to think differently because you and only you have the power to change the direction of your life.
- Be content and happy with yourself.
- There is no need to plead or reason it with a conscious or unconscious gaslighter aware of what they are doing to hurt you.
- When faced with an unconscious gaslighter seeking control over you, thwart them or seek support from those who have equal or more authority than the gaslighter.
- Flee the scene of conflict. If a flight is not feasible, create barriers to avoid being a part of the blame game.
- Ask open-ended questions.
- Display curiosity as you would if the conversation took place in a typical social setting.
- Avoid making any judgments about the person that can trigger gaslighting.
- You don’t have to figure out the motives based on which someone is gaslighting you.
- When dealing with an unconscious gaslighter, try to avoid triggering them or attempting to preserve their denial.
- Assist the gaslighter in confronting their denial and overcoming it.
- Try not to trigger the prejudice of the unconscious gaslighter if they are prejudiced against your personality.
- Ask questions until you find the truth. Be careful of assuming that others are not wrong just because you think so.
- Try to uncover the deception of an unconscious gaslighter attempting to fool you.
How to Avoid Unconscious Gaslighting
First of all, acknowledge that unconscious gaslighting is for real. Reassure yourself and the perpetrator that you are entirely in control of your feelings. Don’t let them run away from you. Unconscious gaslighting is a ruthless phenomenon, a mental condition, that burdens your relationships with people you love and care for the most. Supporting someone with this condition is emotionally exhausting and requires a lot of emotional insights that most people are not trained for. The best thing to do is keep the communication channels open, keep talking, and help each other better decipher what is real and what’s not.