I have wanted to write about this topic for a long time. We’ve all experienced it, and truth be told, we’ve all done it. It’s one method used to gain the upper-hand in a power dynamic. Back in the day when we were “less conscious” it was harder to detect – it seemed like a staple in many (especially romantic) relationships. However, nowadays, as we have become more conscious independent creators of our own lives, it’s a lot more noticeable.
If we give ourselves permission to see it, we can transform or eliminate toxic relationships from our lives. It also helps you create healthy (and hopefully mutually respectful) boundaries with people who are inherently part of your life, such as family. But most importantly, this will transform your self-esteem, communication and self-expression, giving you a new sense of freedom.
By definition, gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation. The “perpetrator” covertly sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual, making them question their own memory, perception, or judgment. Over time, this evokes cognitive dissonance and other distortions such as distrust in oneself and low self-esteem.
Gaslighting is so subtle that when you examine a disorienting communication experience, you may blow it off as you “over-reacting”. That is the power of gaslighting, it’s shadowy in nature, and the perpetrator frames it in a way that they cannot be argued against without you looking like an idiot or making things up. It’s sticky. And it always comes from a place of control and serving a perpetrators narrative (whatever story they have cultivated about themselves and their reality). It “works” because the recipient already has a level of self-doubt, are naive or ignorant about the true nature of the other person, or might be tolerating a situation to keep the peace. It also pops up during times of transitions when we are already experiencing vulnerability and doubt of the “unknown” we are stepping into, and those in our lives project their opinions which can have you questioning your path.
If it feels “off” – no matter how it is presented at the surface – it probably is. Trust that.
And while gaslighting is common in romantic relationships, family dynamics and sales techniques, it’s also prevalent in personal and spiritual development.
YES. I said it.
And it needs to be talked about.
Some of this comes from spiritual snobbery and specialness, and an inflated sense of authority, while some of it comes from a genuine drive to help others they perceive “needs” your help. But what underpins all of this is egoic judgment, a lack of discipline, and a distorted understanding of the true nature of what transformation really is.
And we need to look at this, both within ourselves and people we follow because, in my opinion, it’s becoming more prevalent. Just because it’s “spiritual” or someone claims to be a “guru” or “awakened” – it doesn’t mean what they put out is beneficial for you. I’ve seen globally recognised “guru’s” do the standover to others physically much smaller than them in front of large crowds. Not only is this unnecessary, but a misuse of power. There is a fine line between invoking empowerment and invoking dependence. And it seems that discernment is thrown out the window in the “spiritual” space.
It also affects our day-to-day. Over the years, I’ve had experiences where I have come out of conversations, seminars or talks feeling like I have regressed 10 steps backwards instead of triggering deeper insight for real-life transformation. Around certain people, I can’t talk about mundane stuff like getting a flat car tyre or a minor health concern without it getting nit-picked or “analysed”. And when I request not wanting to delve into the deeper meaning, I am then told I am in “resistance”.
This is something we have ALL participated to some degree, and it can get toxic.
But it has to change.
Personal development, self-mastery, transformation, ascension, and spirituality, is a very personal experience sacred to each individual person. It’s no one else’s business. Everyone has free will and is responsible for their own choices. And sometimes you have to accept things as they are. Too many people are turning themselves into pretzels trying to shift a dynamic that does not want to change. Sometimes you have to accept what is, sometimes you have to walk away.
It takes discipline and a new level of detachment and neutrality to come to a place of non-judgment of your own and other people’s choices.
When we stand in our own personal power and ACCEPT the truth of who other people are, gaslighting won’t stick. And especially during transitions when you are experiencing fear, anxiety, vulnerability, doubt, and uncertainty, it’s important to remain razor-focused on your personal process and the outcomes you are heading towards to keep momentum.
Gaslighting won’t stick as we become more sovereign as independent creative beings. It can’t. Harvesting “energy” from others is not sustainable, and we have to learn to get comfortable re-evaluating personal boundaries as we move through different experiences.