One of the main objectives of an abuser is to erode the emotional stability of their victim to the point where the victim feels as if they’re incapable of conceptualizing their own reality, and become dependent on their abuser’s reality instead. From the abuser’s perspective, the most common way this is achieved is through a manipulative tactic called gaslighting. 

When someone doubts and denies your reality so frequently that you begin to question your own sanity, it is called gaslighting. In all honesty, gaslighting is the most versatile form of abuse you could ever encounter. 

It can manifest in just about every single abusive behavior you can think of and there are six different types of gaslighting: traditional, ultimatums, mind reading, distractions, contradictions, and minimizations. 

We have a really cool article with 119 of the most common gaslighting phrases that we received from our study participants, here were some of the most common phrases we found. 

  1. You didn’t see me do anything. (Contradiction) 
  2. It’s not even that serious, get over yourself… (Minimization)
  3. If you interrogate me like a criminal, I’m going to act like one! (Ultimatums)
  4. Maybe we should go see a counselor. Then you’ll see it’s not me, it’s you! (Diversion)
  5. You’re terrible at communicating. (Traditional) 
  6. You know me well enough to know that you shouldn’t take me seriously when I’m like that. (Mind reading)

If you want to see the rest and grasp a comprehensive understanding of what each type of gaslighting is, check out 119 of the most Common Gaslighting Phrases That You Need to Know

While reading the phrases it is very, very important that you remember what makes it gaslighting is ALL of the abuse one suffers simultaneously. Meaning that you’ll likely read a phrase that you’ve said before, it does not mean you are a gaslighter or some other type of abuser. 

Now, that doesn’t mean that you can’t gaslight an abuser. In fact, gaslighting an abuser is one of the most effective ways to escape the abusive cycle you’re caught in, however, it is a much more non-narcissistic version of gaslighting so be sure to check out Is It Really Possible to Gaslight a Narcissist? (Advice from 432 Survivors) to have a fighting chance when escaping abusive environments. 

Someone fighting narcissistic abuse

With that being said, you’re here because you want to learn how to regain your sanity after being gaslighted and understandably so. To give you the BEST information possible, we conducted a simple survey among 54 survivors of narcissistic abuse to determine the 7 best techniques to regain your sanity after gaslighting. 

Why is this so important? 

Well, gaslighting has been known to cause extraordinary high levels of second-guessing oneself, self-doubt, and indecisiveness. If these types of behaviors are neglected, you could find yourself missing out on huge opportunities, events, and potentially memorable moments in your life because of the fog those three behaviors plague your identity with. 

Practice Being Comfortable With Your Own Decisions

One of the hallmarks of an abuser is the merciless scrutinization of every single aspect of your life. It doesn’t matter what you do, the abuser in your life will make sure that they find something wrong with it. 

So, practicing being comfortable with your own decisions can be a really helpful technique to master after an abusive relationship. Keep in mind that you should be taking this one step at a time. You don’t have to leap into something as intense as radical acceptance. 

Start small by deciding what you’re going to have for breakfast. What movie you’re going to watch. The clothes you’re going to wear. Or even the music you’re going to listen to. It’s the accumulation of small victories that prepares you for the bigger ones!

A woman in a blue dress practicing being comfortable with making decisions after being abused by a narcissist

Use a Journal to Minimize Your Abuser’s Condescending Voice 

Throughout our studies and other forms of communication that we have with our participants, we’ve found that keeping a journal is one of the best techniques to manage the psychological fallout of abusive relationships.

When it comes to regaining your sanity after being gaslighted, using a journal can be a very effective tool to keep your abuser’s condescending voice out of your head when making big decisions in your life. 

So, how do you use it? 

Well, this technique is designed to target the way that abusers minimize your existence. Remember, in a healthy relationship you do not have to validate your existence. 

So, in an abusive relationship if you were making a big decision on something important like which school to go to, the abuser in your life might insult the campus, the school’s reputation, doubt that you’re capable of succeeding there, or even doubt that they’ll let you in. 

Do not let their jealous and wildly insecure, condescending voice affect your decision making anymore. 

Depiction of the control narcissists have over others.

So, let’s try this again. You’ve escaped the abusive environment you were trapped in and now it is time to pick schools again. You know exactly where you want to go but your abuser’s voice is still lingering in your psyche. Instead of succumbing to their insecure rants, write what you hear down in a notebook to give you a tangible representation of the absurdity of their perspective of reality. 

You spent months, years, maybe even decades of being minimized, scrutinized and invalidated. That ends now! Use the journal to separate their condescending voice from the reality that you’re capable of anything you put your mind to.

Use Affirmations to Reassure Yourself of Your Greatness

Using affirmations to reassure yourself of your greatness is such an important dynamic to practice on a daily basis as it not only helps with regaining your sanity after gaslighting, but the entire healing journey after an abusive relationship. 

10 Affirmations to Practice After Escaping an Abusive Environment: 

  1. I am in charge of my own happiness.
  2. I love myself for who I am.
  3. I am enough.
  4. I can do (blank).
  5. The best is yet to come.
  6. I don’t need permission to do what makes me happy.
  7. I am not perfect, and that is okay!
  8. The only person I need to be proud of me… is me!
  9. I will achieve my goals in life. 
  10. I am capable and worthy.

Affirmations like these are so important to repeat on a daily basis after escaping an abusive relationship. 

Why? 

Do you remember that one of the goals of an abuser is to erode your emotional stability so severely that you feel as if you’re unable to conceptualize your own reality and feel much more secure just accepting your abuser’s reality?

Well, abusers are masterful at forcing you to become dependent on their reality, so by using affirmations on a daily basis after you’ve escaped an abusive environment, the likelihood of them being able to drag you back into the abusive cycle through the manipulation of reality reduces significantly.

Acknowledge That What You Experienced Was Gaslighting

The self-doubts and second-guessing that plagues your mind after months, years, or even decades of gaslighting and all that it entails can leave you desperate for answers. It is such a difficult form of emotional abuse to wrap your head around because of how brazen it can be. 

When you’re in the middle of it, it is nearly impossible to accurately identify gaslighting behavior, even if you have extensive knowledge about manipulative behaviors like gaslighting.

The confusion of it all can lead you to normalizing, rationalizing, and justifying the abuse even after you’ve escaped the abusive relationship. 

How? 

Well, rumination is a huge part of everyone’s healing journey. Rumination is when someone obsessively over thinks the same thoughts over and over again. If you were to ruminate about the abuse you suffered without acknowledging that it was gaslighting, the likelihood of you accidentally rationalizing, justifying, and normalizing your way right back into your abuser’s arms is quite high. 

A woman in a blue shirt ruminating about her narcissistic ex

You need to “label” everything so they don’t get lost in your thoughts. It is not a misunderstanding, miscommunication, or coincidence. It is gaslighting and it won’t stop until you stop it yourself by taking the right steps to ensure that you’re able to defend yourself from it. 

Educate Yourself on the Phenomenon of Gaslighting

Knowledge is always the best defense against abusers. The moment you’re able to identify abusive behavior patterns and efficiently manage them you become nearly invincible to its power. However, there’s an even bigger threat that you need to know about, yourself. 

What do I mean by this?

It is your responsibility to protect yourself from further abuse after leaving the abusive environment. You can do this by surrounding yourself with those who understand what you’ve been through, using all of the tips I’ve listed in this article, seeking out a medical professional to help you manage your trauma, and by educating yourself. 

Let’s start by understanding that gaslighting doesn’t have to be intentional. Meaning that it could come from someone who doesn’t understand abusive relationships so they approach the situation as they would a healthy one, or even yourself.  

A narcissist enabler gaslighting a victim of narcissistic abuse

The saddest part about escaping an abusive environment that was plagued with gaslighting is that after months, years, and even decades of a pervasive environment of manipulation, invalidation, devaluation, and projection, you learn to gaslight yourself. 

If you want to regain your sanity after being gaslighted, you have to arm yourself with a sufficient amount of knowledge to ensure that you don’t gaslight yourself back into your abuser’s arms.

For more information about gaslighting yourself and MANY more forms of unintentional gaslighting, go check out our article Does Gaslighting Have to Be Intentional to begin protecting yourself today!

Let Go of the Wish for Things to Be Different

If you want to regain your sanity after being gaslighted and move on with your life, you have to be able to accept what happened to you. I may sound like a broken record but you have to stop normalizing, rationalizing, and justifying the abuse. 

Gaslighting is a term that is commonly associated with narcissistic abuse, and given that all abusers have narcissistic personality traits (the way they behave, not a diagnosis) I’m going to give you a little bit of insight as to why those with narcissistic personalities gaslight others. 

People with narcissistic personalities spend their entire lives creating a falsified identity they believe is much more likely to be accepted by society because their true identity is vulnerable, insecure, inadequate, and emotionally immature. 

To a non-narcissistic person, these characteristics don’t mean that you’re unworthy of society’s acceptance. Absolutely not. But because of a narcissist’s upbringing, they’ve developed an intense hatred for their true identity and their emotional immaturity prevents them from ever resolving their inner instability in a healthy way. 

What does this mean for you? 

It means that while there are never any absolutes in life, you’re much safer acknowledging that they’ll never, EVER change their behavior. You see, they need to gaslight you to protect their falsified identity. They are incapable of regulating the intense negative emotions that come with having their true identity exposed so the protection of their falsified identity becomes almost like a life or death situation.  

There is no limit to how far someone with a narcissistic personality will go to protect his or her falsified identity. You need to let go of the wish for things to be different to not only allow yourself to heal, but to protect yourself as well. 

Allow Yourself to Make Mistakes

One of the ways that an abuser will silence your voice is through fear, specifically a technique that is known as narcissistic rage. Let’s make one thing abundantly clear, narcissistic rage is not the same as rage or anger.

Anger is a normal emotion that every single human being on this planet is entitled to feel at one point or another. Rage is an emotion that comes from something along the lines of your life or the life of the ones you love being threatened.

Narcissistic rage is an explosive and unpredictable reaction to the smallest inconveniences. While it can be very in-your-face and terrifying, it can also manifest in a much more passive aggressive way known as the silent treatment.

A narcissist gaslighting someone by using the silent treatment

After months, years, or even decades of experiencing this unpredictable and explosive rage, it can make you feel as if you constantly have to walk on eggshells around your abuser. Like you have to analyze every single thing you do or say to avoid your abuser’s rage.

Once out of the abusive cycle, this needs to be stamped out immediately. Allow yourself to make some mistakes. The purpose of this aligns with the purpose of using a journal to silence your abuser’s condescending voice.

You can not let the abuser’s insecure, immature, and vulnerable identity dictate who you are, especially after you’ve escaped the abuse cycle.

A really good way to work on being comfortable making mistakes is by addressing your triggers. A trigger is something that sets off a memory tape or flashback transporting the person back to the event of her/his original trauma.

I always got in trouble for using too many utensils while cooking. So now when I’m cooking I instinctively get anxious about the amount of utensils I use. So, my therapist would get me to do things like use ALL of the utensils when cooking to work on my triggers. Brie Robertson, Survivor of 17 Years of Narcissistic Abuse

What Should You Take Away From This Article?

Reclaiming your sanity after being gaslighted is not an easy task. It requires a significant amount of work to pull off. Some additional things that you should incorporate with the tips laid out above are ensuring that you have a solid support group and a qualified therapist to address your trauma.

The support group will act as an extra boost of reassurance when you begin doubting yourself and a qualified, emphasis on qualified, therapist or any other medical professional will be the light that guides you through the darkness of healing from an abusive relationship.

With that being said, you are the only one who can define you. You are responsible for your own happiness and well-being.

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All of the content that Unfilteredd creates is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for clinical care — please visit here for qualified organizations and here for qualified professionals that you can reach out to for help. This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policies.

References:

Sweet, Paige L. “The Sociology of Gaslighting.” American Sociological Review, vol. 84, no. 5, Oct. 2019, pp. 851–875, doi:10.1177/0003122419874843.