Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse that highly sensitive and empathic people are particularly susceptible to. This form of manipulation makes the victim doubt themselves, their judgment, and their sensibility. This means that by default, those who are subject to this form of psychological abuse are not able to stand up for themselves and fight back.
Why are sensitive people more susceptible to gaslighting?
There are many reasons why a highly sensitive person, HSP, is more susceptible to gaslighting, but one of the most common reasons is that they tend to not trust their own intuition, and allow an unfair or abusive situation to go on for too long.
Because highly sensitive people are neuro-atypical and tend to see and feel things differently than others, they have been made to feel throughout their lives that they are “overreacting” or behaving in questionable ways. They have been conditioned to distrust themselves and what they think and feel. Even when they feel or sense something is wrong, or that they are in an imbalanced relationship, they may not feel able to speak up for themselves. They simply tell themselves they are imagining things and try to justify the abuser’s behaviors.
Additionally, highly sensitive persons are more likely to overthink interpersonal situations and take things personally. They are therefore more likely to fall for the deceit and manipulation of a gaslighter.
Narcissistic and dominating individuals are drawn to the sensitivities of HSPs, which contributes to the susceptibility of gaslighting.
For highly sensitive people, gaslighting can be especially harmful because it makes them doubt their own sanity and reality, eroding their self-esteem and affecting their ability to thrive.
Common Strategies Gaslighters Employ to Prey on HSPs
1. Denying blatantly true facts, such as what happened or what they had said.
2. Convincing you that your experiences are unreal or fabricated.
3. Dismissing or minimizing your thoughts, feelings, or experiences.
4. Making you feel silly by pretending they don’t understand what you’re saying, criticizing your language or facial expression.
5. Giving false information or withholding information. They may also spread rumors about you.
6. Changing the subject to draw attention away from the truth.
7. Attributing their aggressive behaviors to you, such as by asserting that they are only criticizing you out of obligation or for your benefit.
How an HSP Can Recover From Gaslighting
1. Learning to Believe in Yourself
As an HSP, your intuition is typically accurate because you pick up a wide variety of signals around you at all times. But because your intuitions do not always line up with what appears on the surface, you have the tendency to doubt them and disown your hunches. Unfortunately, this frequently results in poor choices or even danger.
You constantly feel that you are acting irrationally because of how other people respond to what you say or feel. Recovering from gaslighting, therefore, requires you to develop self-trust and faith in what your body and feelings are trying to tell you.
Here are some pointers on how to believe in your instincts:
- Pay attention to how you feel in your gut. Develop the ability to pay attention to messages coming from your body as well as your emotions and not simply your intellect. Never ignore something just because it seems unlikely or illogical. Even if some of your sensations are unpleasant, they are still attempting to communicate with you. Your emotions are the language of your soul. Recognize them and learn to respect them.
- Set aside time each day to relax. You might want to organize both your physical and digital spaces. This will make it possible for you to listen to yourself rather than external input.
- Compile a list of nourishment sources and also a list of what leads to your exhaustion. Take the best possible care of yourself. Your intuition will become more acute the more you are able to engage in activities that feed you.
2. Listen to Your Emotions
You can increase your self-confidence by learning to manage your emotions. When you feel “off,” you will therefore be aware that something is wrong and more likely to believe it and look into outside signs rather than brushing it off as “one of your mood swings.” You will therefore be less susceptible to manipulation in the future.
You might start out by putting your emotions into words with an emotional wheel. Perhaps keep a journal or practice purposefully discussing your emotions with someone. Putting a name to your feelings will help you feel more in control.
You can learn to accept your feelings more fully and learn to not reject them in addition to techniques like deep breathing and visualization. Your emotional resilience will increase the more you can be with your feelings as opposed to fighting against them. The use of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is an excellent strategy for teaching us how to achieve this.
3. Being Assertive
Assertiveness is the ability to express your thoughts and feelings in a respectful manner toward both yourself and other people. There are numerous strategies to increase your assertiveness. One strategy is to get practice saying no in a composed and assured manner. Another strategy is to express your demands and wants clearly, even if only to yourself. You can practice utilizing specific assertiveness and grounding strategies with someone you trust, such as a close friend, coach, or therapist. This is a broader topic, but you can find any information online.
Gaslighting is emotional abuse that can seriously harm mental health. This experience may lead you to feel that you are to blame for everything that occurs. Don’t place the blame on yourself. Self-compassion is a skill that can be acquired and that takes work to master. The actions listed below can aid in developing self-compassion:
- Keep a journal to record your ideas and emotions. This can assist you in any patterns in the abuse and any self-blame or negative thoughts you might be having. Then, make an effort to confront them in a forgiving manner.
- Visualize yourself speaking as your best friend. Would you be sympathetic toward them or would you condemn them for being mistreated?
- Develop relationships with people who encourage your path toward self-compassion and avoid those who undermine it.
5. Accepting Differences
People who are sensitive and intense are frequently misunderstood. They are perceived as being too emotional or too much, or that they are being difficult by choice. People who exhibit these characteristics frequently feel that they must apologize for who they are. They could believe that to fit into society’s expectations, they must change. Not only is this false, but it is also not possible to bend your innate qualities.
Intense and sensitive people have a lot to give the world. Neurodiversity comes in the form of great sensitivity. You are wired differently, which can occasionally make life difficult but is not a disease and should not be denigrated or ignored. Being distinctive and believing that your peculiarities make you exceptional are both perfectly acceptable. There are many benefits to being highly sensitive. You might be more imaginative and sympathetic than other people, and you might be better able to comprehend the suffering of others. Use your talent as much as you can. For instance, you can consider using your sensitivity to create something that brings value to both you and others.
To sum up
Gaslighting is a damaging psychological tactic. It may make you feel irrational, undeserving, and that you are constantly making mistakes. There are ways to heal from this trauma.
First, what occurred to you was not your fault, you were a victim of another person’s abuse.
Second, accept what has already happened. This does not mean allowing the abuse to continue or approving the abuse. However, what has happened has already happened and it is not healthy to deny it. You may want to give yourself time and space to grieve everything else that the gaslighting relationship took away from you.
The third and most crucial step is to discover how to appreciate all the positive aspects of having a high level of sensitivity. Even though you have a different perspective on the world, your experience is valid.
You can thrive if you create a supportive environment for yourself. Take self-care time, and get to know your feelings. Finally, develop your creativity, identify your special calling in life, and use your profound sensitivity and empathy to change the world.
If you can accomplish all of the aforementioned, you will develop a solid defense against invalidation and gaslighting from anyone. In the long run, you can protect yourself and remain steadfast on your path from healing to thriving.