The Unbearable Mental Weight of Unconscious Gaslighting

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Unconscious gaslighting is a triggered reality that does what any gaslighting can do, but without the perpetrator realizing it. How do you fight it when the attacker has a vantage point, but you do not even know you’re under siege?

What is gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a type of mental abuse in which the abuser makes the victims doubt their perception, memory, judgment, and sanity. The abuser carries it out through denying, omitting, or distorting information, facts, events, and statements.

The gaslighter often, directly or indirectly, implies the victim is mentally unsound and suffers from false illusions and delusions.

Some of the most common examples include: insisting that you have made a mistake when you have not, re-labeling your emotions as “inappropriate”, turning those who confront you into the problem, making you feel as if you are overreacting in order to cause you to “blend in” with your abuser.

Gaslighting takes time to come into full effect. The gaslighter ultimately aims to control their victims. The victim has their self-esteem severely devalued, and they become additionally dependent on the gaslighter for emotional support and validation.

Gaslighting is intentional behavior, mostly seen in sociopaths and narcissists. The gaslighters are often successful in convincing their victims to believe what they tell them.

It is a process of methodical rejection that leads to an unsolvable uncertainty in the victim’s mind. The one at the receiving end loses confidence in their own intellect, perceptions, and judgments. This reduces their freedom and agency, making them less likely to recognize an abusive or exploitative relationship.

Gaslighters can be a single person or a large group working in tandem. Edward Snowden and Aaron Swartz are modern-age victims of coordinated gaslighting by several governmental agencies.


What is unconscious gaslighting?

Unconscious gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse that happens without the clear intent of exploiting others, but rather as an unconscious practice fuelled by certain objectives. These underlying objectives could be deliberate deceit, fabricated facts, reflexive denial, mind games, or other hidden agendas.

  • It occurs in relationships between partners, family members, friends, and in other situations where the individual is vulnerable and emotionally open.
  • The unconscious gaslighters are mostly unaware they are making others suffer because of their manipulating practices, or even that they are gaslighting. Even if there is some intended malice towards their victim, it is through some ulterior motive.
  • Unconscious gaslighting may be provoked when the perpetrator is approached by particular persons or find themselves in specific situations.
  • Gaslighting is rarely provoked when the issue under denial is trivial and incidental. We could prevent it by avoiding those topics or ignoring that person.
  • Nonetheless, if there are numerous negative topics, or they are of deep and broad character, and the person has a key role in our life, then there are many chances of sparking a gaslighting effect.
  • In any case, the final effect is the same as in the case of (conscious) gaslighting: the victim ends up doubting their memory, judgment, and sanity.
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Why we accept unconscious gaslighting?

  • Reasons we continue to accept abusive behavior towards ourselves: We are co-dependent and identify more with the abusive partner than with ourselves.
  • We are often inundated by shame and guilt, and so we don’t see above them to know how to deal with it.
  • Gaslighters strategically distract their victim from the abusive behavior by either drawing their attention away from the abusive behavior or providing an alternative target or coping mechanism. Unconscious gaslighting may occur during acute trauma which includes sexual, physical, or verbal abuse.
  • We also have a high need for approval and validation. We feel rejected, unworthy and guilty when that person does not approve of us or our behavior. It comes out in our behavior towards ourselves.
  • Unconscious gaslighting can be caused by external circumstances or by a person’s unconscious self-talk and values.
  • Identifying the signs of unconscious gaslighting can be very difficult. It is a very intricate form of manipulation that stems from deep within the unconscious mind.

How to handle unconscious gaslighting?

The aim of the perpetrator is to make sure his target remains in his thrall, rather than question the accusations. And to force the victim to either lose self-esteem, or degrade their self-esteem in an unhealthy manner, or maintain self-esteem in a negative manner, so they become more compliant.

You have to challenge that. You have to tell them you are not their slave.

You could try to see the situation from the perspective of your perpetrator, and examine their actions carefully. Then make an informed decision about what is right for you.

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Being triggered by someone, whether it’s because you’re triggered by someone or something is not so infrequent or unusual a phenomenon. It happens to many people.

Living in a world that puts you down on a daily basis can make it hard to take care of yourself emotionally.

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However, there are methods you can use to help heal your feelings and be able to cope with negative or triggering situations. If you feel like you are unable to handle it alone, please reach out and see a counselor, and take the time to learn about the techniques and approaches suggested by them.

Here are some strategies to handle unconscious gaslighting:

  • Take control of your life by taking responsibility for your choices. Don’t be afraid to speak up, seek help, and get support.
  • Acknowledge and self-assert you are not “crazy”, which is what the other person would lead you into thinking. You are not a bad person by nature, so don’t accept that.
  • Think differently. You have the power to change the direction of your life. Choose to be happy, and be happy.
  • When dealing with a conscious gaslighter who is aware they are doing it to hurt you, there is no way to reason or plead with them. The right way is to flee the scene or create some strong barriers between them and you if a flight is not feasible.
  • When faced with an unconscious gaslighter who seeks control over you, try acquiring the essential power yourself to thwart them, or seek support from people who have equal or higher power than the gaslighter. If none of them are possible, flee or create barriers.
  • Because unconscious gaslighting can be quite pervasive, it can be hard to know when it is happening. In some cases, you may not notice it happening at all or, if you do, it may be very subtle. Here are a few tips to help you discern whether or not someone is gaslighting you:
  • Ask open-ended questions: Be as curious as you would be if the conversation was happening in a normal social setting.
  • Avoid any risk of triggering gaslighting: Avoid making any type of judgment about the other person.
  • Avoid assigning motives: You don’t have to determine whether someone is gaslighting you based on a label or if they are lying. Rather, you can watch their body language for behaviors that would be inconsistent with their assertions.
  • When dealing with an unconscious gaslighter who is attempting to preserve their denial, try to avoid triggering it in the first place. You could also assist them in confronting their denial and overcoming it. If none of them are possible, flee or create barriers.
  • When dealing with an unconscious gaslighter who is prejudiced against your personality, try to disguise yourself to not trigger their prejudice. You may seek support from people who do not trigger that prejudice of theirs or fight the prejudice itself. If none of them are possible, flee or create barriers.
  • Be careful not to assume others are not wrong because you don’t think so. Ask questions until you find the truth. And remember, in any case, you deserve to be treated with respect.
  • When dealing with an unconscious gaslighter who is attempting to fool you, try to uncover their deception and stop it. If it is not possible, flee or create barriers.
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Final Words

Gaslighting is a psychological abuse tactic in which false information is presented and accepted as true.

Think of unconscious gaslighting as a circle: unconscious abusers cannot be fully aware of their actions, nor can those who are caught in their trap, make sense of their situation.

Unintentional or unconscious gaslighting could be just as harmful as the normal kind of gaslighting. It too essentially makes the victim a victim of their own mind. While it is much more subtle than the intentional type, it is no less damaging.

Narcissists love themselves too much. In doing that, they can seriously harm you. Find out more about them.

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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy—a medical doctor, psychology writer, happiness researcher. Founder of Happiness India Project, chief editor of its blog. Writes popular science articles on happiness, positive psychology, and related topics.

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