Coach Sarah will be educating us about gaslighting tactics today! Welcome, Coach Sarah!

Our APSATS coaches will help you discover your husband’s gaslighting and how to deal with it. Coach Sarah is APSATS trained and an expert in helping women find safety in when faced with gaslighting in their relationships. Click here to register for her group Detecting & Confronting Gaslighting.

Coach Sarah: Thank you, Anne! I’m glad to be here with you today!

Anne: Coach Sarah, has everyone gaslighted at one time or another in their life? Why do “we” as humans gaslight sometimes?

Why Do People Use Gaslighting?

Coach Sarah: Yes, I believe everyone has gaslighted someone at one time or another in their life. Those of us who gaslight unknowingly usually do so for a few reasons (or a combination): out of an unawareness of how we’re really feeling; a shame response; a defensive response (like self-protection); or a lack of good communication. 

For example, the mom who tells her son that he likes salad, when he clearly does not, is not aware/in touch with the feeling of being weary of her son complaining about the food that she makes. She doesn’t want to hear another complaint, so she desperately says, “C’mon, you like salad.” The mom is trying to get her son to feel a certain way about the salad.

A non-gaslighting exchange would be something like: “Son, I know salad isn’t your favorite, but it really hurts my feelings when I work hard to make you healthy food and you complain. Even if you’re not excited about eating the salad, could you please not complain? Thank you.”

Why Are Addicts Prone To Gaslighting?

Well, when we look at basic components of what is involved in addiction, we look at a few key things:

  1. People numbing feelings with their “drug of choice”
  2. People who act outside of their beliefs and morals, which reinforces their shame center
  3. People who are in active addiction have a need to keep their behaviors secret/hidden, so that they can continue to feed their addiction

So, if someone comes to me and asks if I’m angry, and I’ve numbed out my feelings, I am very likely to tell them they’re wrong (even though they are correct); add in the shame center, and I’d likely turn it back around on them and tell them that they’re the one that is angry. If I’m in active addiction, and someone comes to me saying they feel like I’m distant (and I am, because I’m acting out), I’ll likely tell them they’re imagining things, so that they doubt their reality, and stop looking into my behaviors. 

What Are The Gaslighting Tactics That Pornography / Sexual Addicts Use?

I don’t think they use different tactics than other people who gaslight, but I do think the way the tactics sound/are used can be specific to their pornography use/sexual acting out. To start, there are four main tactics people use to gaslight:

  1. Redirecting responsibility
  2. Discrediting your reality
  3. Saying you need or dismissing your psychiatric/coaching/12-step help
  4. Highlighting and criticizing your character flaws

These tactics often overlap.

For example, let’s say you’re out to dinner with your husband, and he’s flirting and staring inappropriately at the attractive woman that is your server. You make a comment about how you feel like he’s behaving inappropriately with this woman, and it hurts you and makes you feel like you are not important to him. His response:

  • “I am not doing anything inappropriate” (discrediting your reality).
  • “If you weren’t so insecure, you’d be able to see that you’re completely over-reacting” (highlighting and criticizing your character flaws).
  • “Besides, if I did flirt with her, it’s because you’re over there complaining and being cold towards me” (redirecting responsibility). 
  • “This is just something your therapist made up – did she tell you I’m not allowed to talk to anyone but you?” (dismissing your therapist).

To our listeners, what types of gaslighting have you experienced? Please comment on this post at the way bottom. How has gaslighting affected you?

What Is The First Step To Recognizing Gaslighting When It Happens?

Coach Sarah: I think the first step is being able to realize when one of three things is happening:

  • You’re confused – things don’t make sense
  • Things get flip-flopped and the other person plays the victim in the situation – you are getting blamed for things that aren’t your responsibility
  • Any time you are told your feelings aren’t “right” or “okay”, etc. 

Anne: As a Coach, how to you help women establish emotional safety in their home, so they don’t experience this type of manipulation and abuse anymore?

Coach Sarah: Honestly, Anne, this is a long process. The absolute first thing I do with my clients is help them to get reconnected to their reality and truth by validating their experiences and feelings. Often, they don’t get this at all in their marriage.

As they begin to get reconnected to themselves, I begin to teach them how to identify the different aspects of gaslighting, so that they can put boundaries in place to protect themselves, as well as help them brainstorm around ways they can respond/engage when they realize their spouse is trying to gaslight them. Finally, I give them a space to practice using their voice, so that it grows strong and they are empowered to use it with their gaslighter(s). 

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