Lingering Gaslighting Effects

Lingering Gaslighting Effects

Folks who’ve managed to disentangle themselves from a covert, manipulative partner can still suffer lingering gaslighting effects. I’ve written about gaslighting numerous times. It’s the crazy-making phenomenon you experience with skilled manipulators. Covert aggressors are adept at dominating in subtle, underhanded ways. And when you begin getting clued in, they know just what tactics to use to make you question yourself. You can even begin to question your very sanity! (See: Chapter 9, especially pp. 133-137, In Sheep’s Clothing.) But even after you’ve come to see things as they really are, because of years of self-questioning, deep doubts can remain.

Lingering gaslighting effects make you doubt yourself and your judgment even after coming to know better. And they can also make you question your ability to judge people in general, and when it’s truly safe to trust again. That’s primarily why I’ve written so many books and articles about character. It’s the most important thing to a relationship. And it’s a crucial part of emotional, psychological, and spiritual health. But discerning good character is a challenging task in our times. And finding a potential partner with enough character health to make a relationship work and last is particularly challenging. (See also: Mistaking Attractive Traits for Character.) That task gets really complicated when you’re still doubting yourself and struggling with trust issues in general.

Why Character Matters So Much

As I say time and time again on my podcasts and in my posts, character matters. It matters more than anything. Only when we reclaim its importance, all that it takes to forge it, nurture it, sustain it, etc., will we begin saving ourselves, and indeed the whole world, a lot of senseless heartache.

Character matters because it’s like a psychological immune system. With solid character, we can navigate life’s inevitable storms and trials more easily, learning valuable lessons and growing even stronger in the process. Moreover, if we’re of noble character, we don’t add to our already ample problems as much. Character is a huge “win” for everyone. That’s why I pray that Essentials for the Journey eventually enjoys the widespread acceptance of my earlier works. The book isn’t just for folks who have a lot of character growing to do. It’s also for fairly decent folks trying to discern where they are on their growth path and what they still need to do to become all that they can be.

Did You Miss Something?

This week’s edition of Character Matters was a special live broadcast. If you missed it, you can still access the recording on my professional Facebook Page.

7 thoughts on “Lingering Gaslighting Effects

  1. Dr. Simon,

    Thank you for post on the lingering effects of gaslighting. It’s certainly relevant and excellent timing for me. It’s so frustrating that I keep struggling with this issue. I’m currently wondering if I’ve lost my perspective of what’s a ‘normal’ response or would others without my background struggle in a similar way? Maybe having good character makes us particularly vulnerable to these underhanded tactics? I take pride and consider good character traits to be open minded, to not presume I’m always right and to be cooperative. These traits seem to be negatives in the avoidance of the gaslighting effect.

    I can remember the exact moment my ex husband asked me very early on in our marriage during a disagreement why I was so certain I knew how relationships should work when I came from an abusive home and he didn’t. I remember thinking, huh, yeah, how do I know? And in that moment of open mindedness and cooperation, self doubt was introduced and I started to defer to his experiences in relationships over my own since I couldn’t actually quantify how I just ‘knew’ what felt healthy and what did not.

    The issue I had with the veterinarian doctors, I ‘knew’ from past experience and quality research but those same good character traits from above crept in and caused me to defer to the academic and clinical experience of professionals.

    Being proven ‘right’ is no comfort when my brain is still questioning how they could be so confident, appear so knowledgeable and be so uncaring that a mistake was made. I wonder how one stands against the confidence and claims of knowledge to keep one’s brain from the chaos and confusion. I must say I’m confident and certain of many things but I’m never so closed minded that I’m unaware of deficiencies such as aging information, incomplete information or skewed perspectives or perceptions. I’ve been of one opinion many times but when given additional information or a different perspective shifted my thinking in a way that was more healthy and beneficial.

    I’m not sure how to tell is it them or me? We are often in situations where accurately assessing someone’s character is nearly impossible or we are simply is a position that we cannot avoid the people we have to deal with such as in a work place or the doctors available. When these individuals work to create self doubt, how can we tell if their comments are legitimate feedback in areas we may be off kilter or if they are looking to take advantage or assert their dominance?

    What’s really disturbing is that it seems like bad character traits do a much better job at insulting one from the effects of other people’s bad character. It’s no wonder we have an epidemic of bad character and little wonder those of us working on growing our good character is finding the process so very difficult and much less rewarding than it should be.

  2. Gaslighting means, as far as I am aware

    ” To create a false image or perception”


  3. Before I even met my ex-husband I was a good target for manipulation due to childhood issues with my family – so I just walked right into a destructive relationship unknowingly. He worked on me to belittle me over time and even though I have done a lot of work on myself over the past 5 years, I still am triggered by so many self doubts. I don’t ever see myself as fully recovering, unless God decides to just remove it from me. But I do see improvement and continued improvement over time. I just have to accept that this is a part of my psyche that I will have to continue to deal with and work on accepting myself despite it. I don’t think theres anyone out there that doesn’t have self doubt, but mine are pretty exaggerated. I do think that I can spot those people that I just need to stay away from, the more subtle types are the difficult ones to detect, that takes time.

    1. Joey,

      Intensions many times are hard to discern. However, knowing the individual for a period of time and experienced their behavior before can give us insight into what the are up to.

      You are so right “JUDGE ACTIONS.” The action is the precursor of the intent.

      1. One of my biggest red flags is when words do not match actions. Problem is you have to be already involved to notice the pattern. Second problem, in a sense of fair play, one should address the issue which then opens the door to more gaslighting. I fear I will never be able to fully trust or fully connect to another person again. Im constantly wary and if I have a moment my guard drops, I presume I’m caught up and possibly manipulated. Am wondering how everyone else is doing? Are they letting people in-under their guard- or keeping ‘relationships’ casual, somewhat superficial and at arms length?

  4. Charlie,

    One does not have to be already involved with a person and I say this in the sense that it can even happen with just a mere acquaintance or someone you are doing business with. I totally agree with you in respect to actions speak louder than words but on the other hand are the actions a prelude to other things.

    One can always be fooled under the right circumstances, however taken into consideration many of us on this site learned the hard way but also did the hard work to learn the lessons of what to look out for. I think confronting the issue with a sense of wanting to know more in a tactical way in which we don’t show our hand can give us valuable information to go on.

    I too, feel I can fully trust again but is it fair to myself or the other you would like to have a relationship with and I am speaking in generalities of other peoples personalities. Not everyone has the motive of gaslighting and sometimes people just do ignorant things which we would, if we would like to develop a friendship confront. Sometimes others are just in the dark as we are.

    One has to understand people are people with flaws just as I have but at this time in my life I think I have a better handle on whom is a potential friend or beyond that. Give yourself time, I had to forgive myself for my naiveté, from all I have learned from Dr. Simon and others on this site has helped me enormously. I know the majority of posters here who have stayed are dependable, perhaps, not always right but are good, loving individuals who only want to make this a better world for themselves and others.

    Charlie, don’t let others cheat you out of having another meaningful relationship. You’re an intelligent lady, let things be and let things happen and never shortchange yourself. otherwise, he wins. I think you have many on this site you can run your thoughts, doubts, insecurities and such through and count on honest caring answers. In that respect you are far ahead of the game.

    In this day and age we need to keep someone we meet at arms length, giving them not too little but not too much and read their reactions and body language. We all need a fair chance. I think you know by now when someone is manipulating you. Just take it from all you learned and be kind to yourself and that other person. That other person may turn out to be that dear friend that you need, or????

    Coming out of what we did, we many times tend to overthink, especially you being the deep thinker you are. (Compliment)

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