If you had asked me what "Gaslighting" was ten years ago, I probably would have responded with a biting one-liner about my cheap-ass stove to avoid appearing ignorant. But that was then, and this—one terrifying and costly legal battle later—is now.
Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation where a person (or group) targets another person (or group) to make them question their beliefs, abilities, memories, perceptions, or even their sanity. It is a systematic means to an end, designed to beat your self-esteem to the ground and tear your life apart, and it's fucking scary.
I'll give you a quick example as it relates to current events. Suppose your friends invite you to a COVID party during quarantine and you decline. But instead of accepting your decision and moving on, they begin harassing you on social media, calling you names, and getting others to side against you. It's a bit of a stretch, but you see where I'm going with this—right?
In theory, it sounds like an easy thing to spot that is simple to destroy. In reality, you may not even know what is happening until your face melts off and hardens on the floor. By that time, the flame is red hot and spreading. So, what do you do if you suspect you are a victim? Lucky for you, I've mastered the art of dealing with this crap, and am sharing it here for the low, low price of NOTHING. Enjoy the free education, folks. If you follow my lead and do as I suggest, I promise you will thank me later.
Are you ready? Here it is, the most straightforward smidge of advice you will ever get on this topic: DO NOT ENGAGE. SHUT YOUR MOUTH AND LET THAT SHIT GO. That's right; the sooner you start practicing this one skill, the quicker you will be on the road to recovery—trust. It took 53 years and a shit-ton of therapy to recognize and eradicate this kind of manipulation from my life, but I did it, and so can you.
Ignoring someone who is brutally attacking your character is beyond stressful, especially when they do it in front of others. It's automatic to want to fight back, or at the very least, defend your integrity, but doing so with a person (or persons) intent on discrediting you is not only a complete waste of time; it's what they want, and the second you give them that, you lose.
There is one caveat that I failed to mention: You must always do what you say, and say what you mean. For instance, if you threaten to block someone on social media, don't leave a heartfelt comment about how you wish things didn't have to end this way, just DO IT! Put your finger on the "buh-bye" button and end that shit, permanently.
Most importantly, pay attention. If you find yourself on the receiving end of a gaslit tongue, bite yours and step away from the heat. The only way to diffuse a fire of this magnitude is to withhold oxygen. Anything else is a waste of breath.