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Gaslighting- Another Reason to Learn Self-validation

When you’re meeting new people, especially if you’re dating, the issue of self-trust can be a biggie. That’s why learning to validate yourself is a must. If you tend to seek approval and validation from others and don’t trust and follow your gut, it’s easy to become entangled in relationships in which you’re bound to get hurt, then feel a need to eat for comfort. Here are some thoughts on the subject to strengthen your acumen.

In “The hurt and confused locker” (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 11/12/15, E71), Advice Goddess Amy Alkon describes how easily we can get duped by other people and how to avoid this painful experience. She notes how we get sucked into relationships with unhealthy folks when, for example, we question them on something and they throw up a shield immediately and “blast you for daring to insult them by asking.” They’re the kind of men and women who deftly keep shifting the focus off themselves and onto you until you really think you did something wrong by asking your original (innocent) question.

Called “gaslighting,” this dynamic is based on the 1944 classic film, “Gaslight,” in which a husband manipulates his wife into believing she’s crazy. Gaslighting is a giant, neon clue that people don’t have the maturity or mental health for a relationship. Psych parlance labels this dynamic invalidation which is a form of emotional or mental abuse.

Psychologist Robin Stern says that the people who are most at risk for being gaslighted are—guess who?—those who depend on outside validation. Gaslighters may try this kind of manipulation on everyone, but won’t long engage with folks who call them on it and won’t let them get away with it. But, if you’re someone who doesn’t trust your gut to protect yourself from emotional predators, they’ll see you as prey and pounce. Sensing that you seek validation from others, they’ll gain power by placing themselves in the position of determining what’s real and what’s not for you. Creepy, huh?

The key is to recognize gaslighters and steer clear of them. Notice how you feel when you’re around someone—validated or invalidated; secure in your feelings and opinions or insecure, as if you’re being constantly shoved off balance; understood or relentlessly challenged, even on the simplest of issues. Pay attention to what your gut is telling you and don’t discount it no matter what the other person says. This is how you develop self-trust. If you do get duped, rather than ruminate, beat yourself up for your poor judgment and comfort yourself with food, reflect on how this happened and see where you went wrong. This will help you avoid engagement with future gaslighters.