Autogaslighting: what it is and how it affects mental health

Psychological violence is not visible, but it leaves a very deep emotional imprint. The dynamics of emotional abuse can be so intense that it changes the psychology of the victim, believing the hurtful comments they make about them, as being worthless or exaggerated.

There are malicious people who are able to challenge their emotions, their memories and their reality. These are people who apply gas lighting, manipulating the minds of their victims to change their memory.

Worse than the gas light is autogaslighting, i.e. when that malicious voice is now yours. Your inner voice discredits you, minimizing the suffering you have endured. Those who have psychologically abused you have put you in there, convincing you to doubt your own reality. We discover it below.

    What is automatic gas lighting?

    In recent years, a relatively new term has become popular: gas lighting. It is a type of psychological abuse, in which a person is manipulated for the purpose of questioning their own perception, judgment or memory. Some typical sentences that a “gaslighter” uses to make his victim doubt himself are: “you are too sensitive”, “it never happened”, “you are an exaggerator” …

    Although the most common is for gaslighting to be done to us by an abusive partner, friend or family member, sometimes it is we who engage in this kind of psychological abuse on our own. It happens that we internalize these toxic claims, which question what we have been through and how we are, and direct them to ourselves. This is called automatic gas lighting.

      How does this manifest itself psychologically?

      As we said, autogas occurs when one internalizes typical expressions of manipulator abuse. As they have heard it so many times, we come to believe them and we integrate them into our own thinking. We assume the harmful and critical position of our psychological aggressor and we enlighten ourselves.

      In these cases, people who suffer from automatic gas ignition often tell themselves statements such as the following:

      • “Maybe it wasn’t.”
      • “They didn’t believe me because I didn’t deserve to be believed”
      • “What I experienced was not a real trauma”
      • “I shouldn’t feel like this, I’m an exaggerator”
      • “I make a mountain out of a grain of sand”
      • “I should have gotten over that already …”
      • “If I was stronger I wouldn’t feel this”

      As we can see, it’s about adopting the abuser’s story and applying it with oneself. It makes us downplay our emotions and our perception of personal situations, in order to convince ourselves that a past experience may not have been as traumatic or serious as we remembered it. If this becomes a habit, this dynamic of automatic ignition will make the person completely suspicious of their thoughts. And the worst part is that we are not aware that we are committing it.

      This phenomenon it’s usually common in those who grew up in a very abusive and unfriendly family or environment. By not having a parent or adult who recognizes and validates the child’s own thoughts and emotional states, the person believes from an early age that the problem is not outside, but himself. The reality is that she is the victim of emotional abuse and, in some cases, physical abuse.

        The invisible nature of automatic gas lighting

        Although this is a concept that has recently been given a name, the truth is that gas lighting and by extension automatic gas lighting are phenomena that have always happened. Both forms of emotional abuse are very common, but they are also common a very invisible nature, difficult to identify without delving into the trauma and the way of thinking of the victim, goes very unnoticed. It is very easy to question the emotional wounds of others, even though it comes at a high cost to the victims and this questioning is, in one way or another, a form of psychological abuse.

        When the victim internalizes the position of the manipulator, he begins to question everything that happens to him and comes to doubt himself. Same she may wonder if she really deserves care and good things, he thinks that maybe the bad thing that’s happening to him is that he deserves it or that it’s just overdoing it. He thinks the problem is in himself, which is his fault.

          Consequences of this phenomenon

          Seeing what gas lighting is, it’s not hard to imagine that it can take a toll on the self-esteem and mental health of those who suffer from it. People who suffer from gaslighting and those who do it themselves often suffer Anxiety disorders, depression, personality disorders and at least problems with self-esteem.

          One of the people who has best explained what gas lighting is is transpersonal psychologist Ingrid Clayton, who has not only given her visibility in recent months, but has also shared her testimony. Clayton confesses that she suffered from this problem herself, following a difficult childhood where she was abused by her stepfather and her mother ignored his help. Even the social worker who intervened in her childhood told her that the emotional abuse was not to report, thus devaluing the pain.

          This phenomenon is so severe that his symptoms are experienced as an impostor, making the person believe that they are not related to anything “real”, nothing tangible, and therefore assumes that he must not feel them at all. . This phenomenon it thrives heavily on the idea that abuse and mistreatment can only be physical, non-emotional or psychological and that if there are no injuries, they have not been abused. But there are wounds, we won’t see them, but there are. They are psychological, deep and, if left untreated, they will remain open for life.

          Clayton comments that psychological abuse suffered by others and pursued by oneself can even create division in the mind of the victim. It is as if two people coexisted in the same spirit: on the one hand, there is the one who is certain of what has happened and who feels a flow of emotions; but on the other is the one who questions the facts, minimizes the emotions and blames the victim for everything.

            Can it be overcome?

            Emotional abuse takes a lot of therapy to overcome, especially if we have already internalized the words of their attackers as is the case with autogaslightning. It takes a lot of effort and time to get the victim to stop being their own victim, to change their mindset and to prevent them from questioning the severity of the damage they have suffered.

            People are not able to change our past. Those of us who have been abused cannot make it disappear from our life story. Fortunately, we can change the way we respond to your brief. Clayton thinks that the ideal is to stop recognizing ourselves as the problem, not to accept responsibility for the damage they have caused us, and not to doubt our own worth or our instincts just because there is people in our life who never let us down. to validate. The evil we received was his fault, not ours. The victim is never guilty.

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