There’s no argument that parent-child relationships can be challenging, especially given intergenerational trauma. But gaslighting, a form of emotional abuse, pushes that relationship into the toxic category. Indeed, knowing how to handle gaslighting parents takes awareness and reminding yourself that your feelings and experiences matter, no matter what anyone tries to make you believe. So, let’s dive in and explore more about gaslighting and how to protect yourself.
What Is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse whereby the abuser tries to trick someone into doubting their experiences, memory, and sanity for their own advantage. As a result, the person being gaslighted will often report they feel like they’re losing their mind. When someone begins to question their reality, gaslighters feel like they have the upper hand and are in control. Thus, they create a consistent abuse cycle of an imbalance of power for personal gain.
18 Signs You Have Gaslighting Parenting
Gaslighting parents often use emotional manipulation to warp the child’s sense of reality, mental stability, and feelings to minimize the severity of their actions and avoid blame. Other signs you have a gaslighting parent include;
- They are overly controlling
- They lie to you
- They undermine your experiences and feelings
- They attack your self-esteem
- They twist facts to suit their agenda
- They fail to take accountability for their actions
- They often state they know you better than you know yourself
- They firmly believe they are always right and superior
- They unhealthy compete with you
- They create doubt in your memory
- They verbally abuse you
As a result…
- You feel insecure
- You feel confused and unsure if you can trust yourself
- You feel alone in your experiences
- You feel inadequate and question whether what your parents say is true
- You tend to apologize a lot and then regret or feel angry for doing so
- You fixate that there is something wrong with you
- You feel like a constant disappointment to others
3 Ways Parents May Gaslight You As An Adult
There are three ways, or types of gaslighting a parent may use to manipulate and control you as an adult;
- Emotional gaslighting. Parents use this tactic to make you believe your emotions are invalid or wrong. For example, after you say I’m hurt by what you said, they might reply with, “That’s silly. You’re not sad at all. You know deep down how much I love you and that I would never actually hurt you”.
- Narrative gaslighting. You might recall an experience or memory, and your parent will change the story and manipulate you into believing it happened how they want you to perceive it. For example, you discuss a childhood memory of being neglected and left with someone else. They might distort your experience by saying, “You were only ten. You don’t remember at all. You begged me to stay with our family friend that you love so much. I was only doing what was best for you”.
- Personal gaslighting. This type is a direct form to undermine your self-trust. For example, “I’m worried about you. You’ve changed”, “You’re too sensitive”, “Other people have it much worse. You should be grateful”, or “You should know how I would have reacted”.
How to Handle Gaslighting Parents
1. Keep evidence
Unfortunately, parents who gaslight strive to invalidate your experiences and feelings. They will even try to rewrite history and fabricate the facts to warp your memory. However, give yourself a reality check by keeping a journal of your feelings, facts, and recollection of incidents as they happen even when your memory is challenged (Check out our list of mental health prompts to guide you). Having this source will remind you of what is real and allow you to trust your own voice and not your parents distorted one in your head.
2. Receive outside support
Bouncing off the previous tip, another way to keep track of your experiences is to have a witness available if possible. For example, anytime you anticipate seeing your parents, bring another family member or loved one you trust who can validate your experiences. You’ll feel less vulnerable to your parent’s manipulation tactics with support. Also, consider speaking with a therapist. They can help you receive clarity about your memories and experiences, increase your confidence and sense of identity, and rebuild from your parent’s abuse.
3. Set boundaries with consequences
One of the best ways to handle gaslighting parents is to identify your needs, set healthy boundaries with toxic family members, and follow up with consequences. For example, limit your interactions, and avoid discussing certain subjects that cause conflict and pain. If they persist, firmly remind them, “I’ve already told you don’t comfortable discussing this with you, and if you keep asking, I will leave”. Also, if the relationship is too toxic, consider distancing yourself completely from them. It is your right.
4. Build your self-trust
There’s a high probability your parents won’t change. And the more you argue and try to force them to see your perspective, the more emotionally disappointed and drained you will be. Instead, tune in and build your self-trust. For example, during stressful encounters, observe your instinct or thought patterns to doubt yourself, reflect on the resulting emotions, and immediately reflect to see what arises. Ask yourself, “What is my intuition telling me?”, “What can I do to make myself better?” and “How can I show up for myself and give myself the approval, love, and compassion I lack from my parents?” When you focus on strengthening your relationship with yourself and practicing easy ways to love yourself more, your parent’s power over you becomes weaker and weaker.
5. Don’t give in
If you notice your parents gaslighting you, you may feel a deep urge to scream. But instead of reacting, take a moment to gather yourself and breathe. Why? Gaslighters want you to react because it gives them more opportunities to distort your reality, make you second-guess yourself, and paint you as the villain. Indeed losing your temper or reacting uplifts them and makes them feel more in control. So, try not to give in and feed their ego. When you feel that anger rising, ignore them, go for a walk, leave the situation, and do anything to help you recalibrate.
6. It’s not your fault
Above all, remind yourself compassionately and consistently that it is not your fault. Those who are gaslighted often feel at fault for the abuse. They might say, “If I was different, I wouldn’t be treated like this” or “I can’t do anything right”. But your parents are manipulating you to feel this way to shift the blame from their actions. In fact, you did nothing for them to behave this way. And when you learn to accept that this is a part of their personality and has nothing to do with you, it will become less mentally and emotionally draining.
Learning how to handle gaslighting parents is a difficult process, but you can heal from their toxicity and move forward. And the first step is to build your awareness to understand and accept what is happening and, of course, remind yourself that you did nothing wrong. It is the wounds of your parents, not yours. You can release their hold and regain your self-trust.
This post contains affiliate links.
If you enjoyed this list of tips to handle gaslighting parents, please share it on Pinterest!
And if you’re looking for more mental health tips and ways to live your best life, please follow our Mental Health board!