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The Gaslighter’s Guide to Quitting: Recognizing, Reflecting, and Reforming


Gaslighting tendencies can be harmful to both the person doing the manipulation and those affected by such behavior. Acknowledging and addressing these tendencies is a courageous step toward personal growth and healthier relationships. In this blog, we’ll explore actionable steps to overcome gaslighting tendencies through self-reflection, empathy building, and fostering positive communication.


Recognizing Gaslighting Tendencies

Acknowledging gaslighting tendencies in yourself is the crucial first step towards change. Recognize that you can change and reflect on the reasons why you act a certain way or feel the need to manipulate. There are many reasons why people use manipulation and it’s often because they are struggling with their own mental health issues. Here are some of the common reasons why people gaslight and manipulate others: 


Learned Behavior: Witnessing or experiencing similar manipulative tactics from parents or siblings, leading to replicating these patterns in relationships. 


Need for Control and Dominance: Struggling with an overwhelming need to control people or situations for various reasons. Often this is due to fear and insecurity, and trying to manage personal anxiety through controlling others. 


Insecurity and Low Self-Esteem: Suffering from deep-seated insecurities and low self-esteem can cause you to bring down others to make yourself feel better. This may not be intentional but harms the other party and can cause others to not want to be around you. 


Avoiding Responsibility: Trying to avoid consequences or avoid dealing with a difficult situation can lead to using manipulation, denying reality, or blaming others. This behaviour typically leads to distrust from others.


Projection: Projecting your negative qualities, mistakes, or behaviors onto others instead. Being overly self-conscious of your flaws or mistakes can lead to believing that everyone else has the same issues, which can distort the way you think or act. 


Emotional Manipulation: Using others’ emotions against them to get what you want. This is extremely harmful for the person you are using this manipulation against. While you may get what you want in the short term, it causes distrust and often leads to the other person leaving for their own well-being. 


Understanding the Root Causes

Based on the reason why you feel the need to manipulate others, you can understand the root cause and other contributing factors. Explore past experiences, insecurities, or coping mechanisms that may have led to these behaviors. 

This type of introspection can be difficult to process on your own and it can help to talk to a mental health professional for unbiased and empathetic support and advice. If you need support, talk to a licensed therapist at Focus through phone, video, or text therapy. 


Cultivating Empathy and Perspective-Taking

Understand that even if you didn’t mean to, your actions may have hurt others and the relationships you’re in. Try putting yourself in the shoes of others and consider their emotions and perspectives. This is key to cultivating empathy and will form the foundation for building a healthier relationship going forward. 

Empathy means that you can acknowledge and validate others’ perspectives and feelings, even if they are different from yours. It also means that you don’t have to try and change their feelings or perspectives to what you feel they should be. Empathy is simply understanding someone else and being considerate of their needs. The purpose of empathy isn’t to make everyone feel or think the same, it’s to be able to communicate safely and healthily and ideally find a balance in relationships that everyone can feel comfortable with. 


Developing Self-Awareness and Emotional Regulation

Self-awareness is a cornerstone of personal growth. Regularly reflect on your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Recognize triggers that may lead to gaslighting tendencies and work on implementing healthy emotional regulation strategies. 

Here are some ways you can develop better self-awareness: 


Mindfulness Practices:

Engage in mindfulness meditation to cultivate present-moment awareness. Pay attention to your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations without judgment. Practice mindfulness in daily activities, such as eating, walking, or commuting.



Keep a journal to record your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Reflect on patterns or triggers that influence your emotional responses or habits. Use journaling as a tool for self-exploration and self-expression.


Feedback Seeking:

Seek feedback from trusted friends, family, or other support groups. Be open to constructive criticism and use it as an opportunity for self-improvement. Ask specific questions about your strengths and areas for growth. Be careful to only ask those who have your best interests at heart and who you trust to give unbiased feedback. 


Emotional Check-Ins:

Regularly check in with your emotions throughout the day. Identify and label your emotions, fostering a deeper understanding of your emotional landscape. Consider using mood-tracking apps to monitor emotional patterns over time. 


Learning Positive Communication Skills

As mentioned before with cultivating empathy, the main idea behind understanding the perspective of others is to be able to communicate effectively. Through effective communication, we can respect each other’s needs and feelings, provide and receive the support we need, and build healthy relationships. 

Here are some ways to practice positive communication skills:


Active Listening: Listen to others without thinking about other things, or planning what you’re going to say next. Truly hear and understand what the other person is saying without interrupting or invalidating their experiences. This can take practice, but active listening is a very valuable skill in allowing others to feel understood and appreciated by simply listening to what they are saying. 


Expressing Emotions: Communicate your feelings openly and honestly without resorting to manipulation. Your feelings are valid and should be understood by the other person. Allow them to also express their feelings in return, and do your best to understand their perspective as well. 


Seeking Understanding: Allow each other time to explain any misunderstandings and go through feelings without judgement or seeking to change each other. This type of healthy communication can clarify and resolve a lot of issues in relationships by simply allowing space to see where the other person is coming from. 


Seeking Professional Guidance

If you are struggling with where to start or need support on how to overcome gaslighting tendencies, we’re here for you. Seeking the help of a mental health professional can provide valuable insights and strategies for change, and therapy can offer a safe space to explore deeper issues. Talk to a licensed therapist at Focus through phone, video, or text. 


Apologizing and Making Amends

Taking responsibility for past actions is a crucial step in the journey of overcoming gaslighting tendencies. This can be challenging, especially if the relationships you were involved in ended badly or caused a lot of harm to the other person. Apologize sincerely, without justifying or minimizing the impact of your behavior. Remember that the other person doesn’t have an obligation to forgive you and that apologizing won’t undo what’s already been done. 

If the other person is willing to move forward in building a healthier relationship with you, demonstrate a commitment to change through consistent positive actions. There may be times when you need a reminder to work on yourself and not slip into bad habits, so allowing the other person to communicate when their boundaries aren’t being respected is important. Change is an ongoing process and it will likely take time to rebuild trust. 


Maintaining Healthy Relationships

Focus on building and maintaining healthy relationships based on trust, respect, and open communication. Surround yourself with individuals who encourage personal growth and provide constructive feedback. Gaslighting is often learned from the behaviour of others around you and may be difficult to stop doing if you’re constantly seeing others act that way. It’s great if you’re able to help others also develop self-awareness and overcome manipulative tendencies, but sometimes that can be too challenging or the other person may not be willing to change. Remember that you can only manage yourself and your actions, and if you need to walk away from a bad situation, you should do what’s best for you. Focus on the relationships that offer healthy communication to maintain and grow positive habits. 


Final Thoughts

Seeking help and understanding your manipulative tendencies is a great and courageous first step to overcoming gaslighting and building a better future for yourself. It can be a challenging journey toward personal betterment but building healthy and positive relationships are key to feeling happier, less stressed, and having a great support system in your life. 


Get custom matched to a licensed therapist and start feeling better today.