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Question #93096 posted on 05/29/2020 11:32 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

So, gaslighting is when someone gets you to question your perceptions and view of reality, even when they know it's correct, so that they can get you to believe them instead and manipulate you. When someone attacks your ability to make your own observations and judgments, it can make you lose confidence, get you to question your sanity, and have other way negative effects.

What do you do, though, when someone's view of reality really does seem way distorted, and you think they need therapy. For instance, they create and worry a lot about detailed, fearful narratives about a situation that they've only based on a few bits of information gleaned from afar. How do you try to persuade them without falling into the gaslighting dynamic or producing the same negative effects (because you'll still be getting them to question their perceptions)?



Dear you,

Questioning your perceptions is not a bad thing. In fact, it's often a very good thing because it allows you to understand the potential flaws and foibles of your world view. I'm no psychologist, but I'm going to venture and say that one of the reasons gaslighting makes people question their sanity and potentially lose their grounding in reality is because the manipulator is trying to get them to believe that what truly is reality is wrong. Trying to correct distortions in another person's perceptions does not have these inherent issues because the person will be able to affirm what they're being told by reality instead of inducing cognitive dissonance by trying to reconcile the gaslight distortions with reality. 

That said, effectively convincing someone that their fear base is unfounded is very tricky. Honestly, I semi-frequently catch myself spiraling into these kinds of fearful-reality-distorted-rabbit-holes. And the thing is, even when I know I'm being illogical that doesn't necessarily shake any of the horrible emotions I'm feeling. It's the worst kind of dichotomy where there's a part of me that's coolly and logically analyzing what I'm experiencing, but that analysis does nothing to mitigate the crushing weight of that experience.

I don't know if this is applicable to anyone else, but what I often need in these moments is something to ground me, and to get me out of my own head. This grounding can come in a variety of forms, but a key component is that there has to be another person. They can just watch a movie with me, or have a conversation about something completely unrelated--anything to distract me from the negative spiral. And even when I do know certain things, sometimes it's just really nice to have someone else repeat them (though not in a condescending way--that's the worst). 

In the end, I don't know what's the best way to help a specific person with persuading them about reality. Honestly, I don't think I know what's best even for myself. But you can support them in finding therapists who can help them. And just support and be there for them in general.