A Guide to Gaslighting in PreK-12 Education and Higher Education

Gaslighting has become a trendy term in all areas of society over the last 5 years. If you are not familiar with the term, it is a form of psychological manipulation where victims are made to constantly doubt themselves. Ultimately, it is a technique used to gain control or power over someone. If you are not careful, it can make you doubt your mental stability.

Teachers, professors, and education administrators know all too well what gaslighting is. Our colleagues, superiors, and even the general public use it to silence our complaints of unsafe working conditions, low pay, etc. However, if you are a new educator, you may be oblivious to how people use gaslighting as a way to silence you and make you seem ungrateful. In this brief piece, I want to discuss the strategies that gaslighters use and the warning signs you should look for.

Strategies used by people who gaslight:

  • They tell blatant lies and pass them off as fact. If you are not careful, they will make it hard for you to discern fact from fiction.
  • They deny something, in the face of proof. Even with audio and video evidence of their dirty work, they will deny it to the grave.
  • They use what is important to you as ammunition, so be careful who you befriend.
  • They wear you down over time, finding the right time to take control.
  • Their actions do not match their words. For instance, your principal says that real teachers do it for love, not for pay. However, they are making six figures and don’t have to work 2 jobs to survive.
  • They provide positive reinforcement as well, which confuses you. They are your biggest supporter, but when they you to doubt yourself, they withhold their support and point you in the direction that they want you to go towards.
  • They are aware that confusion weakens people, and that is their intent.
  • They project their behaviors and or opinions onto you so that you spend time defending yourself rather than paying attention to their behavior
  • They try to align people against you. Secretly, they are turning the rest of your peers against you.
  • They tell you or others that you are crazy. Don’t dismiss this. Perception becomes reality unless it is confronted. Been there, done that.
  • They tell you everyone is a liar, which gives them more credibility. Soon, they will be your emotional rock, and when you don’t do as they say, they withhold their emotional support.

Warning signs of gaslighting:

  • You question if your feelings are justified. You begin to second guess everything about yourself and rely on the gaslighter for reassurance.
  • You second-guess your recollection of past events. Gaslighters are master revisionists of history. They can bend it to their will and make you recall events through their eyes and not your own.
  • You find yourself apologizing. Even though you did nothing wrong, you start to question this. You find yourself taking accountability for events in which you were the victim.
  • You make excuses for the gaslighter. Even though you are being manipulated, you find yourself being your tormentor’s greatest advocate, defending them against all matters of slander.
  • You think there’s something wrong with you. You question your sanity and start to believe that maybe you should seek professional help. You’ve been manipulated to the point where even your own sanity is not clear.
  • You trust the judgment of others over your own. You stop trusting your own judgment in major decisions and start relegating them to other people
  • You think something might be off. Hopefully, after you read my article, you will begin to understand that you are being gaslighted. Luckily, once you identify the culprits, you can start making moves to kick them out of your life for good.
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