The paranormal field has a very large population of people. Whether they are people who casually like to investigate or even just enjoy paranormal content, through to the paranormal investigators who are out there on a weekly basis. People are here for a lot of different reasons. One of the things we do is share our experiences. Whether it is while we are out on an investigation or after the fact with our peers, we talk about what see, feel, hear and experience. Unfortunately, it is also this community that can be a very toxic environment. If you think differently or even disagree with someone, you can be targeted. If you experience something in a different way you can be made to feel like you don't belong or that you are less of an investigator than someone else because you approach things differently. A lot of things that people do to each other in the paranormal community whether they realize it or not, fall under a form of gaslighting.
The term gaslighting was derived from a movie by the same name where the husband manipulates his wife to convince her that she is going mad. It is a form of manipulation and emotional abuse. While it can be unintentional, it is still a form of manipulation.
Signs of gaslighting according to Healthline are:
While this is common in a lot of romantic relationships, it is not limited to them. It can occur with friends and even acquaintances. It is something that can happen in the paranormal field and even in your workplace. People often don't realize until they leave a team or a circle of people that they have been gaslighted until after the fact.
I believe that the majority of the gaslighting that occurs in the paranormal field is not intentional. I would like to believe that anyway. People are constantly made to feel like they are less than or that they aren't doing something right. Most commonly, they are made to feel like they are crazy because they said they had a paranormal experience.
Something that happened to me very early on when I started paranormal investigating was that I felt like I wasn't being heard because I had not been in the field for a number of years and because I wasn't a person with psychic abilities or 'sensitive' to the paranormal. If I would have an experience, often I would talk to peers who felt they had abilities and because they were not sensing something, they told me what I experienced either didn't happen or was in my head. It was constant and I would see them insist that everyone acknowledge their experiences as genuine, but they would disregard the experiences of others. I actually see this happen quite a lot in paranormal teams. It is one of the unsaid things I think. Everyone has a story of old teams and often there was gaslighting going on to the point where people either leave the paranormal field and just end up hating everything about it, or go on a solo path because for so long they felt unheard and lost themselves. Sometimes it is because you find yourself going in different directions and different members are trying to hold on control of an image or the direction of the group. It can get to the point where you are afraid to speak out because there always seems to be consequences. Some groups see a lot of success and there are people that get drunk with power and insist that things are done their way and only their way. If they have seen some success, in their mind who are you to question them? They see the question as an attack and often goto efforts to shut it down. You may start to feel like you don't belong and you can't do anything right. You start to doubt yourself as an investigator. If you find yourself in this kind of situation, it can be hard to leave. Regardless of what people say, it is normal for you to outgrow your situation and want to move onto another team or go on your own. I liken it to getting a new job because you are ready to move onto something else. Self-care is not selfish and if you are in a team or even a friendship group where you feel like you are not being heard and being made to feel like you are not good enough, it is time to leave.
I see mild forms of gaslighting happen quite a lot on social media. We tend to have this idea that because we were not there to witness it, that a person's word is not good enough. We also know that not everything is paranormal and that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof which is almost never presented. I actually won't participate in Facebook groups because of the number of grainy pictures with a red circle stating this is proof there is a ghost in my room. What we need to learn regardless of whether we are psychic mediums, skeptics, or just rational investigators that need a little more convincing, we need to acknowledge a person's experience. There is obviously a reason that this person feels there is a ghost in their room. While the photo is not necessarily proof of that, it is an experience they felt they have had. Is it much different to a paranormal group posting up EVPs or video from their investigations? Our own experience is not more meaningful than theirs. Whether what they experienced was paranormal or not, they felt they experienced something. It felt very real to them and to turn around and tell someone that it didn't happen at all is demeaning and a form of gaslighting.
We need to acknowledge and listen to the experience of our peers. They want to be heard. It is important to discuss things and of course debunk because not everything is paranormal, but there is a way to do that without making a person feel like an idiot. Words are powerful. Admittedly when I started blogging a few years ago, I tried to write in a sarcastic tone. It made sense to me but it didn't always land with others. What for me was light-hearted, some took as I was making fun. It was a comment by a random stranger that made me sit back and realize that my words were potentially hurting someone or making them feel silly because they believed something different to me. I see various approaches to this on social media. Some people come in hot and aggressive and tell someone they are delusional and that their experience isn't paranormal. They often throw in choice words and start grouping people in derogatory categories calling them 'idiots'. On the opposite end, I then see others validating the feelings and the experience that this person had and then explaining why they don't feel what they experienced was paranormal, but they are still acknowledging the person. Sometimes this can be a step towards helping someone understand more. Which approach do you think the poster is more likely to take on board? The person who has made them feel like an idiot, or the person who has heard them out, empathized, and acknowledged their story?
Or course we can't forget that quite a lot of people already have in their head that they are right and everyone else is wrong. It wouldn't matter what anyone else says. They can be just as harsh and demeaning with their words. It can make the most seasoned and well-researched investigators think about hanging up the boots because what is the point if people won't listen to researched facts? Sometimes you have to pick your battles. I know I myself try to tow a very delicate line when I talk to people. Some of the claims made to me I honestly think no that is not paranormal straight off the bat because again the I wasn't there factor is in all of us. I never ever verbally say this to the person. Instead, I talk to them to let them tell me their story because that is what happened in their eyes and it was very real. I try to open my mind because they could have been me all those years ago just looking for someone to agree that weird stuff happens out there. The conversation often then evolves and I acknowledge that I have sat and listened and then they are often willing to hear my perspective. Again words can be powerful and something I have learned through these conversations is to choose the wording carefully to tell a person well it could be this, but these are all the other things it could be. I give them all of the information and let them make up their own mind, that is why they came to me in the first place. This is an approach I find works for me, but everyone is different. It is also OK to end a conversation with us both disagreeing but at least we have had a discussion and HEARD one another. That is all you can ask for.
Gaslighting is an attempt to change the truth.
― Tracy Malone
The truth of the matter is, no one has all of the answers. All we have are our own experiences and research to guide us. Follow the pages you want to follow based on the content you enjoy. If there is a page or person you don't even follow, is there really a need to go and starting writing negative things on their posts just because? When we are behind a keyboard, the majority of what we say are likely things we would never say to a person's face to face. I myself have been on the end of some horrible messages and emails through my blog from people I have never heard of who have left a comment and get on with their day. For me, it sticks and upsets me. If a person is dealing with constant things like this on social media, take a moment to think of how it affects their mental health? Having a Facebook page doesn't give anyone the right to hurl abuse toward another person.
One kind word can change someone's entire day. Instead of focusing on the negative, next time you post on someone's page, I want you to leave them a nice comment. If it is you like their page or that it makes you feel like you have space to be yourself. Maybe you enjoyed a video they shared. Tell them! We as a society have become so accustomed to only talking about our negative experiences. You will often hear more about review than a positive one. Let's change the narrative. Let's put positivity back into the paranormal field!
While this is more a commentary of things that can happen in the paranormal field, gaslighting is a serious problem in many relationships and escalates much further than mentioned above. Whether a family member, friend, work colleague, or partner is doing this to you, it is never OK. To seek help or counseling https://www.beyondblue.org.au/
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