What’s the difference between someone challenging you in ways that bring up discomfort, or attempting to manipulate you in ways that bring up protectors?
There’s a fine line between challenge and gaslighting. Challenge has an element of excitement to it. Gaslighting leads to bewilderment.
If you’re confused or questioning yourself, then chances are whoever is challenging you isn’t seeing you. If they saw you, it would feel like being exposed to an uncomfortable but liberating truth, not being confused by an uncomfortable projection.
Confusion is a cue for clarity. If you can’t understand why someone is doing something, try putting yourself in their shoes instead.
“Oh… this person is feeling stretched thin and wanting help stopping the bleeding. What I see as honoring an agreement that’s already generous, they see as, ‘you have the opportunity to help me, please help me out.’”
From this perspective, it’s so much easier to see things clearly. “They’re not treating me this way because I deserve it. They’re treating me this way because they’re desperate for help.”
This defuses any gaslighting, because it’s no longer about me, and turns it into a growth opportunity.
I have the opportunity to grow more generous. Or grow better boundaries. Or grow better communication and empathy skills.
This person’s behavior isn’t about me, but I’m still at choice as to how I respond. And I will grow in whatever direction I choose.