Spiritual gaslighting is when a person or faith community uses spiritual tools, such as God-language or the Bible, to cause you to question your own reality in order to retain power over you. This is spiritual abuse.
Our society is filled with gaslighting. In other words, people in our culture are adept at manipulating the reality to fit their own agendas.
It affects religious communities, political parties, and the media equally.
Your family may have been affected by it.
I’ll explain major signs of Spiritual Gaslighting to you in this article, along with how it manifests in religious communities and why it’s important to have a strong B.S. detector to protect yourself from it.
When someone repeatedly and deliberately compromises your reality or experience, it’s referred to as gaslighting.
It happens when someone or some group questions your reality or experience in an effort to maintain their position of power.
In other words, they are not challenging your background in order to help you.
To keep power or control over you, they try to limit your understanding of reality. Their intention is to drive you insane, helpless, or reliant rather than to be of help.
What Is Spiritual Gaslighting?
Essentially, the goal of gaslighting is to make the victim doubt their reality or beliefs.
As a result, when this approach affects spiritual activities, points of view, or experiences, it may leave you feeling confused, cut off, or even deceived by the very source of comfort.
Spiritual gaslighting is a type of psychological deception in which people or organizations persuade someone to doubt their own sense of reality, emotions, or perceptions by using spiritual practices, beliefs, or experiences.
This strategy can be applied to gain dominance, take control, or minimize the victim’s unique spiritual experiences.
Imagine someone casting doubt on your spiritual experiences or personal beliefs, or making you feel awful about them.
That is false spirituality. It occurs when someone manipulates your thoughts with spiritual concepts so that you start doubting your own emotions or reality.
It’s similar to a friend telling you that your own spiritual experiences or sentiments are incorrect or unreal.
To make you feel weaker or less confident in yourself, they may pretend to be more spiritual than you are.
After learning everything there is to know about spiritual gaslighting, let’s look at some warning signs of Spiritual Gaslighting.
Everyday Signs of Spiritual Gaslighting or Spiritual Abuse
If your faith leader, spouse, or friend engages in any of the following behaviors, you might be a victim of spiritual abuse via Spiritual gaslighting techniques:
- You give in to their spiritual beliefs out of guilt.
- manipulates the truth to make people change their minds
- refuses to take responsibility for providing you with inaccurate spiritual advice
- By sharing your personal experiences with other leaders or followers, you expose yourself to shame and alienation.
- tells you that serving them is your obligation
- Remove you from the group or organization when they can no longer take advantage of you (much like a narcissist discards) says you will follow their instructions if you love them.
Why Do People Gaslight Others?
Gaslighters manipulate and control others for their own benefit, whether they realize it or not, and whether they do it subtly or openly.
People who often use gaslighting may have personality disorders like narcissistic personality disorder or antisocial personality disorder.
These individuals typically lack empathy for others and use specific phrases or statements to manipulate people.
- Deny facts
- Avoid accountability
- Distort your reality
- Minimize your feelings
- Undermine your confidence and mental health
Psychologists have found that people who gaslight others often learned this behavior during childhood.
In many instances, their main caregiver used manipulation, which included threats, coercion, or withholding things the child wanted or needed, to make them behave or do certain things.
As adults, these individuals tend to use similar mind-control tactics in their relationships and interactions.
How Gaslighting Affects You
Faith-based gaslighting, like other types of gaslighting, usually involves a repeated set of statements that make you feel unsure about yourself and your beliefs.
As you realize that your intelligence, logic, or understanding of your spirituality is being manipulated, you may lose trust in the person or organization responsible.
This can lead to various mental and emotional effects, such as:
- Unstable self-image
- Eroded self-esteem
- Self-doubt and second-guessing your ability to reason
- Confusion, shame, or guilt
- Feeling out of touch with reality
- Feeling mentally unstable
- Loss of faith in the religion or spiritual following
- Separation from the person, group, or entity
There are some Hidden Signs or Examples of Spiritual Gaslighting Used to Manipulate and it affect them on spiritual as well as mental level.
8 Popular Signs of Spiritual Gaslighting
Psychotherapist Stephanie Sarkis, Ph.D., LMHC, described gaslighters as expert manipulators.
She shared this insight with Psycom and is also the author of the book
“Gaslighting: Recognize Manipulative and Emotionally Abusive People—and Break Free.”
In my understanding, gaslighting is like someone trying to deceive you with nonsense things that don’t add up when you take a moment to think about them.
It can be subtle and challenging to notice, especially when dealing with a clever narcissistic gaslighter.
Sometimes, gaslighters might not even realize they’re manipulating, but the harmful effects remain the same.
Here are 8 most popular warning signs of spiritual Gaslighting
1. You are not being able to experience any breakthrough
Some people think forgiveness is necessary for spiritual healing.
However, if you feel pressured into believing that your spiritual growth is hindered only because you can’t forgive, it could be a form of gaslighting.
While forgiveness is important, it’s also crucial to establish boundaries, especially with those who repeatedly harm you.
The Hawaiian Ho’oponopono prayer provides a heartfelt way to forgive without always requiring direct confrontation.
At times, finding personal peace is more about resolving things within yourself than reconciling externally.
2. You are finding it hard to understand spirituality
One of the major signs of spiritual gaslighting is this.
Some spiritual leaders act like they know everything and don’t want anyone questioning them.
This happens a lot in places like churches, where asking about different interpretations might get you called a skeptic.
These leaders might say that only certain people really understand holy books like the Bible or the Quran.
They suggest that doing special rituals, like baptism, will make you spiritually better, making it seem like without these rituals, you’re not as good.
3. You are not being able to heal
You are not being able to heal, because you are not as spiritual as you would like to think so.
Spiritual gaslighting is when someone blames you for your illness, suggesting it’s because you lack spirituality.
They make you feel like you need to try harder or involve them more in your life, perhaps even asking them to pray for you. However, this notion is unrealistic.
Illness can affect anyone, regardless of their spirituality.
Many spiritual people also experience sickness and may not fully recover.
Blaming yourself for being ill only adds more pain.
It’s crucial to reject these harmful beliefs and recognize that health is a complex matter.
Embrace your experiences, be kind to yourself, and let go of self-blame.
4. Your experiences and feelings aren’t significant in the big picture
A significant example of spiritual gaslighting is when your personal spiritual experiences are downplayed or made fun of.
Imagine sharing a profound spiritual realization or a mystical experience, and instead of getting support, people doubt or mock you.
This dismissal can make you question the authenticity of your spiritual journey, causing inner conflict and hurting your self-confidence.
It’s important to notice these signs and stay true to your beliefs for an authentic spiritual journey.
5. You are simply a victim of bad Karma
Karma comes from Hinduism and Buddhism, suggesting that good actions lead to positive outcomes, while bad actions result in negative consequences.
However, some spiritual guides may wrongly blame past mistakes for current difficulties, making you fearful of doing wrong even if you’re a kind person.
When you see dishonest people thriving, it can challenge your belief in karma, causing confusion.
It’s crucial to understand that life is complex, and not everything can be explained solely by karma.
Bad things happening doesn’t necessarily mean you did something wrong.
Similarly, witnessing unkind people succeed doesn’t negate the concept of karma.
Each person’s journey and experiences are unique, and it’s okay not to have all the answers.
6. Your primary goal is one true Path if not you are not spiritual
What is spiritual gaslighting, you wonder?
Spiritual gaslighting occurs when someone insists that there’s only one “right” spiritual path or belief, claiming it’s theirs.
They may assert that their way is the only true one, dismissing other beliefs as wrong or less valuable.
It’s akin to insisting there’s only one route to a destination, despite various paths leading there.
This behavior can leave people feeling confused and questioning their own beliefs.
It’s crucial to recognize that spirituality is personal, and what resonates with one person may differ for another.
Everyone has their unique journey and connection to their beliefs.
Seeking guidance is okay, but trusting your feelings and intuition is equally essential. No one should make you feel bad or wrong about your individual spiritual path.
7. Your loyalty is only for your spiritual group there is no other choice
Absolutely, it does sound cult-like, and indeed, it is! This scenario represents a significant spiritual gaslighting examples.
It frequently occurs in settings resembling cults, where leaders manipulate and exploit their followers.
In such groups, there are evident signs that things are not as they should be.
In such situations, they might:
- Keep you isolated from family or friends, making you feel alone.
- Pressure you to conform, not allowing you to be yourself.
- Demand a significant portion of your money or make you work without fair pay.
- Enforce strict adherence to the leader’s rules, discouraging questioning.
It’s like being part of a group where everyone wears the same color and follows one leader without thinking.
If you find yourself in such a place, it’s crucial to recognize that genuine spiritual paths encourage understanding, freedom, and personal growth. True leaders guide and inspire instead of controlling.
Always trust your feelings, and if something doesn’t feel right, seeking help or advice is essential.
8. You are solely responsible for anything that happens to you
When someone says, “it’s your fault” for bad things happening, it’s not fair and not true.
This blame can make you feel guilty, and it’s a tricky move called gaslighting.
It can happen in spiritual places too, where ideas like karma are used wrongly, or religious teachings are twisted.
But really, some bad things aren’t your fault at all.
Like if a company has to let people go to save money or if something terrible happens, like an attack, it’s not the victim’s fault.
Blaming yourself ignores all the other things happening in the world that can affect your life.
Final Thoughts on Signs of Spiritual Gaslighting
Spiritual manipulation is a form of spiritual abuse. When our religious and spiritual beliefs are used against us, it makes us fearful.
We start thinking we’re not holy or righteous enough.
We prioritize spiritual development over being human, ignoring our reasoning, convictions, emotions, intuition, and truth.
If you suspect you’re a victim of gaslighting, trust your instincts and judgment.
Distance yourself from the harmful environment. Seek support from trusted family, friends, or a mental health professional. Learn about different types of gaslighting you might encounter in life.