Gaslighting in personal development groups and workshops


Gaslighting is a subtle form of emotional manipulation that is becoming increasingly common in personal development groups and workshops. It involves deceiving others about their reality and perception, leading to disorientation, frustration, and a loss of self-confidence.

What is gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a manipulation that involves deceiving the victim, for instance, participants of personal and spiritual development workshops, as I wrote about, about their own perception of reality. This type of manipulation can involve various actions, such as:

  • Lies: A person using gaslighting often lies to mislead the victim about reality.
  • Disinformation: A person using gaslighting may deliberately provide false information to change the victim's perception.
  • Denial: A person using gaslighting may deny what the victim says or feels to mislead them about their actual experiences.
  • Distortion: A person using gaslighting may deliberately distort situations to change the victim's perception.

The Impact of Gaslighting on Victims

Based on this brief introduction, we can state that this phenomenon can negatively affect the victim's psyche. Gaslighting can have serious consequences, including:

  • Low self-esteem: Victims of gaslighting often begin to doubt their perception of reality and their self-worth.
  • Loss of confidence: Gaslighting can cause victims to doubt their abilities and capabilities.
  • Emotional problems: Victims of gaslighting may experience anxiety, depression, and other emotional issues.
  • Relationship issues: Gaslighting can lead to serious relationship problems as victims may lose trust in others and become withdrawn.

Gaslighting in Personal Development Groups

Gaslighting is particularly dangerous in personal development groups because the leaders of these groups often hold power and authority, making it difficult for victims to identify manipulation.

One reason why gaslighting is so common in personal development groups is that many leaders of such groups use special emotional manipulation techniques to dominate their subordinates and control their thoughts and behaviors. These techniques may include:

  • Creating a false reality - gaslighters often attempt to replace a fact, emotion, or event with their version of events to gain control over others.
  • Exploiting guilt - gaslighters often exploit others' guilt to gain control over them. They may accuse the victim of things that are untrue or blame them (blame-shifting) for something they are not responsible for.
  • Denying facts - gaslighters often question reality, which can lead to doubt and uncertainty in the victim. They can do this so subtly that the person begins to doubt their memory or reasoning ability.
  • Causing doubt in the victim - gaslighters often try to disorient the victim by suggesting that their version of events is incorrect or hard to understand. They may also suggest that the victim is emotionally or mentally unstable.
  • Altering reality - gaslighters can change reality by manipulating information or hiding facts to gain control over others.

Gaslighting can occur in many situations, including various groups. I have participated in several different workshops in various countries around the world and have met many other people who have experienced gaslighting in these groups and other countries. Leaders of such groups can use gaslighting techniques to gain control over others and manipulate them.

People who participate in such groups are often susceptible to manipulation and submit to the leader's will. After all, we don't learn from someone we don't trust, right? 🙂

In Poland, too, there are many groups and workshops where one can experience gaslighting. For example, at female empowerment workshops, manipulative techniques often intended to control participants are frequently encountered. This is also the case in men's workshops, where leaders may use gaslighting techniques to gain control over them.

Certain groups and organizations, such as sects, may be particularly prone to using gaslighting techniques. In cults, leaders often use manipulation and control to gain full dominance over their followers. Such organizations may introduce their members to a false reality, making it hard for them to escape the group. Those who manage to leave a toxic group usually face many difficulties in finding their way in the "normal world."

Example of Gaslighting in a Women's Group

This situation is unfortunately quite common in many countries, including Poland. Women-only groups, which involve only women, often teach shamanic, neo-tantric, and body work techniques, much like other developmental groups. However, in some cases, the teachers of these groups manipulate the participants, convincing them that in our society, men are less spiritually developed than women, which can lead to the reinforcement of a superiority complex among the women participants over men.

This situation contributes to deepening the distance between women and men, leading to further difficulties in forming relationships. This, in turn, leads to isolation from society and further exacerbation of emotional problems.

One of the most important aspects that should be ensured in developmental groups is a sense of safety and respect for all participants, regardless of gender. Manipulation and reinforcement of superiority of one group over another can lead to harmful effects for participants and their relationships with other people.

Book on Toxic Groups - Examples of Gaslighting

One book that addresses manipulation in cults and toxic groups is "The Power of Personal Development" by Sergio S Dorje (available on Amazon -> Spiritual Development Book). This book describes various ways in which people in groups manipulate others, including through the use of gaslighting.

Gaslighting is particularly dangerous in groups where leaders use these techniques to control and manipulate members. Often, people participating in such groups are pressured to conform, and gaslighting can intensify this influence, leading to a loss of self-worth and identity.

In Poland, as well as around the world, there are many groups and organizations offering workshops and training in personal development, and some of these may be susceptible to the occurrence of gaslighting. For example, tantra massage workshops, temple arts, or feminine development may attract people seeking spiritual or emotional transformation, but simultaneously become an easy target for potential manipulators.

Leaders of such groups often exploit their position and knowledge to influence participants, distorting reality and persuading them to submit to their power. Gaslighting is one of the tools that can be used for this purpose, and victims may not even realize they are being manipulated.

One of the reasons why gaslighting is so effective is that manipulators often exploit the positive intentions of participants, such as the desire for change and growth, to achieve their own ends.

For instance, a person seeking help in personal development might feel obliged to submit to a leader's demands to achieve their goals, even if these demands are harmful or unethical.

However, there are ways to protect oneself from gaslighting in personal development groups. It's important to be aware of potential risks and understand what behaviors may be signs of manipulation. For example, if a group leader tends to criticize or punish participants, appears to undermine their abilities, or gives conflicting instructions, these may be signals that manipulation is at play.

It's also crucial to seek information about the leader and their background. This isn't easy, but it can help to avoid falling into the trap of manipulation. Check if the leader has a positive reputation in the community, what experience they have in leading groups, and whether they have had any legal or ethical issues in the past. If any doubts arise, always trust your instinct and refrain from participating in the group.

Cases of manipulation and abuse in personal development groups also occur in Poland and other countries.

Gaslighting is a dangerous and harmful phenomenon that can have severe consequences for mental and emotional health. Unfortunately, it often occurs in personal development groups and cults, where leaders use manipulation to control their members and gain financial or sexual benefits.

How to deal with gaslighting

To protect oneself from gaslighting, it's important to maintain a healthy skepticism towards promises made by personal development groups and to thoroughly check information about leaders and groups before deciding to join them. Listening to your instinct and not ignoring doubts that may arise while participating in a group is also crucial.

However, if you have already become a victim of manipulation and gaslighting, it is worthwhile to seek support from a specialist who can help understand the situation and take steps to regain control over your life.

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