I’m sure most of you have heard of the term ‘gaslighting,’ but what does it mean exactly and what should you be looking out for?
The term comes from the Oscar-winning movie ‘Gaslight'(1944), starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer. Paula(Bergman) and Gregory(Boyer) are a couple that falls in love and ends up moving into Paula’s deceased aunt’s house.
Shortly after, viewers are left wondering why Gregory is constantly manipulating Paula into thinking she’s confused and that she forgets things, and perhaps that she’s unwell also. He makes the gas lights flicker, then when Paula questions this, he makes her believe that it must be her imagination.
Gaslighting is a form of mental and emotional abuse. It bolsters anxiety, depression and can trigger mental breakdowns.
In a nutshell, Gaslighting is manipulation, but it’s so subtle and can very easily be missed; we often don’t realize the manipulation is going on. This puts everyone in a position to be susceptible to it. Its effects can be very damaging and can totally change a person, and not for the better.
Dr. Robin Stern, Associate Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and author of “The Gaslight Effect” says “It is always dangerous,” “The danger of letting go of your reality is pretty extreme.”
1. You always doubt and second-guess yourself
Your self-esteem and confidence can be completely shattered through the constant manipulation of your reality. You begin to doubt everything you do or think. That’s how powerful gaslighting can be.
2. You question yourself several times a day; your feelings or if you being overly sensitive and making a big deal
Anytime you question something the manipulator has done, rather than take responsibility for their actions, they put the blame at your feet and tell you that you’re overreacting or you’re too sensitive. They turn it all back on you, so you question yourself and believe they are right.
3. You find it difficult to make easy decisions
When dealing with a gaslighter, it’s not the actual decision itself; it’s how they make the easiest decision and can make it into a big deal to make you feel like you are not able to make such a basic choice.
4. Changing the subject when you confront them
When you try and talk about something they may have done or how you feel about something, they will always divert the conversation away from themselves to make it your issue. For example, telling you you’re feelings are wrong, you’re imagining things, or that’s not how it happened.
5. Blatant Lying
You know exactly what they said, you are clear on this, yet they completely deny that they ever said it. They will pick it apart, going so far as to ask you to “prove it,” when all you have is your memory of it as proof. They deny this happened, so you question your memory. You begin to think maybe the manipulator is right, you’ve remembered it wrong, and you’re mistaken. The more frequently this happens, you begin to just accept their reality and doubt yours.
6. Compliments and Love
Gaslighters love to build you up to tear you down, then build you up again. You begin to believe they can’t be as bad as you thought when they shower you with love and compliment you. You’ve become so used to being torn down; that’s nearly overlooked as you focus on how good they can be.
Everyone wants some stability in their lives, and gaslighters know this. If you’re a victim of gaslighting, the constant confusion and doubt that the manipulator has imprinted in you lead you to crave some clarity. In the majority of situations, the abused one in the relationship turns to their abuser for help with gaining some clarity. This only aids the gaslighter’s power to let the cycle continue.
You always seem to be defending yourself over things you haven’t done. If your abuser is a cheater and a liar, guess what, suddenly you’re being accused of being a liar and a cheat.
9. You’re told that “You’re crazy”
You’re already questioning yourself and your sanity. The gaslighter is completely aware of this. When you look for some clarification, it’s your abuser that you turn to, the one that has set all these doubts about yourself into play, so when they tell you “you’re crazy,” at this stage, you believe them.
10. You feel no joy and have very little hope
You literally become a puppet in the hands of the gaslighter, and you’re not sure who you are anymore. You are not the person you once were. You believe all the subtly ingrained put-downs. You have come so far away from your dreams and hopes and have come disconnected from yourself, all of which the gaslighter has made it their purpose to do.
If any of this seems familiar to you, please do something to change this. Talk to someone if you can’t do it on your own.