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 forgets things, and perhaps 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.
Gaslighting is where the abuser repeatedly uses manipulation in situations, to confuse and trick the victim into doubting and not trusting their memory and perception. Gaslighting is a subtle and dangerous form of abuse. It makes victims question the veryy instincts that they have relied on their whole lives, making them unsure of anything.
Its effects can be very damaging and 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.”
There are many gaslighting techniques which can make it hard to identify. Gaslighting is mainly used so the abuser can hide truths that they don’t want the victim to realize. Both men and women can be perpetrators of gaslighting abuse.
The gaslighting techniques are used to gain control over the victim, to make the victim doubt their thoughts and memories. Before long the victim is too scared to bring up any topic for fear they are “wrong” and to save an argument where all the fault is once again placed on them.
1. You are always doubting yourself and second-guessing
Your self-esteem and confidence can be completely shattered through the constant manipulation of your reality. As the victim, you begin to doubt everything you do or think. That’s how powerful gaslighting can be. You begin to rely on your abuser’s reality and perception of things as you no longer trust yourself. Thus giving your abuser more control.
2. You question yourself several times a day, your feelings, are 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, you’re overreacting, or you’re too sensitive. They turn it all back on you, so you question yourself and believe they are right. They go around in circles on purpose, avoiding the issue you bring up. By doing this, they deflect everything back on you. Leaving you confused and feeling unheard or understood. This then makes you doubt yourself further.
3. You find it difficult making easy decisions
When dealing with a gaslighter, it’s not the actual decision itself, it’s how they use the easiest decision and can make it into a big deal and make you feel like you are not able to make such a basic decision
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 and make it you’re an 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 it was ever said by them. They will pick it apart from going so far as to ask you to “prove it” when all you have is your memory of it as proof, and they are denying this happened, so you question your memory. You begin to think maybe the manipulator is right, you’ve remembered it wrong, 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. And in the majority of situations, the abused one in the relationship turns to their abuser for help with gaining some clarity, and this only aides the gaslighters 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 “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 become a puppet in the hands of the gaslighter, you’re not sure who you are anymore, you are not the person you once were. And you believe all the subtlety 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. You feel worthless and think you won’t manage without your abuser.
11. You’re always apologizing
You become so accustomed to being blamed for everything, you find yourself apologizing all the time. You even end up apologizing when you bring something up that your abuser did wrong. They twist and turn everything, making you feel bad for even suggesting they did something wrong.
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.