More and more in the media today we hear the term; “Gaslighting” but what exactly is gaslighting? And how do you know if it’s happening to you?
Psychologists use the term “gaslighting” to refer to a specific type of manipulation where the manipulator is trying to get someone else (or a group of people) to question their own reality, memory or perceptions. The term gaslighting first became popular in an American psychological thriller back in 1944 where the husband gaslights his wife by trying to make her think she was going insane to distract her from his criminal shenanigans.
However, the actual definition of gaslighting describes a form of psychological abuse in which the victim is gradually manipulated into doubting their own sanity and it forces them to question their own thoughts memories and events occurring around them. It may start out with seemingly small offenses. But the problem is that even more-or-less insignificant instances of you questioning your own judgment or reality — thanks to the deliberate intent of someone else — can snowball. You can end up in a cycle of not being able to negotiate your daily life in a way where you are clear minded, can focus, can make sound decisions and have a sense of well-being.
Gaslighting happens in personal relationships, in professional relationships and even by public figures. No matter whether it’s happening, it’s important to be aware of the red flags that you (or someone you know) might be a victim — which is the first step to getting out of the abusive situation.
Gaslighters tend to be more men than women. They are a highly manipulative individuals who are controlling and they have a strong need to dominate another person. The gaslighter doesn’t necessarily need to be acting with malicious intent, nor does the gaslighter necessarily need to realize that she or he is gaslighting another person for it to be happening. It might be a result of how you were raised or it can stem from personality disorders such as narcissism and anti-social, as well as other issues. Maybe your parents had very cut-and-dry beliefs and that certainty is how they (and now you) see the world and when someone sees things differently you assume something is wrong with them.
How gaslighting happens: According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s fact sheet, the techniques a gaslighter might use to manipulate someone else can include:
- Withholding(meaning he or she refuses to listen or says they don’t understand)
- Countering(when the abuser questions the gaslightee’s memory of an event)
- Blocking/diverting(when the abuser changes the subject or questions the victim’s thinking)
- Trivializing(making the victim’s needs or feelings seem unimportant)
- Forgetting/denial(when the manipulator pretends to have forgotten what actually happened or denies something he or she had previously agreed to)
When you are in a relationship and you love somebody and you care for somebody we tend to minimise or ignore things that are going on because we don’t really want to see the truth or we don’t imagine that the person we think that loves us would want to manipulate us or make us think that we’re insane so we don’t even go there but if you’re questioning you know something isn’t right.
Signs that you are being gaslighted: Look for these warning signs and red flags the type of abuse might be happening to you (or someone you know):
- constantly second guessing yourself or have trouble making decisions;
- ruminating about a perceived character flaw (like being too sensitive or not a good enough person);
- feel confused about your relationship (if you find yourself thinking: “I thought I had this great husband, but I just feel crazy all the time” or “I thought I had this charming partner, but then sometimes I feel like I’m losing it when we’re together”);
- In a confrontation with the person that might be gaslighting you, you feel like you suddenly find yourself in an argument you didn’t intend to have, you’re not making progress or you’re saying the same thing over and over again and not being heard;
- feel fuzzy or unclear about your thoughts, feelings, or beliefs;
- always apologizing;
- frequently making excuses for your partner’s behaviour;
- can’t understand why you’re not happy in your own life; or
- know something is wrong, but you just don’t know what.
What to do if you are being gaslighted:
- Identify the problem.Recognizing the problem is the first step.
- Give yourself permission to feel what you feel.Part of the problem with gaslighting is that it results in the victim questioning his or her own thoughts, values, perceptions, or feelings. Acknowledge that what you feel is what you feel so that you can take whatever action you need to take to feel better.
- Give yourself permission to make a sacrifice.Part of what makes it tough for a victim to leave a gaslight tango is that the abuser is someone they care about, they look up to, or they have a relationship with.
- Start with making small decisions.To get out of or to stop a gaslight, take one step at a time. Say no. Don’t engage in an argument that’s clearly a power struggle.
- Get a second opinion.Ask a friend or family member you trust if they think your thinking is as off as your potential abuser says it is.
- Have compassion for YOU.Having compassion for yourself is super important.
The bottom line is that it is not good to be in a manipulative abusive relationship, so don’t sit there and beat yourself up if this is the situation you find yourself in, acknowledge it, go get some professional help with someone that can really help you walk through this and get to a place of strength so you can start feeling secure again and confident in yourself and honouring yourself and giving yourself the self-respect that you deserve in any relationship and in your life.
|If you feel you have been the victim of gaslighting the first step is recognising it and the second step is talking to someone. Reach out, do not suffer alone & remember…
“It’s Okay not to be Okay & It’s absolutely Okay to ask for help!”
The article is written by Leanne, Newly Qualified Counsellor at The DMC Clinic. If you would like to discuss how any of the topics mentioned above are impacting your mental health, please contact The DMC Clinic to arrange an appointment.