Whether or not you’ve heard of gaslighting, you have likely encountered this form of psychological manipulation at some point in your life. Read on to learn more about the definition of gaslighting, its effects, signs of a gaslighter, and how to abolish gaslighting for good.
What is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a form of mental and emotional abuse in which one person manipulates another into doubting themselves and their perception of reality. If there is a person in your life that leaves you feeling inadequate and unsure of yourself, they might be gaslighting you. Anyone can gaslight, whether they be a romantic partner, friend, or family member.
The term comes from a movie created in the 1940s called “Gaslight.” In the movie, a husband dims the gaslights in his family’s home. When the wife sees the change in light, her husband convinces her that she is imagining it all. In the end, the wife believes that she is insane.
Effects of Gaslighting
The effects of gaslighting worsen over time. It is a gradual process, chipping away at your self-confidence. Though gaslighting can occur in all relationships, it is more common with people that we love. Gaslighting can have very serious consequences, causing damage to one’s self-esteem, self-worth, and trust in oneself.
Signs of a Gaslighter
They question your thoughts and memories
They will counter your arguments by saying, “You’re remembering that wrong,” “You’re crazy,” “Where did you get that idea?”
Refusal to listen
When confronting a gaslighter, they may try to immediately change the subject or trivialize your needs and feelings. Ex: “That’s why you’re so upset? You need a thicker skin.”
They deny, deny, deny
Even if you are remembering events accurately, they will deny it’s true. Ex: “That never happened,” “You’re making that up,” “What are you talking about?”
Take no responsibility for their actions
An apology from a gaslighter will sound a little something like this: “I’m sorry you feel that way.” It may sound nice, but it is a manipulative way to deflect the blame onto the person who is hurt.
Often times, manipulators are great at turning on the charm and appearing kind. They lie persistently and smoothly. Sometimes you might even feel guilty for questioning this person you’ve come to trust.
While abusers can certainly act alluring, they can also resort to malicious language. The main goal of a gaslighter is to keep you dependent so that you won’t leave. They may try to put you down and say things like “No one else is going to love you,” or “You’ll never find someone as good as me.”
Ways to Shut Down Gaslighting
Learn to recognize the pattern
If you learn to recognize gaslighting while it is happening, you will know to remain confident in yourself and your point of view. Watch out for the following phrases: “You are too sensitive,” “You have no sense of humor” “You’re taking this too personally,” “Stop being the PC police,” “You weren’t paying attention…” “If you knew how to listen…” “I never said that,” etc.
Don’t allow anyone to invalidate your feelings. As simple as it sounds, our feelings are valid because we feel them. Your perspective is important, and you should be able to have a voice that is respected and listened to.
Write it all down
Keep a journal, and write down all that happens with the person who is gaslighting you. In keeping track of every word, every action, you can feel confident in your perspective. Reference this journal when you are overwhelmed by doubt.
If you can, cut all ties with the person that is gaslighting you. You deserve better, and shouldn’t have to put up with this behavior. If this person is to change their ways, that is going to have to come from them. Even if this person is a family member, try to create a bit of distance so you feel safe. If this person is your boss, keep track of your interactions and consider talking to Human Resources.
Seek professional help if you need it
Believe it or not, gaslighting can cause serious damage to a person’s sense of self. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Nearly everyone experiences gaslighting on some level at one point or another, so know that you are not alone. Here is a link to the 24/7 National Domestic Violence Hotline where you can connect with an advocate online or over the phone.