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What is Gaslighting?

What is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a term that has gained significant traction in recent years, particularly in discussions about psychological manipulation and abuse. Coined from the 1944 film “Gaslight,” where a husband manipulates his wife into doubting her perceptions, gaslighting describes a form of emotional abuse where one person subtly undermines another’s reality, causing them to question their sanity, perceptions, and memories. This insidious form of manipulation can have profound effects on an individual’s mental health and well-being.

Gaslighting operates on the principle of power and control, where the perpetrator seeks to assert dominance over the victim by eroding their confidence and sense of self. It often starts subtly, with small lies or denials, and gradually escalates into more overt forms of manipulation. The gaslighter may invalidate the victim’s feelings, minimize their experiences, or even blame them for the problems in the relationship.

One of the hallmark signs of gaslighting is the gradual erosion of trust in one’s own perceptions and memories. The victim may find themselves constantly second-guessing themselves, unsure of what is real and what is not. They may become increasingly dependent on the gaslighter for validation and reassurance, further reinforcing the power dynamic in the relationship.

Gaslighting can occur in various contexts, including intimate relationships, friendships, family dynamics, and even in professional settings. It is not limited by age, gender, or socioeconomic status. Anyone can be a victim of gaslighting, and it’s essential to recognize the signs and take steps to protect oneself.

Do any of these signs sound familiar?

  • A partner snaps, ‘I’m not angry, why are you starting a fight?’
  • You are constantly second-guessing yourself.
  • You ask yourself, “Am I too sensitive?” a dozen times a day.
  • You often feel confused and even crazy. You receive puzzling responses to ordinary actions.
  • Your reactions are labeled wrong or unreasonable.
  • You are always apologizing to those around you.
  • You frequently make excuses for your partner’s behavior to friends and family.
  • You find yourself witholding information from friends and family so you don’t have to explain or make excuses.
  • You know something is terribly wrong, but you can never quite express what it is, even to yourself.
  • You start lying to avoid put-downs and reality twists.
  • You have trouble making simple decisions.
  • You have the sense that you used to be a very different person- more confident, more fun-loving, more relaxed.
  • You feel as though you can’t do anything right.

What’s wrong with me?

When one doubts their perceptions of reality, the gaslighter is able to control that person; they become completely dependent on the gaslighter for the ‘truth.’

The gaslighting abuser will also use denial, leading the survivor to ask themself if they should take further steps because the gaslighter listened to their logical, understandable, completely answerable question, and simply said, “Nope. Not me. I didn’t do it.”

The gaslighting survivor is also left to deal with the fact that the gaslighter knowingly denied this, and wonder what else could possibly be unknown.

Over time, it can often become increasingly difficult for gaslighting survivors to trust their own instincts and the survivor may feel they need to be careful when relying on their own perceptions of life.

Gaslighting is an insidious form of emotional abuse and manipulation that is difficult to recognize and break free from.

If you suspect that you’re being gaslighted, it’s essential to trust your instincts and seek support from trusted friends, family members, or mental health professionals. Gaslighting thrives in secrecy and isolation, so reaching out for help is a crucial first step in breaking free from its grip.

Additionally, here are some strategies for combating gaslighting:

  1. Educate yourself: Learn about gaslighting and its tactics to better recognize when it’s happening to you.
  2. Trust your instincts: If something feels off or doesn’t align with your reality, trust yourself rather than doubting your perceptions.
  3. Set boundaries: Establish clear boundaries with the gaslighter and enforce consequences if they continue to engage in manipulative behavior.
  4. Practice self-care: Prioritize your mental and emotional well-being by engaging in activities that bring you joy and relaxation.
  5. Seek support: Surround yourself with a supportive network of friends, family, or professionals who can offer validation and guidance.

Gaslighting is a serious form of emotional abuse that can have long-lasting effects on an individual’s self-esteem, mental health, and overall well-being. By recognizing the signs of gaslighting and taking proactive steps to address it, individuals can reclaim their sense of self and break free from the cycle of manipulation and control. Remember, you are not alone, and help is available.

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