Search up the term gaslighting on the internet, and you’ll likely come across a myriad of articles and phrases related to the subject.
Essentially, gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse and can affect people to such an extent that it often results in mental health issues for the victims of this form of psychological abuse.
Gaslighting involves a sequence of manipulative strategies and techniques that often result in the victim doubting their sanity and perception of reality.
Due to its insidious nature, gaslighting is often hard to detect at first.
When a person gets gaslighted, it usually starts with the gaslighter correcting their way of thinking, dismissing or invalidating their emotions, and contradicting anything they might say.
If gaslighting continues in the long-term, the victim often ends up in an emotional quarry where they gradually start questioning their sanity, thoughts, memory, emotions, and perception.
Gaslighting occurs in all relationships and doesn’t just get reserved for romantic relationships. This power struggle and emotional abuse can occur between family members, cult leaders, co-workers, and even a best friend or other close relationship.
When people are constantly experiencing gaslighting, it can lead them down the path to mental health issues such as:
A victim of gaslighting may also feel insecure, confused, and believe they imagine things when they are the victim of a gaslighting situation.
How does being gaslighted feel?
People experiencing emotional abuse like gaslighting must assess how they feel in any interaction with a potential gaslighter.
As much as the gaslight recipients are plagued with self-doubt, inherently, how they feel around other people is usually a red flag of psychological abuse.
People gaslight all the time, and for the victims to move forward with their lives, they must first understand the emotional damage such abusive relationships cause and try not to second guess themselves, although this can be profoundly challenging!
According to research, there are two ways to decipher whether a person is gaslighted; by how it feels and sounds.
Many people describe feeling off-kilter around one person; they also tend to doubt their reality, whether a family member or friend. Although these descriptions sound rather vague, they are often the feelings that a victim of gaslighting uses to describe when around psychological abusers.
How it feels
Gaslighting induces several emotions in victims that involve:
- Having difficulty trusting yourself and others
- Constantly feeling confused or like you are going crazy
- Always feeling as though you did something wrong ( feeling as if everything is your fault)
- Constantly apologizing or over-apologizing
- Making excuses for other peoples’ behaviors and actions (or justifying reasons why they hurt you)
- Feeling like you have to continually back up your point of view/reasoning with countless facts
- Sensing that something is wrong or doesn’t feel right but unable to put your finger on what it is
- Always doubting yourself (Am I being too overly sensitive or emotional, and did this happen?)
How it sounds
Gaslighting follows a consistent narrative from abusers, which often sounds like:
- ”You imagine things.”
- ”You’re always making stuff up.”
- ”You’re out of control.”
- ”You’re making a huge deal, as always.”
- ”I was just joking; you’re so sensitive right now!”
- ”You’re not thinking straight.”
- ”You’re too dramatic and emotional.”
- ”You know you sound crazy right now, don’t you?”
- ”You’re paranoid.”
- ”That never happened. I’ll tell you what happened..”
- ”Stop playing the victim when I should be the one who is upset.”
Inherently, gaslighters are bullies that suffer from profoundly low self-esteem.
The only way they gain subtle power over people is through a snide comment every so often, telling a blatant lie (or two) and making people second-guess their reality, decision-making, and sense of self.
The way gaslighters exert power over victims can sometimes be cruel and demeaning and make the other person feel guilty or wrong for how they think or behave.
Making a victim question themselves and other people is one way to gain more control. In addition, giving intermittent positive reinforcement to victims and blatantly lie-telling are other techniques often used.
The 1944 film Gaslight is the motivation behind the term ”gaslight”.
It follows the story of a young woman whose husband slowly manipulates her into believing she is going crazy by using numerous gaslighting techniques to make her question her sanity.
The woman hears footsteps in the attic, and the gaslights in the house often flash from dim to bright (all of which her husband was responsible for).
The young woman eventually becomes isolated while her husband tells her that ”her nerves are acting up” and that it would be wise to stay in the house.
In reality, his actions cause paranoia and anxiety, and, in the end, she eventually realizes what he has been doing to her.
People who suspect they are getting gaslighted must do all they can to take care and surround themselves with healthy relationships.
Self-awareness around gaslighting is critical, and only you can know what is happening to you and how the bad behaviour is affecting you.
Exposing yourself to blatant lies where someone is making you question your emotional intelligence (among other things) doesn’t have to be a way of life.
Self-care is critical when faced with this form of psychological abuse. If you happen to be in a relationship with a gaslighter, you may benefit from one-to-one counselling or couples counselling.
If you have been experiencing gaslighting for some time, it may be challenging for you to open up about your feelings since it can be difficult to discern who can be trusted and who can’t.
It gets recommended that you speak to a counsellor or mental health professional to help you navigate your feelings and emotions.
Through treatment and support groups, you can better regain any lost trust and re-establish your sense of self through the validation and tools you learn through therapy.
If you suspect that you are a victim of gaslighting or any other psychological abuse, then make sure you reach out to one of our specialists who can help.