You know that you are self-aware. You have strong opinions, defined goals, and at the core, you know who you are.
Then one day, seemingly out of nowhere, you begin doubting things. Questioning people’s motives. Second-guessing what you want and who you are. Your confidence turns to suspicion. You feel neurotic and paranoid. You may even start to wonder, “am I going crazy?”
You’re not crazy.
If you can identify with any of the feelings just mentioned, you may be a victim of the modern dating trend: Gaslighting.
What is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic in which a person, to gain power and control, plants seeds of uncertainty in the victim. The self-doubt and constant skepticism slowly and meticulously cause the individual to question their reality.
Definition of Gaslighting
Perhaps the best way to examine this inherently abusive behavior is to go straight to the source, the 1944 film “Gaslight.” The film tells a story of a husband systematically brainwashing his wife to the point that she legitimately thinks she is going insane. The wife fights to protect her identity all while her husband viciously tries to take it away.
While it never disappeared, over seven decades later, gaslighting has fully resurfaced in the dating world. Additionally, the term has resurfaced recently in some online publications to describe President Trump.
Additionally, the movie Gaslight also touches on how gaslighting can lead to the victim developing a form of Stockholm Syndrome. The victim becomes so uncertain of their sense of reality that they are now solely dependent on the gaslighter.
Who is at risk?
One of the most troubling aspects of gaslighting is that everyone is at risk. In fact, it is a method commonly used by cult leaders and dictators. While many of us have the good sense to not join a cult, we can experience gaslighting in our personal relationships without even realizing it.
Unfortunately, gaslighting is also used by abusers and narcissists, and it can be difficult realizing you may have those people in your life. Furthermore, gaslighting happens in a deliberately slow, precise way to ensure that the victim doesn’t realize it’s even happening.
It’s hard to recognize this type of abuse because, in addition to lying, the gaslighter may also be incredibly charming. At first, you may even find yourself feeling guilty that you are second-guessing this individual. The abuser uses tactics to prove your concerns otherwise and quickly you begin ignoring your gut. If it was wrong the first couple of times, it must always be wrong. This confusion is precisely what the abuser wants. As a result, without even realizing it, you are in an abusive relationship.
Examples of Gaslighting
So, are you a victim of gaslighting manipulation? Take a look at the following tell-tale signs of gaslighting behavior:
1. Blatant lying
First, people who gaslight tell obvious lies. You know that they are lying. The issue is how they are lying with such ease. The gaslighter is setting up an abusive pattern. You begin to question everything and become uncertain of the simplest matters. This self-doubt is exactly what the gaslighter wants.
2. Deny, Deny, Deny
Again, you know they said what they said. However, they completely deny ever saying it. The gaslighter may push the point and ask you to ‘prove it,’ knowing that you only have your memory of the conversation that they are denying happened. It starts to make you question your memory and your reality. You begin to wonder if the gaslighter is right, maybe they didn’t really ever say what you remember. Consequently, more and more often, you question your reality and accept theirs.
3. Using what you love against you
Additionally, people who gaslight use what is closest to you against you. If you love your job, they will find issues with it. If you have children, the gaslighter may force you to believe you should never have had them. This abusive manipulation tactic causes the victim to question the foundation of themselves as well as what they hold close.
4. The slow death of self
One of the terrifying parts of gaslighting is the methodical timeline that the abuser uses. The manipulation happens gradually and over time the victim morphs into someone entirely different. The most confident human being can become a shell of a person without being aware of it in the process. The victim’s individual reality diminishes and becomes that of the abuser.
5. Words vs. Actions
Notably, a person who gaslights talks and talks. However, their words mean nothing. Therefore, it is important to look at what they are doing. The issues lie in their abusive actions towards the victim.
6. Love and flattery
A common technique of a person who gaslights is to tear you down and then build you back up, only to tear you down again. However, the uneasiness comes from the love and flattery. Whether you realize it or not, you are becoming used to being torn down. However, the praise may lead you to think that the abuser isn’t all that bad.
Without a doubt, people crave stability, and the gaslighter knows this. The constant confusion that the abuser has instilled leads the victim to become desperate for clarity. More often than not, the victim searches for this clarity in the abuser, thus continuing the cycle and increasing the power that the abuser has.
If the gaslighter is a liar and a cheater, they are now accusing you of being a liar and a cheater. You constantly feel like you need to defend yourself for things you haven’t done.
9. “You’re crazy”
The gaslighter knows you are already questioning your sanity. The gaslighter also knows that you search for clarity in the person who is purposefully causing the confusion. Therefore, when they call you crazy, you believe it.
Furthermore, the gaslighter may also tell other people that you’re crazy. This way if you were ever to approach them for help with your abuser, they wouldn’t believe you. The gaslighter has given them a heads up that this would happen. You’re too “crazy” to be taken seriously.
10. Everyone else is a liar
The abuser may also tell you that everyone else is against you and that they are all liars. Again, believing that everyone else is lying to you forces your sense of reality to be further blurred. People who gaslight want their victims to turn to them for everything so that they can continue the abuse.
Ultimately, the quicker you can pick up on these gaslighting techniques, the better luck you will have to avoid a gaslighter’s abuse and maintain the distinct reality of your circumstances.
Gaslighting is a form of mental and emotional abuse. It promotes anxiety, depression, and can trigger mental breakdowns.
Culturally, women are depicted as overly emotional, fragile things who cry at the drop of a hat. Furthermore, the label “crazy” is eagerly placed on any individual who expresses their feelings in a passionate way. You don’t like certain behaviors – you’re crazy. You have your own opinions – you’re crazy. As a result, crazy has become a term that others use to get off the hook for their own behavior.
However, gaslighting is not women being overly emotional or crazy. Gaslighting is psychological abuse and cannot be overlooked.
Gaslighting is a technique commonly used by narcissists, sociopaths, and psychopaths. Since these are words we typically hear on television to describe a serial killer, you may not realize this person may be in your day to day life.
On a surface level, narcissistic people have an excessive admiration or obsession with themselves. Narcissistic abuse stems from the narcissist’s utter inability to empathize with others. Individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder can be extremely manipulative and have no regard for the well-being of its victim.
Sociopaths exhibit complete lack of shame or remorse for their actions. The personality disorder is loosely defined as a person with no conscience.
Psychopaths are people suffering from a chronic mental disorder that causes abnormal and violent social behavior.
While psychopaths, narcissists, and sociopaths are all over pop-culture, they are also everywhere in our day to day lives; we just may not realize it.
Gaslighting in Relationships
Important to realize, any relationship can be a victim of gaslighting.
Gaslighting in a romantic relationship may be easier to notice, and the end goal of the abuser is often apparent to others. More often than not, in romantic relationships, the motive of gaslighting is to gain control.
Conversely, gaslighting at work, or in relationships with friends or family members, can be more difficult to detect. It usually always involves control, money, or infidelity. Coupled with premeditated manipulation and gaslighting tactics, the people who gaslight usually get what they want and are successful at covering things up.
How To Deal With Gaslighting
Gaslighting emotional abuse causes psychological distress for its victims. With that being said, if you have experienced one form of gaslighting or another, you’re not alone.
The following list may help when faced with gaslighting:
- First, try to clarify who is gaslighting you and how. Take notes of any time you have questioned your perception of reality. In order to move on, you need to confirm the gaslighting is happening.
- Additionally, set aside time to meditate. This will help you stay grounded and objective if the reality of your situation is ever questioned.
- Talk to friends or family members who you trust. Seek guidance from a therapist or mental health professional.
- Finally, shift your perspective. You are no longer a victim, you are a survivor.
Time to Rebuild
By and large, we are living in an unusual and frightening time. Gaslighting is being referred to as the newest dating trend and even our President is being accused of gaslighting.
The good news is, you can repair the damage. It is entirely possible to regain the confidence and self-worth that you lost at the hands of the abuser. Knowledge and awareness are crucial for the regrowth of clarity and sense of self. You’re already on your way.