Did you even know what is gaslighting?
The term has been everywhere since Donald Trump’s inauguration, so much so that the Oxford Dictionaries named it one of the most popular words of 2018: gaslighting
In simple words, the phrase “to gaslight” means to the act of undermining another person’s ability by denying reality and their feelings. The person who is gaslighting the target tries to manipulate and overpower the other person.
The phrase originated from a 1938 mystery thriller written by British play writer” Patrick Hamilton” called Gas Light, made into a popular movie in 1944 starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer. In the film, husband Gregory manipulates his adoring, trusting wife Paula into believing she can no longer trust her own perception of reality.
In one scene, Gregory causes the gaslights in the house to flicker by turning them on in the attic of the house. When Paula asks why the gaslights are flickering, he insists that it’s not really happening and it’s all in her mind. This causes her to doubt her self-perception. Hence the term “gaslighting” was born.
This term is very frequently used in couple counselling and self-help books to describe toxic relationships. Gaslighting is a form of mental and emotional abuse. Like all abuse, it is based on the need for power, control, or concealment. This is the same as brainwashing.
The person gaslighting might act hurt and play the victim when challenged or questioned. Covert manipulation can easily turn into overt abuse with accusations that you’re distrustful, ungrateful, unkind, overly sensitive, stupid, crazy or insecure.
Gaslighting can take place in the workplace or in any relationship. Generally, it is for control, infidelity, or money. The manipulator is often a sociopath, narcissist or addict.
Initially, you won’t even realize you’re being gaslighted. It can be really damaging in a relationship built on trust and love. You might try to deny it to save the relation.
This can be in any relationship. Romantic relationships aren’t the only situations where gaslighting can occur. It can also happen:
In a parent-child relationship.
Between family members and friends.
On a larger scale, authoritative persons have been known to gaslight everyone who is in their circle.
The person might be so close that it can be quite confusing because you love the charmer but hate the abuser. This happened when all the bad behaviours are out of sight and good memories are mostly positive. You lose not only the person and relation you loved but also trust and future relationships. Even if you don’t break the relation, the relation is changed forever.
It happens so slowly that you don’t even realize that you are dealing with gaslight until you begin to wonder why you are experiencing so much confusion. Anxiety and low self-esteem.
As a result, after some time, you start feeling depressed, sick and lose all your confidence in yourself and your perception.
One thing to note is that it is a form of psychological abuse. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) suggest that more than 43 million women and 38 million men in the United States experienced some type of psychological abuse by an intimate partner.
It’s not easy to identify when you are being gaslighted but some phrases you might hear from the abuser :
“That’s not what I said. You don’t remember it right.”
“You are too sensitive. It’s not a big deal.”
“I don’t know what you are talking about.”
“You are overreacting.”
All these words can instil a feeling of confusion and make you doubt yourself and let the person gain control in the relationship.
Gaslighting can cause you to lose so much confidence that you might be hesitant to take any decision for yourself and rely on that person to make decisions for you. And this is what they want.
How to cope or handle if you are a victim of gaslighting?
First, you have to free yourself from any type of guilt or low self-esteem as it was not your fault to be gaslighted.
Recognizing it as its gaslighting is the second step towards dealing with it. Make sure that the person is repeating the tactics of control and trying to negatively impact your feelings of self-worth.
Abusers can question everything you say, do or want to do. So, if you find him always questioning you and blaming you for something or another, know that he is trying to gaslight you. It can affect your mental health badly and increase your stress levels. Therefore, you can talk to a professional for help.
Never lose confidence in yourself and if possible, try to distance yourself from that person. Limit your conversations with that person.
Avoid debating on the issues which can leave you drained as that person is unlikely to see any situation from your perspective.
If this is happening in a romantic relationship, maybe you feel afraid to confront him.
Try to analyze the situation if it can be continued like that. If not, seriously consider breaking up as it is not worth spending life with an abuser who is not willing to understand your self-worth.
Have a conversation with the person with a calm voice and confidence to let him know that you are establishing boundaries. If nothing works change your paths and move on.
There are different situations where it’s not that easy to distance yourself or to break up with someone who is gaslighting you. In that case, just ignore that person as much as you can and don’t lose your self-esteem or confidence.
However, it might be difficult but try not to become visually upset as this can make the person gaslighting you feel validated and successful in his efforts. Don’t argue with that person as it can escalate to violence.
People who try to gaslight are not born to be like that. They are just trying to benefit themselves from social learning. They find it working and use it as a tool. It’s their strategy for self-regulation. You might get successful if you don’t let them take advantage of you. For that you must be very strong mentally.
The last thing I want to say is, “If you are dealing with gaslighting, you are not alone. It’s not your fault, and there are ways to cope and heal.”
Gaslighters are also people.
They may change if you deal with them strongly but if not set your priorities and if necessary, move on.
None of the blogs or opinions expressed within is meant as advice to you or anybody else on any matter, including but not limited to, personal finance, health, or other matters of life. If you need advice, speak to a professional!