Gaslighting is a tactic of manipulation some people use to gain power over others.
Unfortunately, it works too well.
At its core, Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse that slowly eats away at your ability to make proper judgments. A Gaslighter spins their own negative, harmful or destructive actions and words in their favor, deflecting the blame for their abusiveness and pointing the finger at you. Often, this is done by making you think you’re “too sensitive”, “paranoid”, “unstable”, “silly”, and many other things that can cause you to doubt yourself.
Often adopted by psychopathic, sociopathic and narcissistic types of people, Gaslighting works at eating away at you slowly until you realize that you’ve become a shell of your former self.
Here are a few signs to help you understand if you or someone around you is experiencing this form of emotional abuse:
1. They use what you love against you
Gaslighters will use what is closest to you against you. If you have children, they may try to force you into believing you should never have had them. If you love your job, they will find issues with it.
2. They lie
They will tell you outright lies with a straight face, even if you know they are lying. Why are they so blatant? Because they are setting up a precedent. Once they tell you a huge lie, you begin to question the truth in anything they say. The goal is to keep you unsteady and off-kilter.
3. They make you doubt yourself
You begin to wonder if you’re losing it or going insane. When arguing with your partner, they’ll tell you “it’s all in your head”. You can’t seem to get things right with your abuser or you don’t feel good enough. You think it’s all your fault and that if you did better or tried harder, your relationship would improve.
4. They try to turn you against others
The abuser may also tell you that everyone else is lying and they’re all against you. Believing that everyone else is lying to you forces a further blur on your sense of reality. Gaslighters want their victims to feel like they’re the only one they can trust so they can continue to abuse them.
5. They make you second guess your recollection of the past
Your abuser tells you that it never happened or that you’re remembering the details wrong. For some strange reason, your abuser’s interpretation of events does not match yours, making you question how reliable your own memory is or how justified your reaction is. They might claim that you’re “making things up”, or “You have a selective memory” and you’re “changing the story” to your own benefit.
6. You mistrust your own thoughts over theirs
You begin doubting your own judgment and think others have better logic than you do when given the choice. You distrust yourself and have trouble making your own decisions.
7. You get worn down
This one is done gradually, over time and is one of the most insidious things about gaslighting. A lie here, a snide comment there… and then it begins to ramp up. Even the smartest, most self-aware people can fall victim to gaslighting – it’s that effective. It is the “frog in the frying pan” analogy: The heat is turned up slowly, so the frog never realizes what’s happening to it.
The more you are aware of these techniques, the quicker you can identify them and avoid falling into the gaslighter’s thorny trap.
Gaslighting is NOT just something that happens between partners in a relationship. It can happen in any relationship.
For those who have experienced previous experiences of gaslighting in a domestically abusive relationship, for instance, the re-emergence if gaslighting in other relationships, such as in friendships or that with a colleague, can become quickly debilitating and difficult to manage.