Gaslighting falls under the categories of emotional and mental abuse.
The term Gaslighting comes from the movie Gaslight (1944) which was based on the 1938 Victorian thriller Gas Light, written by the British novelist and playwright Patrick Hamilton. (Spoiler Alert) In both versions we see a woman being slowly manipulated by her husband into believing that she is going insane. This is done so that he can have her committed and steal her inheritance.
Dr. Robin Stern coined the term “gaslight effect” in her 2007 book The Gaslight Effect: How to Spot and Survive the Hidden Manipulation Others use to Control Your Life.
“In the vernacular, the phrase ‘to gaslight’ refers to the act of undermining another person’s reality by denying facts, the environment around them, or their feelings. Targets of gaslighting are manipulated into turning against their cognition, their emotions, and who they fundamentally are as people.”
Gaslighting is a way of invalidating the survivor. Wearing them down until they no longer have the will to fight. It is done slowly, through systematic manipulation, which leads the survivor to question their own reality.
According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, techniques a person may use to gaslight someone include:
· Countering: Questioning the survivor’s memory of events, especially when the survivor has an accurate account.
“Are you sure that’s what happened? You know you have a terrible memory.”
· Withholding: Refusing to engage with the survivor in order to control the narrative.
(The silent treatment. Stonewalling.)
· Trivializing: Belittling or disregarding of the other person’s feelings.
“You’re too sensitive. Why do you always have to blow up over little things?"
· Denial: Denial of an event, pretending nothing happened, or accusing the survivor of making things up.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. That’s not the way things went down.”
· Diverting: Changing the focus of a discussion and questioning the survivor’s credibility.
“Where did you get that idea? Did your friend put you up to this? You know they hate me.”
While anyone can experience gaslighting, it is especially common in intimate relationships and in social interactions where there is an imbalance of power. Survivors of gaslighting often find it difficult to realize they are experiencing abuse. They may not question the abusive person’s behavior because the one doing the gaslighting is in a position of authority, or because the survivor feels reliant on them.
Common Signs You Have Been A Survivor Of Gaslighting Include:
· Feeling confused and constantly second-guessing yourself
· Having trouble making simple decisions
· Frequently questioning if you are being too sensitive
· Becoming withdrawn or unsociable
· Constantly feeling the need to apologize to the abusive person
· Defending or making excuses for the abusive person’s behavior
· Feeling hopeless, joyless, worthless, or incompetent
Learning how to recognize emotional abuse is an important step in healing from it. Did you or a loved one recognize gaslighting in a relationship? We value your feedback and ideas! Reach out on our Community Facebook Page!
“If you believe change is possible, you want to change, and you are willing to do the work, you absolutely CAN get your life back.”