Have you ever entered a room, thinking you left your phone in it, only to realize that you were holding it all along? You may have thought twice about your sanity, but we all make the occasional blunder from time to time.
Now imagine this feeling in a dating relationship, except you’re not the reason you question yourself - your partner is causing you to lose your mind.
What Is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a term coined by psychologists, and it refers to an abuser who makes their victim question themselves. It was derived from a play-turned-film called Gas Light, in which an abusive man leads his wife to believe she is going crazy by turning the attic gas lights on and off and then accusing her of going insane. Eventually, the woman catches on to his control tactics and escapes. The term gaslighting is now used to describe this popular tactic used by politicians and those in authority to get their subjects to do what they want.
Gaslighting is a term coined by psychologists, and it refers to an abuser who makes their victim question themselves.
Although the gaslighting tactics in the film are extreme and more obvious, this devious psychological weapon can be more subtle in today’s dating world.
Are You Being Gaslighted?
Gaslighting may start with small, unassuming remarks about your character such as “You’re so dramatic” or “You’re just too sensitive” and move on to outright falsehoods about your memory such as “That’s not what happened!”
Perpetrators of gaslighting tend to be those with narcissistic personality profiles (they have an inflated sense of self). People who suffer from low self-esteem or are constantly doubting themselves are more susceptible to gaslighting. While reacting to emotionally-draining situations is a reasonable response, those who gaslight others find ways to evoke confusion or doubt in their victims any time they can.
People who suffer from low self-esteem or are constantly doubting themselves are more susceptible to gaslighting.
Here are some signs to watch for in your personal and professional life:
- You question your abilities: You find yourself being the scapegoat for someone else’s mistakes. For example, your coworker missed the deadline for his portion of the group report and says that you were the one responsible for making sure everyone had it done in time. You begin to question yourself, instead of knowing he was the one responsible for getting his work finished.
- You accept insults as fact: It’s normal to be defensive when you feel you’re under attack, but if you typically accept another’s rude remarks as a true reflection of your character, you may be a victim of gaslighting. For example, you’re accused of being a bad parent because your son was having a tantrum for “too long” in the grocery store. You know you’re a good parent, but those who gaslight are quick to demean others and throw insults at your character.
- You’re used to being discredited: Gaslighters are usually very intelligent and know how to manipulate others. They try to get others, such as your coworkers or family members, to see you the way they see you. For example, if a gaslighter tells you that all the rest of the family sees you a certain way, it could be a warning sign of emotional abuse.
How To Recover
As a victim of gaslighting, you may feel your self-esteem and abilities being chipped away, but there is help available. Here are some tips to recover from the harmful effects of gaslighting:
- While not all instances of an unwelcome remark are signs of gaslighting, recognize repeated patterns of gaslighting and reexamine whether the relationship is worth the effort if the person is constantly making you question yourself.
- Learn techniques to develop a stronger sense of your identity, such as discovering what you like or dislike about yourself. While we don’t typically like to focus on the things we don’t like, it gives us a fuller picture of what really needs work versus what is imagined.
- Professional therapy can help in extreme cases, and individuals who have been the victim of severe gaslighting may need to consult a therapist to help them in their healing journey.
As a victim of gaslighting, you may feel your self-esteem and abilities being chipped away.
No one likes to be belittled or insulted, and we certainly don’t want to give the power of instilling lies about ourselves to someone else. If you’re concerned you’re in a gaslighting situation, be brave and take action now - because it will only get worse.