Gaslighting is a form of mental or emotional abuse where a victim is made to question their own reality.
Gaslighting is a form of abuse used by someone to assert dominance and feel a strong sense of power over the other. A person uses this tool as a form of manipulation to distort the truth. This leaves a victim drained and so confused that they begin to question their own reality. Robin Stern, Ph.D., is a licensed psychoanalyst, co-founder and associate director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, an associate research scientist at the Child Study Center at Yale, and author of The Gaslight Effect: How to Spot and Survive the Hidden Manipulation Others Use to Control Your Life. According to Stern, the signs of gaslighting may be difficult to spot but the consequences of it are very real and very painful, according to The Healthy.
“When a loved one undermines your sense of reality, you become trapped in this never-never land,” she shares. “You feel crazy because there isn’t anything concrete to point to as ‘bad’ so you end up pointing to, and blaming, yourself. I’ve had patients tell me that it feels worse than physical abuse because at least then they can see the wounds and know who did it."
What is gaslighting? The 1944 film Gaslight is the best explainer. https://t.co/Gt8SZOZePi— Vox (@voxdotcom) January 22, 2017
The term comes from the 1944 film Gaslight where a husband tries to convince his wife that she is insane. One thing he does in the film is dimming the gas-powered lights in the house. When his wife notices this he convinces her that they're still bright.
Think you're being gaslighted? Here are 10 phrases that are red flags and examples of gaslighting from your partner you may need to look out for.
Your reaction to the abuse is always dismissed. Crying and being upset is valid but a gaslighter will call them unwarranted. They'll say you are overreacting. “The idea is to turn the attention away from their bad behavior by making it about you doing something wrong,” Stern illuminates.
In an attempt to gain control over you, gaslighters will want to cut you off from your closed ones so you will be completely dependent on them. They try ways to want to be the only relationship in your life, while they can have other relationships.
Gaslighters tend to play victim often. When you point out something they've done wrong they shift the blame to you so that they don't have to be accountable for their actions.
Altering your own memories to benefit them is a classic example of gaslighting. According to Stephanie Sarkis, a psychotherapist and author of Gaslighting: Recognize Manipulative and Emotionally Abusive People—and Break Free, they can be "so convincing that you may believe you did actually say or do something that you didn’t.”
Sarkis says that an extremely telling sign of gaslighting is making you doubt your own memories and experiences. You become so convinced by them that you replace your own memories with the version fabricated by the abuser.
They make comments about your appearance to ruin your confidence so that you will depend on them for validation.
According to Bonobology, a gaslighter says this so that you don't keep questioning or speculating the situation. They also do this so that they don't have to exert any of their mental energy to better the situation.
Here, there is no sense of accountability. A gaslighter can never own up to their mistakes, instead, they are quick to get defensive. When they do not feel the need to further explain their actions, this can lead to a buildup of unresolved issues.
Again, the focus shifts to you rather than the gaslighter. They sit back and watch the self-doubt creep into their victim. Words are formed in such a way that the gaslighter is protected while you question your own experiences.
This is a way of dismissing your concerns and not having to deal with them. A loving partner should be able to address your issues and problems in the relationship without always getting defensive or blaming you. Accountability and respect are important traits in a healthy relationship.
Do any of these traits sound familiar to you? If you do, don't be afraid to reach out for help because you deserve to be treated with love and respect.
Disclaimer: This article is based on insights from different sources. The views expressed here are those of the writer.
Cover image source: Getty Images | Photo by Catherine Falls Commercial