Have You Been a Victim of Gaslighting?
What is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a form of emotional and psychological abuse through the use of manipulative comments and behaviour.
The term Gaslighting is used to describe manipulative behaviour, which is meant to make the victim doubt themselves, to a degree where they no longer know, how they feel or what they believe and may even wonder, if they have gone crazy.
The name comes from the 1944 movie Gaslight, where the husband is out to get his wife’s jewellery, by having her considered mentally insane. The way he goes about this, is by making the gas lights flicker on and off. When his wife reacts to it, he tells her she’s imagining it. That she’s crazy.
“Gaslighting is the systematic attempt by one person to erode another’s reality. This is done by telling them that what they are experiencing isn’t so – and, the gradual giving up on the part of the other person.”
Gaslighting can take the shape of the victim being told that they’re stupid, or that no one else will want them, that they’re being too sensitive or overreacting.
The abuser may create a situation, in which the victim gets angry or upset, but when the victim expresses these emotions s/he is told that they’re being unreasonable, abnormal or irrational.
In some cases the manipulation is pre-meditated, whereas in others it might be unintentional. Psychologists also believe that those who make the greatest use of these tactics tend to be sociopaths.
Signs that you may be a victim of Gaslighting
1. You are constantly second-guessing yourself
2. You ask yourself, “Am I too sensitive?” a dozen times a day.
3. You often feel confused and even crazy at work.
4. You’re always apologizing to your mother, father, boyfriend, boss.
5. You can’t understand why, with so many apparently good things in your life, you aren’t happier.
6. You frequently make excuses for your partner’s behavior to friends and family.
7. You find yourself withholding information from friends and family so you don’t have to explain or make excuses.
8. You know something is terribly wrong, but you can never quite express what it is, even to yourself.
9. You start lying to avoid the put downs and reality twists.
10. You have trouble making simple decisions.
11. You have the sense that you used to be a very different person – more confident, more fun-loving, more relaxed.
12. You feel hopeless and joyless.
13. You feel as though you can’t do anything right.
14. You wonder if you are a “good enough” girlfriend/ wife/employee/ friend; daughter.
15. You find yourself withholding information from friends and family so you don’t have to explain or make excuses.
Stages of a Gaslighting Relationship
The first stage is disbelief
The abuser is acting strange, but you ignore it, because you care for him/her, need to work with them or any other reason. You chuck it up to “that’s just how they are”, and think it’s no big deal.
The second stage is defense
You are starting to defend yourself against the abuser. You confront him/her, but instead of them responding to what you’re saying, they tell you you’re overreacting, that it’s only because they love you, that if you loved them you’d do this etc.
The third stage is depression
You don’t recognize yourself anymore. Your friends don’t recognize you. And you may think that relationship is all you have left. Besides, they claim to love you more than anything else right?
I hope, that for most people there will be an additional final stage, where you break free and learn to trust yourself again.
Have you experienced Gaslighting? Do you know someone who has?
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