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.
Rome visit, June 2008 - 57
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.”

– Robert Stern in The Gaslight Effect: How to Spot and Survive the Hidden Manipulation Others Use to Control Your Life

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.

Source: Are you being Gaslighted? – Psychology Today

Stages of a Gaslighting Relationship

Sweet Couple @ Fusion Festival 2009 // Sunday Afternoon
There are 3 stages in 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.

Questions

Have you experienced Gaslighting? Do you know someone who has? 

If you found this post helpful, or interesting, please consider sharing it.

Learn More

Why Women Aren’t Crazy – The Good Men Project

Are you being Gaslighted? – Psychology Today

What Is Gaslighting? – The Gaslight Effect

The Sad Art of Gaslighting – Laurie Kendrick

The Gaslight Effect: How to Spot and Survive the Hidden Manipulation Others Use to Control Your Life

 

25 Comments

  1. I have experienced this in a relationship and it was a very disturbing and painful experience. It ate up all my energy and I ended up with an exhaustive depression.

    Like

    • I’m very sorry hun, as you know, I have too (I have a guest post on Silence, Cupcake later this month about that). You end up losing sight of yourself, who you are and what you want. I’m happy you got out of it.

      Like

  2. Reblogged this on salixisme and commented:
    This is a fascinating read… and I ticked YES to all of the 15 signs that I was a victim of gaslighting in my most recent relationship.

    Like

  3. Reblogged this… it is a fascinating read… and I ticked yes to all 15 signs in my most recent relationship. Yet he denies that he was ever abusive, and claims that I was the abusive one!

    Like

    • Thank you Salixisme, I really appreciate you taking the time to comment! Unfortunately blaming the victim is very common for abusers, I think the important thing here is to trust your gut and believe in yourself. You know what happened, no matter what he says.

      Like

    • sophiamerry

      I noticed that with my ex- he would spin the blame around and call me manipulative. That I was ‘turning on the waterworks’, when I was crying with frustration, fear, or despair, for instance. It went to my core and I question myself every time I persuade anyone of anything. The fear of being manipulative used to invade all my social interactions, but with time that’s become less and less.

      Like

      • It is one of the most awful things, the way gaslighting can make you doubt yourself, and lead you to constantly questioning yourself even afterwards. I’m happy that you’re out of that relationship, and that you’re recovering.

        Like

  4. Michael O'Brien

    This is a good article, talking about a real problem. I myself had a relationship like this that lasted way too long, and sent me around the twist. However I take issue with point 14 which suggests that men are always the abuser, and women are always the victim. This is simply not the case. Abuse by anyone is wrong and to generalise by suggesting it is always men abusing women, fails to address the realities of the problem. Women can be just as nasty as men, and some people are just A grade arseholes, who should be tattooed on the forehead, so everyone is forewarned and can avoid them.

    Like

    • Hi Michael, thank you for taking the time to reply! The list is taken from another article (you can find the link for it below the list), but I agree with you completely, it’s not always men who are the abuser and personally I would’ve phrased it as partner.
      I’m sorry to hear about your past relationship, and happy that you are no longer with that person!

      Like

  5. Karen

    I experienced this for years from my daughter’s father and now I get it from her, but can see it now and call her out on it.

    Like

    • Hi Karen, thank you for taking the time to comment! I am sorry to hear what you’ve been through, and even more sad to hear that your daughter has learnt this behaviour from her father. Hopefully you calling her out on it means she might become aware of what she’s doing so she can change her behaviour in the future.

      Like

  6. Brittany

    I liked this a lot. I was in a relationship (marriage) where there were many forms of abuse and this was one of them, but was never named. It’s nice to know there’s been some attention and research done. I’ve been apart from him for 4 years and am in a very healthy relationship now and still find myself doing some of the 15 signs listed. This is a deep form of abuse that takes a lot of work to overcome. Thank you for bringing attention to the issue and creating a forum for people to talk about it.

    Like

    • Thank you for taking the time to comment Brittanny! So sorry to hear about your abusive relationship. It’s been almost 4½ years since I left my abusive relationship, and like you it has taken me a long time to overcome the abuse – even though I too am in a very healthy relationship now. I truly believe though, that if we keep putting in the work and being open and honest about what’s going on, things will continue to get better.

      Like

  7. Kim

    I’ve experenced the same behaviors .married 22 yrs never seen the break up coming, but it did happen. Every time I would get myself together he would start calling,the. Show up. If I ask him anything he would start screaming so my voice was drowned out. Then he just came home. But all the things that got us to this ugly life of lies never changed . He just says your crazy, a stupid bitch, bi polar, this stopped meaning anything after yrs of this shit.

    Like

  8. Angie

    Too late for me…I’ve been married 47 years to a man who is exactly as you have described. I did not have any support from family, friends, or my Pastor when there might have been a time I could have left him. Besides, divorce was not as common as it is now. To this date nobody really knows what has gone on when he and I are alone. He shows a different face to everyone, whether it’s our children, family, or friends. He was never physically abusive, so my scars never showed. I take 150mgs of Effexor to keep my head above water. I’m only writing this so that maybe there’s someone out there who is like it was with me. Please, find SOMEONE to talk to and then run…as fast as you can!

    Like

    • Theresa

      wishI had read this 10 years ago…then again its a life lesson…hope to be able to trust the right guy with my heart now that I am wiser.

      Like

    • Theresa

      Angie thanks for sharing. I pray for complete restoration of your joy and peace, none should ever go through what you have shared.

      Like

  9. Jim

    Good writing about this! I was also a victim of this, and this article reads as if only straight women can be victims of this. Gaslighting is a strategy that is employed by men, women, straight and not. Thank goodness I can spot this now and don’t fall for it!

    Like

Trackbacks

  1. Sophisticated Abuse | Rooted In Being
  2. Required Reading 12/08
  3. Escaping an Abusive Relationship
  4. Gaslighting or Pure Bastardry? « From A Whisper To A Roar
  5. Escaping an Emotionally Abusive Relationship | Becky's Kaleidoscope
  6. The Ways You Have Failed Me | The Spire
  7. Luther and Katharina by Jody Hedlund | Becky's Kaleidoscope

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