Gaslighting: A Mental Abuse That Go Unnoticed
“Its no big deal.”
“Don’t be so sensitive.”
“This is all in your head.”
Has anyone repeatedly said these things to you and made you second-guess yourself?
It might be your friend who has heard this kind of statements from their partner or even boss. Also, it might be that you have said this things to somebody else.
In any case these are potential signs of gaslighting. You might have seen this term online lately, and in fact it was voted the American Dialect Society’s most useful word of 2016.
You must be thinking what exactly is gaslighting? Well, Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubts in a targeted individuals or member of a targeted group, making one question their own memory, perception and sanity.
To put it more simply, it is a manipulation tactic which makes you question your own sanity/reality.
Gaslighting could happen in any form of closed relationship, such as an abusive spouse or, in rarer cases parent, even in professional relationships, such as a manipulative boss or co-worker prey on their subordinate, and even by public figures. A Person experiencing gaslighting often feel confused, anxious and unable to trust themselves.
The term gaslighting derives from the 1938 and 1944 film Gaslight, in which a husband manipulates his wife into thinking she has a mental illness by dimming their gas-fulled lights and telling her she is hallucinating. Gaslighting is an insidious form of abuse that thrives on uncertainty. A person can grow to mistrust everything they hear, feel, and remember.
Why do people gaslight? Well, one of the most common reasons people gaslight is to gain power and control over others. This need for domination often spring from narcissism, antisocial personality, or other issues. There are various gaslighting techniques that an abusive person might use such as,
1. Withholding: The abusive person pretends not to understand or refuses to listen.
2. Countering: The abusive person questions the victims’s memory of events, even when the victim remembers them accurately.
3. Blocking: The abusive person changes the subject or questions the victim’s thoughts.
4. Trivializing: The abusive person makes victims’s needs or feeling seem unimportant.
5. Forgetting or Denial: The abusive person pretends to have forgotten what actually occurred or denies things like promises made to the victim.
Let’s take these two cases as an example to understand how it works?:
“A wife picked up phone in her house and heard her husband planning a date with his girlfriend, and he told her she had just imagined everything.” An abusive person will strongly deny doing it even in the face of solid evidence.
” Margaret’s husband convinced her she was attracting too much attention by dressing up, doing her hair and wearing make up. She begin to believe her stories about men leering at her, so she started wearing sweatshirts and overeating – in her words she stopped “taking care” of herself to appease his suspicions.”
It’s very important to note that gaslighting may not happen right away. It can happen very gradually in any relationship. After experiencing these abusive patterns for long, victims often find themselves feeling more confused, anxious, isolated and might lose all sense of what is actually happening.
In order to overcome this form of abuse, it’s extremely important to start noticing the signs and eventually learn to trust yourself. According to the psychoanalyst Robert Stern, the signs of being a victim of gaslighting are:
1. You constantly second-guess yourself.
2. You ask yourself, ” Am I Too sensitive?” multiple times a day.
3. You often feel confused and even crazy.
4. You frequently make excuses for your partner’s behavior to friends and family.
5. You’re always apologizing to your partner.
6. You know something is terribly wrong, but you can never quite express what it is, even to your self.
People of any gender can gaslight others or be gaslit themselves. Anyone can be a target. By undermining their victim’s ability to make sense of what’s really happening. A gaslighter/ Abuser gain control over relationship or resist any challenges to their world view, which might make them feel uncomfortable. Gaslighting have devastating effects on person’s mental health. The long-term effects may include anxiety, depression, trauma and low self-esteem.In order to overcome such type of abuse, identifying the signs and to trust yourself is very important.
If this situation sounds familiar to you, or you are questioning what’s happening in your relationship, it’s important that you seek professional help right away. If left unaddressed, gaslighting can take a significant toll on your self-esteem and overall mental health.
Talk to a psychologist/counselor who is equipped to help you process and deal with what is happening to you.