What is Gaslighting? What effects does it have on your life? How to get out?
As you may have already guessed, in this article we are going to examine the Gaslighting, a form of psychological manipulation with an exotic name, but with devastating effects for those who suffer it.
Let's start immediately with its name: the term gaslighting comes from a film from the 40s which tells the story of a man who tries to drive his partner crazy by modifying small details of their domestic reality, including the intensity of the gas-powered lamps (gas lighting in English is just for "Gas lighting").
In the psychological field the meaning of Gaslighting describes a type of manipulation that leads the victim to doubt their cognitive abilities and mental health. This psychic breakdown is obtained by questioning the memory and memories of those who undergo this process, causing them to fall into an abyss of insecurity and anguish.
Gaslighting can be found in different types of relationships, but most of the cases they occur within love relationships, more or less important. And as you may have guessed, anyone who practices this type of manipulation is a person with serious personality disorders.
When the victim realizes that he has become the object of this type of attack, he must do everything to get out of it and it is for this reason that I wrote this article: in the first part I will explain in detail what is Gaslighting and how it presents itself in emotional relationships. While in the second part I will show you what are the steps to follow to defend yourself and get out of this terrible situation unscathed.
Although this type of manipulation is carried out by individuals of both sexes, a strong correspondence was found between those who use Gaslighting and male individuals with narcissistic personality.
So before continuing I advise you to spend a few seconds to take the test that you find below, you can find the link here, which is free and will really take you less than a minute, but it will help you immediately understand if there is something in your relationship. that does not work.
Gaslighting: what it is
As we have already mentioned, the etymology of this type of manipulation has its roots in the world of cinema. But the Gaslighting it does not only aim to induce the victim to convince himself that he has some problem, but rather to subject him to a long series of small procedures that have the aim of completely undermining his cognitive abilities.
In this way, the victim loses completely confidence in one's sanity and puts himself at the total mercy of his tormentor, with all the consequences that are easy to imagine.
Gaslighting: genesis of manipulation
Although the name and origin give an almost fantastic aura to this type of manipulation, Gaslighting is very dangerous for those who suffer it. Above all because those who use it could do it sporadically in such a way as to make this process difficult to identify.
This factor, supported by the fact that the perpetrator is not always fully aware of what he is doing, ensures that the person who suffers the attack does not have a valid counter strategy and that indeed, don't even realize to be subjected to such manipulation making the exit from this situation very, very difficult.
Below I have proceeded to leave some of the phrases or actions that represent in a more or less veiled way the putting into action of this type of manipulation:
- The use of phrases that always start with "you just thought it", "you're crazy", "you're wrong" or "you're just stressed out";
- Begin to suspect that the victim has memory problems
- Stubborn denial of the facts: “I certainly didn't say it”, “I didn't say anything like that”, “nothing like that happened”, “I don't know what you're talking about”;
- Exaggerate and devalue the grievances of the victim, making them feel guilty and wrong should they make explicit (right) grievances in the face of the behavior of those who apply Gaslighting: usually they are sentences that begin with "you always exaggerate", "you are too touchy" or "you take it for anything";
- Creating feelings of guilt, doubts and worries in one's victim: "there is something wrong with you", "it is your fault", "it was you who caused it"; “What's happening to you?”, “I've seen you behaving strangely for some time”, “you've been treating me badly lately” and the most incisive “you need help”;
- Begin to seriously insinuate into the victim's mind the worm that the latter really has mental problems and / or is a victim of stress or nervous breakdowns;
- Lastly, but only in the most extreme cases, there are real changes in the domestic environment with hiding objects and changing the arrangement of the furniture, in order to use all this to accuse the victim of having hallucinations, memory lapses or just being crazy.
Alarm signals and examples of gaslighting
However, remember that if you have a fight with your partner or partner and are told that "you are crazy" or your words are contradicted, this is not always a sign that you are being manipulated.
In fact, even in the healthiest relationships, such a situation or a quarrel can always happen, but unlike manipulation, these quarrels end with clarifications and most of the time we get to the truth.
While with gaslighting the reconciliation never comes and the person who carries out the manipulation maintains his position until the end and makes sure that the victim's doubts and confusion increase rather than decrease.
Here are some examples, which if found periodically can be warning signs of a gaslighting in progress:
- You start getting used to apologize for everything, even if you don't know why you are doing it;
- Start doubt your ideas and your decisions. Gradually you lose confidence in yourself and begin to be afraid of criticism and negative opinions;
- Make sure that all your movements are adapted to the reactions of others: you check in a spasmodic way that you have done everything that your (or your) executioner expects of you, and you start hiding your actions or lying to avoid consequences;
- We weigh every word that comes out of your mouth, you are not sure of anything and before you speak you wonder if this could offend anyone. Sometimes you prefer to stop following your passions than to try to do something wrong;
- You blame yourself for how you feel, how you react and how you are;
- You begin to doubt the reliability of your memory and even the your mental health;
- You have the feeling of having lost confidence in yourself: in the past you were a different person and now you are not sure of anything anymore.
Gaslighting in a relationship
Gaslighting is found in close relationships and most often in couple relationships, also because the "benefits" of this manipulation, that is total control and a sense of superiority on another person, they are more easily obtained with someone with whom you have an intimate relationship.
And when analyzing the phenomenon of gaslighting it is important to understand where this situation comes from and to realize what effects it can have.
Why does my partner use gaslighting?
If you suspect that you are the victim of such manipulation, the first thing to do is ask yourself why your partner (or your partner) is doing such a thing. Well, being frank, it might just be the trivial need to have a full tank control of your life and consequently feel superior to you. So this could be the reason.
But it could also be that those around you are using Gaslighting unknowingly, as they may have been a victim of it in their family and therefore only learned this as "behavioral habit"To address everyday problems. But that ultimately becomes just a method to avoid consequences and responsibility for one's mistakes.
However, there are also much more vulgar reasons, such as that of putting into practice this manipulation to hide one's own wrongdoing, such as for example the unhealthy habit of betrayal or his pleasure in using the victim as a puppet.
While, even more often, gaslighting is associated with narcissistic personality: As people with this type of personality disorder derive enormous pleasure from control the life of the partner and make her dependent on herself, nurturing one's sense of superiority and infallibility.
Effects of Gaslighting
But now let's move on to analyze the effects of Gaslighting, which as we will see are very serious: if you fail to free yourself from the dynamics in time, the consequences will end up having repercussions far beyond the simple relationship with the manipulator. Below I have left some examples of what can happen to a person who has undergone Gaslighting:
- Reduction drastic self-esteem;
- Lack confidence in one's own ideas, beliefs, decisions, fear of making any choice independently;
- Addiction emotional from the manipulator;
- Inability to free oneself from the manipulator's game and to escape its twisted and perverse rules;
- Convince yourself that you really have mental problems, total loss of independence and no possibility of evaluating situations adequately;
- Lack of self-confidence, in one's memory and in one's perception of reality;
- Losing respect for your feelings, feeling unworthy of being happy and constantly experiencing guilt;
- Emotional detachment, exasperated sensitivity, nervousness, rapid loss of self-control and perennial anxiety.
Gaslighting: how to deal with it
At this point, it is clear that finding a method to counter this type of situation is more than necessary. But once you have fallen victim to, being able to defend yourself from the attacks of Gaslighting it is an arduous undertaking.
This is especially true for those who have been victims of it for a long time, undermining self-confidence and feeding the dependence on their tormentor, with whom one also has a sexual relationship, which complicates things even more.
However, escape the claws of Gaslighting it's not impossible and below I have reported the steps to follow to be able to break free from this trap.
By becoming aware I do not directly mean the understanding of being a victim of Gaslighting, but rather, starting to contemplate the idea that there is something strange, breaking down all small events and coming to understand the whole manipulation process little by little.
The small events mentioned above are nothing more than clues that you can easily recognize: the person next to you does nothing to understand you, twists your words, ignores your demonstrations but above all repeats more and more often that there is something wrong with you.
If you see all of this in your life again, then it's time to stay alert!
Analyze all your discussions, word by word. Remember the words used and how you reacted to their responses. Ask yourself if what you said would have found the same reaction in another person, or maybe it's just your partner trying to manipulate you.
Draw a border
Especially if you are in a relationship with a narcissist, setting boundaries is key so you can more easily defend yourself from manipulation. Decide what to accept and what absolutely not. Emphasize this whenever the other person tries to cross these boundaries.
Always remain consistent with this choice and never move the stakes that delude the boundaries you have set: you must not be afraid of his screams and his blackmail and you must not even be indulgent if he begs you, even if he were to do it crying.
These limits will serve you to re-analyze your person, your beliefs and your feelings. Make it clear right away that you will not allow the person by your side to question and / or judge you and that you are able to accept the consequences of your choices without the help of other people.
Find outside witnesses and support
Don't be afraid or ashamed to ask for help - if you have the chance, make sure someone can watch your conversations with the manipulator. And in the same way always maintain self-control so that you don't lose focus on what's happening around you.
Open up to other people, to your family and friends. If you think there is a need, don't dismiss the idea of consult a therapist who will certainly be able to assist you in the process of liberation.
Honestly summarize your discussions without being afraid of having mental problems or that you are transforming things. Use the support of other people and try to develop an action plan together with them: ask how they would react if they were you and what solution they propose. You will get rid of the feeling of being alone and to have no reference points.
Especially in the most extreme cases, it may be necessary to gather evidence. When for example the Gaslighting implies the commission of a crime, or when the custody of children (or assets!) in a separation process is at stake.
Because remember: when you are in situations where the participation of third parties (a judge, a lawyer, a psychologist or even the police) will be contemplated, having evidence can make a difference. Having evidence confirming your words will be key.
In extreme cases like these it will be necessary to make most of the communications in writing, to make photocopies or photos, so that no one can question your words and / or your memory. If there should be any conversations, always try to record them, in order to have as much evidence as possible.
Leave the manipulator immediately
When manipulation takes an extremely toxic form and Gaslighting becomes truly destructive to your life, it is very likely that you are dealing with a person with very serious mental problems.
In these cases, don't try to understand or save your relationship, but leave the toxic person right away. This proves to be the most efficient way to free yourself from gaslighting. Especially if the aforementioned methods (impassable limits, external help, etc.) have not found any benefit and the person who manipulates you tries to increase his power over you.
Well, this long article has come to an end: I hope the notions contained in it have been helpful to you. But above all I remind you that if you were to be subjected to Gaslighting you should never be afraid to contact those close to you or even the police. You are a victim and you have nothing to be ashamed of.