Could you be a target of gaslighting? Below are some signs of gaslighting in relationships you should never ignore.
Gaslighting in relationships can have lasting, destructive psychological effects on the target. For this reason, it is important to recognize it before it is too late.
“I said that you should see a therapist, Rachel. I never agreed to a couple’s therapy,” said Tom. However, Rachel remembers otherwise, and her efforts to remind him of the original agreement were futile.
“We will be fine as a couple if you become better. We’ll get you into therapy as agreed,” he insisted. With Tom stressing that he never said yes to marital counseling and that she must be losing her mind, Rachel agrees to see a therapist herself, believing that something is apparently wrong with her.
What Tom did here is called gaslighting, one of the many ways to manipulate people you’re close to.
Like Rachel, many people are emotionally abused and never even aware of it. You could be one among them too, and may not be aware of the fact that your situations have been manipulated to make you doubt yourself.
What exactly is gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse wherein you are tricked to believe that you are wrong and have a mental disorder. You may not be familiar with the term but could have experienced the phenomenon personally or have seen someone become a victim of it.
Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic to make you doubt yourself and eventually question your standpoint. As a target, you may be blissfully unaware of the fact that you are emotionally manipulated. The most common phenomenon is gaslighting in relationships, but it can also happen in friendships and even in familial relationships.
It may not always seem like a big deal and can happen even in situations as trivial as two middle school students sitting in the school playground and talking. Nonetheless, the effects are still harmful to both parties involved: the gaslighter and the gaslightee.
The term was taken from the 1944 thriller movie ‘Gas Light,’ in which a husband manipulates his wife to think that she is insane to have her admitted to a mental hospital. The phrase “to gaslight” is the act of trying to drive someone insane by psychologically controlling their environment, facts, and deceiving them into doubting their own reality.
How do you spot gaslighting in relationships?
A gaslighter is thoroughly invested in a system that ensures everything goes exactly as he or she wishes. They may exhibit the following tendencies.
Underplaying your response
The abuser may make you believe that your emotions are invalid by telling you that you are overreacting. Examples of such statements include, “You are way too sensitive, just drop it” and “Don’t exaggerate. It’s all in your mind.”
Isolating you from others
Isolation is the most central tactic of gaslighting. The abuser may work either behind your back or openly to achieve this. They make you believe that you are better off with them and must not waste time interacting with anyone else.
Some of the things they say could be “Why are you going to your mother for advice? You know that she gives you the wrong ideas every time.” “You know that Mrs. S is not the brightest bulb, right? I wonder why you keep taking her seriously.”
Denying your truth
In any relationship, if a person is continually trying to make you think that your sense of what happened is wrong when it is, in fact, right, take caution. “You must have imagined it, nothing of that sort happened.” “Your imagination is too wild, that’s all.”
If you have been told these things more often than you’d like to hear, chances are, you are being gaslighted. It means that the second party has denied your version of reality while asserting their version as a means to achieve a particular goal – to make you doubt yourself.
Refusing to understand what you are saying
The gaslighter may pretend to have difficulty understanding what you are saying, calling it nonsense or illogical, only to make you question yourself more. They may say something like, “You make no sense, you’re crazy” time and time again.
Forgetting something that happened
Even though your memory of an event may be as clear as day, a gaslighter will invalidate your claims by counter-attacking you. “I remember nothing that is even remotely similar to that,” “What are you talking about? I never said such a thing.” are some of the things you will hear them say.
How do you take a stance against gaslighting in relationships?
According to Dr. Robin Stern, the author of ‘The Gaslight Effect,’ “Gaslighting over time leads to somebody experiencing the gaslight effect. Someone can try to gaslight you, but it can’t happen unless you allow it….If they know something is true and somebody tells you it’s not true, holding on to your reality is essential. You can’t be gaslighted if you stay inside your own reality and recognize the manipulation when you see it.”
If you let the psychological manipulators override your reality, you might end up losing your sense of self, confidence as a person, and even sanity. So, it is imperative to fend for yourself.
1. Analyze and recognize your situation.
If you have encountered the previously mentioned tactics of a gaslighter, be aware of the fact that you have been a target. Even if you have not come in contact with the mentioned dynamic of gaslighting, it is important to know that you could be a potential target as well.
Once you know that you are being manipulated, you can take the first step towards taking control of your life.
2. Remain confident and remember your truth.
A gaslighter mainly aims to beat you down emotionally and make you feel invalidated so that you will lose your confidence. Just because the abuser is eloquent in concocting false stories, it does not mean that your side of the story does not exist.
3. Do not be afraid to disagree with them.
Arguing won’t make the gaslighters back away, so this is where it gets tricky. Try to maintain stay firm and stand your ground firmly, without arguing, fighting or being rude to them.
4. Consult a therapist or read self-help books.
If you find it difficult to get out of the situation, get professional help. Whether you talk it out or you read instructions, it is of utmost importance to safeguard your basic essence of humanity. You can also talk to a trusted friend or family member to keep your sanity intact.
Gaslighting in relationships can have lasting, destructive psychological effects on the target. If the person does not leave the dynamic soon, it can lead to a life of wariness and distrust.
To avoid this, you must understand the toxicity of the situation, get help, and remove yourself from the harmful dynamic and try to recover as healthily and quickly as possible.
Author Bio: Aradhana is a writer from India. She covers topics concerning parenting, child nutrition, wellness, health, and lifestyle. She has more than 150+ publications from reputable sites like Momjunction.com to her credit. Aradhana writes to inspire and motivate people to adopt healthy habits and live a stress-free lifestyle.