If you have never seen the old movie “Gaslight,” you might not know what “gaslighting” is. Psychologists use the term “gaslighting” to refer to a type of manipulation where the manipulator is trying to get someone else (or a group of people) to doubt their reality, memory, or perceptions to gain more power.
And according to psychologists, it works much better than you would think and it is always a serious problem. Robin Stern, PhD., author of “The Gaslight Effect” has said, “It is always dangerous. The danger of letting go of your reality is pretty extreme.”
Key Points About Dealing With Gaslighting
- In the movie “Gaslight,” a man manipulates his wife into believing she is losing her mind.
- Gaslighting is a form of brainwashing that slowly makes the victim question their reality.
Typical gaslighting methods include:
- Denying something when there is proof
- Projecting onto others
- Telling blatant lies
11 Warning Signs Of Gaslighting
Gaslighting is a common technique of:
It is done slowly so the victim is not aware of how much they have been brainwashed. The more you are aware of these techniques, the sooner you can recognize them and avoid falling into the trap.
They tell blatant lies
Even when you know it’s an outright lie, they will tell you this lie with a straight face. Why are they so obvious? They are setting up a precedent that once they tell you a huge lie, you won’t be sure if anything they say is true. The goal is to keep you unsteady and off-balance.
They deny they ever said something, even though you know they did and have proof
You know they said they would do something and you know you heard it. But they deny it vigorously. It makes you start questioning your reality, maybe they didn’t say it. The more this is done, the more you question your reality and begin to accept theirs.
They use what is precious to you as ammunition
For example, they know how important your kids are to you, and they know how important your identity is to you. So one of those may be the first thing they attack. If you have children, they’ll tell you that you shouldn’t have had those children. They may tell you that you would be a worthwhile person if you didn’t have so many negative traits. They attack the very foundation of your being.
They wear you down over time
This is one of the sneaky things about gaslighting–it is done gradually, over time. A lie here, a lie there. A nasty comment once in a while. Then it starts increasing. Even the brightest and most self-aware people can be sucked into gaslighting. Similar to the “frog in the frying pan’ story: The heat is turned up slowly so the frog never realizes what’s happening to it.
Their actions don’t match their words
When dealing with someone that gaslights, look at what they’re doing, not what they’re saying. What they say means nothing; it’s just talking. The issue is what they’re doing.
They throw in some positive reinforcement to confuse you
This person that is cutting you down and telling you that you don’t have value, can turn around and praise you for something you did. This adds a feeling of uneasiness. You might start to think that maybe they aren’t that bad. Yes, they are. This is a deliberate attempt to keep you off-kilter and to question your reality again. Additionally, consider what you are being praised for–probably something that served the gaslighter.
They know that confusion weakens people
Gaslighters know that people like a feeling of stability and normalcy. Their goal is to overturn this and make you question everything constantly. A person’s natural tendency is to look to the person that will help them feel more stable–and that happens to be the gaslighter.
They may be a drug user or a cheater, but they are constantly accusing you of that. This is done so often that you start trying to defend yourself and are distracted from the gaslighter’s behavior.
They try to line up other people against you
Gaslighters are masters at manipulating and finding people who will stand by them no matter what. Then they’ll use these people against you. They may make comments like, “This person knows that you’re not right,” or “This person thinks you’re useless too.”
Remember, it doesn’t mean that these people said those things. A gaslighter lies constantly. When the gaslighter uses this technique, it makes you feel like you don’t know who you can trust or who to turn to. This sends you right back to the gaslighter. That’s what they want because isolation gives them more control.
They tell you or others that you are crazy
This is one of the most effective tools of the gaslighter because it’s disdainful. The gaslighter knows that if they question your sanity, other people won’t believe you when you tell them the gaslighter is abusive or out of control.
They tell you everyone else is a liar
By telling you that everyone else is lying, it furthermore makes you question your reality. You’ve never known someone with the arrogance to do this, so they must be telling the truth, right? No, it’s another manipulation technique. It makes the victim turn to the gaslighter for the truth, which isn’t the truth at all.
How To Identify That Gaslighting Is Happening To You
If any of this list rings true for you, you may be involved in a gaslighting relationship and need to look into it further.
- You ask yourself if you’re too sensitive many times a day.
- You often feel confused and even crazy in the relationship.
- You seem to always be apologizing.
- You can’t understand why you aren’t happier.
- You often have to make excuses for your partner’s behavior.
- You know something is wrong but just don’t know what it is.
- You start lying to avoid criticisms and reality twists.
- You have trouble making simple decisions.
- You wonder if you’re good enough.
Because all of these symptoms can happen with anxiety disorders, depression, or low self-esteem, how do you tell if it’s gaslighting? The difference with gaslighting is that another person or group is actively trying to make you second-guess what you know is true.
If you don’t usually experience these feelings with other people, but you do with one particular person, then you may be a victim of gaslighting.
What Should You Do If You’re Being Gaslighted?
Pulling yourself out of a gaslighting power dynamic can be extremely difficult. But it is possible. The remedy to gaslighting is greater emotional awareness and regulation. Using these emotional skills, you can begin to learn (or accept if you already knew and were made to forget) that you don’t need anyone else to validate your reality.
As a result, you will build self-reliance and confidence in defining your reality. You’ll also learn that it’s possible to manage the uncomfortable feelings of trusting your certainty in opposition to the gaslighter. This is especially difficult if you have been a victim of abuse and requires a notable shift in mindset through therapy. Nevertheless, some steps can help you if you’re a victim of gaslighting:
10 Steps Of Identifying Gaslighting And How To Deal With It
1. Identify the problem
The first step is recognizing the problem. Name what is going on between you and your spouse, friend, family member, coworker, or boss.
2. Separate truth from distortion
Write your conversation in a journal so you can take an objective look at it later. Where is it veering off from reality into the other person’s view? Write down how you felt. Look for repeated denial of your experience.
3. Figure out if you’re in a power struggle with your partner
If you are having the same conversation over and over again and aren’t able to convince them to recognize your point of view, you might be getting gaslighted.
4. Practice a mental exercise to encourage a shift in your mindset
Picture yourself without the relationship or continuing it at more of a distance. It’s important to see the vision as a positive thing even if it causes you to feel anxious. Think down the road when you will have your reality, social support, and integrity.
5. Permit yourself to feel all your feelings
Accept and realize that what you feel is okay. Track your feelings. This way you can learn about your emotions and what triggers your feelings.
6. Permit yourself to give something up
Part of what makes it challenging to leave a gaslighting relationship is that the gaslighter maybe someone you have committed to such as a spouse, best friend, parent, or sibling. It’s okay to leave a toxic relationship no matter who it is with.
7. Talk to your close friends
Ask them if you seem like yourself. Do a reality check on your spouse’s behavior. Ask them to be fiercely honest.
8. Focus on feelings instead of right and wrong
It’s easy to get caught up in wanting to be right or spend hour after hour pondering about who’s right. However, determining who is right or wrong is less important than how you feel. If your conversation leaves you feeling bad or second-guessing yourself, then that’s what you need to pay attention to. Having a sense of psychological and emotional well-being in a relationship is more important than who is right or wrong.
9. Keep in mind that you can’t control anyone’s opinion, even if you’re right
You may never get your gaslighter to agree that you aren’t too sensitive or too controlling or too anything. You need to stop trying, even though that can be frustrating. The only person whose opinion you can control is your own.
10. Be kind to yourself
This can be difficult even if you aren’t in a weakened situation. But when you aren’t feeling confident and strong, it’s even harder to give yourself the benefit of doubt, kindness, and love. It can be a healing influence and help you move on in your decision-making. This is the time for self-care.
Long-Term Effects Of Dealing With Gaslighting
Gaslighting can cause a person to develop mental health problems. Constant self-doubt and confusion can contribute to:
- Psychological Trauma such as PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and Acute Stress Disorder (ASD).
- Anxiety Disorders such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Panic Disorder.
- Substance abuse is a method to self-medicate the effects of anxiety, trauma, or depression. Substance use with a mental health disorder is considered a dual diagnosis.
Recovering From Gaslighting Abuse
Gaslighting can be one of the most painful abusive behaviors you can be subjected to. The good news is, if you are willing to reach out, you can make yourself a better life. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been a victim of gaslighting or how unsure you feel about your future, it is possible to recover and lead a healthy and happy life. If you have been subject to gaslighting, it is crucial to get mental health treatment in the form of therapy.
A trained therapist can help you understand what happened to you and help you set boundaries or get out of the relationship completely. Do not be shy about talking about your worries. Talking to a mental health professional can help you explore your feelings and find the strength to live a healthy life.
Recover Your Life With Montare Behavioral Health
Only an experienced professional can help you overcome the type of abuse that gaslighting inflicts. We can provide a safe environment where you can freely explore your thoughts and feelings about what happened to you.
Montare offers individual talk therapy, behavioral therapies, and holistic therapies to treat your body, mind, and spirit. We can also provide several levels of care depending on your needs and requirements. There is no need for you to suffer on your own.
With the support of your counselor, you can get back the self-confidence that the gaslighter took from you. You can learn to love yourself, trust your sanity, and look forward to a happier life. Contact us now. You don’t have to deal with it alone.