I support a lot of people who don’t realise that they are in an abusive relationship. Abuse comes in many forms. Gaslighting is a form of abuse. It comes from the 1944 movie called Gaslight where a husband tries to drive his wife ‘crazy’ so he can claim her wealth for himself.
Gaslighting happens both in personal and professional relationships. As the ‘victim’ your world may feel surreal and you might be questioning your own reality (Ferraro, 2006). The ‘gaslighters’ can be people who manipulate to make the ‘victim’ doubt their own thoughts and feelings. This type of abuse can start subtly, each incident may be seen as minor. You won’t realise what is happening right away, some people don’t actually realise what is happening until they seek support.
A ‘gaslighter’ may target a persons ‘mistakes’ or ‘overreactions’. They may deny something happened, even if there is evidence to prove otherwise. They may shift the blame to avoid responsibility, for example blaming the ‘victim’ for the ‘abusers’ actions. They may try to isolate the ‘victim’ from their support network, for example using phrases such as ‘your family really don’t help you, they should have been a bit tougher’ or ‘they haven’t got your best interest at heart’. They may use love as an justification. They may deny something has ever happened, causing you to question yourself. They may tell you that you’re paranoid. They may tell you repeatedly over a period of time that ‘you don’t care’ or ‘why are you making a big deal out of this’ or ‘you don’t understand me’. They may project their own behaviour on the ‘victim’ accusing them so they can deflect blame, such as ‘are you sure you’re not suffering from anxiety or trauma’. They may also even enlist others to validate the false narrative.
Some other phrases you might hear:
‘You made me do it’ or ‘How dare you accuse me of that’ or ‘It’s your fault’
‘You’re being crazy’ or ‘You have always been crazy’ or ‘You’re overreacting’
‘You imagined it’ or ‘You’re being paranoid’ or ‘You’re making that up’ or ‘That never happened’
‘Everyone agrees with me’ or ‘Who are they going to believe’
‘I did it because I’m helping you’ or ‘It was a joke’
‘This is why you don’t have friends’
‘You’re too sensitive’ or ‘You’re overthinking it’ or ‘You always blow things up out of proportion’
‘This is how you treat me after everything I’ve done for you’
‘We already talked about this, surely you remember’ or ‘You never told me that’
‘I think you need counselling’
The list goes on. These are comments you might hear on a regular basis, not just one offs. The
Gaslighting will have a profound impact on your mental and emotional wellbeing leaving you struggling with self-doubt, self-belief, anxiety, depression, isolation and for some suicidal thoughts.
If you believe you are being manipulated in this way here are some tips on how to take back control:
Start to collect ‘evidence’ – maybe start keeping a note of your experiences, keep a record or what is happening
If you can, stand firm with your truth – be calm and confident (remove the emotion if you can)
Don’t believe you can outsmart the ‘gaslighter’ – be willing to just leave a conversation and keep these conversations short and simple (keeping the conversation going keeps the manipulation alive)
Think about boundaries – calmly push back against those comments that are not real or that reflect the ‘gaslighter’ themselves
Identify and avoid the ‘gaslighters’ triggers
If possible, limit your contact with them
Share this with someone you trust
Support your own mental health
You know where I am if you need to talk, ever. Much Love xxxx