WHAT IS GAS LIGHTING?
“Gaslighting” is a form of manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or members of a group, hoping to make targets question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the target and delegitimize the target's belief.” (www.wikipedia.com)
The ultimate goal is to make you second guess every choice of yours and question your sanity, making you more dependent of them. A tactic which further declines your self-esteem is to ignore, then attend to, but then ignore you again, so you always come back in hopes that this time will be different.
It makes victims question the very instincts that they have counted on their whole lives, making them unsure of anything. Gaslighting makes it very likely that victims will believe whatever their abusers tell them regardless as to their own experience of the situation.
The term "gaslighting" comes from the 1938 British play "Gas Light" wherein a husband attempts to drive his wife crazy using a variety of tricks causing her to question her own perceptions and sanity.
According to healthyplace.com, some examples include…
"Withholding" where the abuser feigns a lack of understanding, refuses to listen and declines sharing his emotions.
Gaslighting examples of this would be:
"I'm not listening to that crap again tonight."
"You're just trying to confuse me."
Another gaslighting technique is "countering," where an abuser will vehemently call into question a victim's memory in spite of the victim having remembered things correctly.
"Think about when you didn't remember things correctly last time."
"You thought that last time and you were wrong."
The abuser will often contour the English language in attempt to make previous statements seem far less malicious than they were originally intended.
These techniques throw the victim off the intended subject matter and make them question their own motivations and perceptions rather than the issue at hand.
"Blocking" and "diverting" are gaslighting techniques whereby the abuser again changes the conversation from the subject matter to questioning the individual’s thoughts and controlling the conversation.
Gaslighting examples of this include:
"I'm not going through that again."
“You’re being crazy?”
Or even flat out ignoring the victim all together.
"Forgetting" and denial can also be forms of gaslighting. In this situation, the abuser pretends to forget things that have really occurred. An abuser might say, "I don't have to take this." OR "You're making that up."
In some severe cases of gaslighting the manipulator will then mock the victim for their "wrongdoings" and "misperceptions." Simply adding insult to injury and making the victim even less sure about they’re reality. It’s common for a gaslighting victim to feel as though they are experiencing mental health symptoms even if they have never experienced them before.
Soon the victim is scared to bring up any topic at all for fear they are "wrong" about it or don't remember the situation correctly.
“Gaslighting can have catastrophic effects for a victim’s psychological health, particularly when gaslighting occurs over a long period in a close relationship. The process is often gradual and can seem harmless at first, but eventually, victims may begin to believe they are the cause of the perpetrator’s aggression. They may also question their own perceptions, stop seeking help, withdraw from friends and family, and become more dependent on an abuser, both because he or she now defines the victim’s reality, but also because the victim may come to fear that others will believe in the abuser’s version of reality and consider the victim to be mentally unstable” says Goodtherapy.org.
So, what happens when a “gaslighter” not only convinces his victim or prime target of mental instability but also convinces others around the victim that the victim is crazy as well. I call this “co-gaslighting.” One of the more severe forms, this tactic instills ever more doubt in the victim because multiple loved ones are now also claiming that they aren’t of sound mind. Making the victim feel completely worthless, helpless, and alone. The individual will be vulnerable in looking for someone who will believe in them. The victim’s social abilities may become compromised due to unnecessary doubt in themselves. The psychological and social repercussions can be devastating. This can often result in radical behavior as the victim may go to great lengths to prove the truth which in-turn just further strips their credibility to others leaving them even more lonely and even more broken, which will generally cause the victim to seek solace in her abuser and the cycle continues.
Recognizing this behavior in a relationship, whether it be platonic or other, is the first step in taking your power back. With the knowledge that someone is actively deceiving you, you can better arm yourself against them psychologically and emotionally.
Confronting your manipulator will likely just further anger him/her. The best route of dealing with a “gaslighter” is to find someone you can trust to explain the situation and vent! Talking about what’s going on will take it’s power from you emotionally. When we have the ability to openly discuss traumatic situations, and do so semi-regularly, the idea of what’s going on becomes less and less emotionally shocking to us each time, taking a small amount of the emotional response with it, and making us more able to cope. It takes time.
If ending the relationship is the only way to escape than you must consider the possibility of that. It won’t happen overnight. Rome wasn’t built in a day and it takes time to ease out of these situations with as little further trauma as possible.