To gaslight someone means to make them doubt their sense of reality. Gaslighting is a form of manipulation commonly seen in abusive relationships. It is a form of emotional abuse where the abuser bullies the victim about their judgment or perception of reality. The victim finally starts to doubt their credibility. Toxic people commonly use this technique to influence and exert power over their friends, family members, or even coworkers. The gaslighting effect is a gradual process occurring in stages.
The different tactics of gaslighting involve:
- Lying or exaggerating the lie: The abusers may blatantly lie to the victim’s and would stick to it even if the truth is just the opposite. They would never change their stories and would also provide proof to justify their lie.
- Discrediting the victim to others: The abusers would spread rumors and gossips about the victim to others. They would make others believe that there is something wrong with the victim and the mental status of the victim isn’t right. Then the abuser would make you think that others are spreading rumors about the victim’s mental instability.
- Defecting blame: When the victim questions the gaslighter or the abuser about something they did, the gaslighter tends to change the topic instead of responding to the issue. They may even crop stories up to put the blame on their victim.
- Minimizing the victim’s thoughts and feelings: If the victim gets to hear statements like “calm down,” “you are overreacting,” or “why are you so sensitive?” then be sure that the gaslighter is trying to overpower the victim by trivializing the victim’s emotions.
- Shifting the blame to the victim: Blaming the victim is a common tactic of all the gaslighters. The gaslighters make the victim culprit for all their bad behavior.
- Denying wrongdoing: They deny any wrongdoings to avoid taking responsibility for their poor choices, which could leave the victim frustrated and in deep pain.
- Using compassionate words as a weapon: The gaslighters try to deceive the victim by kind words. They may use sentences like “you know how much I love you” or “I would never hurt you on purpose” to reinforce their manipulative behavior. The victim thinks that things are not that bad, and it is they who overreact. This makes the victim believe their gaslighter even more.
- Twisting and reframing conversations: The gaslighters are experts in reframing the conversation to their favor, which may make the victim doubt their memory because the stories and memories are continuously told favoring the gaslighters.
How will you know if you are a victim of gaslighting?
You may be a victim of gaslighting if you start to:
- Doubt your feelings and reality
- Disbelief in your judgments and perceptions
- Feel vulnerable and insecure
- Feel alone and powerless
- Feel stupid and crazy
- Feel disappointed about yourself
- Feel confused
- Worry that you are too sensitive
- Spend a lot of time apologizing
- Feel inadequate
- Wonder if you accurately remember memories
- Assume that others are disappointed with you
- Wonder what’s wrong with you
- Struggle to make decisions
- Feel hopeless and joyless
- Frequently make excuses for your partner’s behavior
- Have a sense that you were a very different person earlier
- Withhold information from friends and families
How to combat gaslighting?
To combat gaslighting, you may require proof of the incident so that you can rely on the evidence. Ways to collect evidence include:
- Writing the events in a journal without the gaslighter knowing it
- Speaking to a trusted friend and family
- Keeping voice memos of the incidents if the abuser doesn’t track your phone
- If the abuser doesn’t handle your phone, then take pictures of the bruises or injuries on your phone
Devise plans to remain safe in an abusive relationship. Plan your ways to:
- Cope with the emotional turmoil
- Tell friends and families about the abuse
- Take legal action
- Not isolate yourself from friends and families
Self-care is the most significant aspect of combating gaslighting. Self-care involves taking care of yourself to make you feel best and bring you comfort.
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National Domestic Violence Hotline. What is Gaslighting? https://www.thehotline.org/resources/what-is-gaslighting/
Breines J. Call Me Crazy: The Subtle Power of Gaslighting. April 15, 2012. Psych Your Mind. https://berkeleysciencereview.com/2012/04/call-me-crazy-the-subtle-power-of-gaslighting/