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What is Gaslighting?
While “gaslighting” has been a term used in teen magazines, as has “breadcrumbing” or “ghosting”, it sets itself apart because it has a much deeper meaning and more significant ramifications than the latter two.
Gaslighting is a term that was first introduced by Hollywood in 1944 has now become a tell-tale red flag in modern-day relationships. “Gaslighting” refers to psychological manipulating somebody into questioning their own sanity. The negative term resurfaced once Donald Trump was elected as an American President. Shortly after that, citizens identified his questionable behaviour was acknowledged as gaslighting, thus bringing the word to the forefront of our minds (and vocabularies).
Political leaders, cult leaders and dictators can often be found gaslighting; however, the tactic is often found within romantic relationships. Usually without the victim being aware of it.
The technique of gaslighting is a subtle form of emotional abuse that often has a significant impact on the victim. It can plant self-doubt, skepticism and uncertainty in the victim. The tricky part: The offender may not even be aware that they are manipulating their partner.
Gaslighting is a gradual process that is often characterized by little actions that keep you off-kilter and confused. According to Healthy Place, there are several different gaslighting techniques that abusers will use to tear someone down:
- Withholding: The abuser will refuse to share his/her emotions or rejects having an open conversation about your concerns/feelings.
- Countering: Specific tactic where the abuser strategically disregards the victim’s memory as being weak and untrustworthy.
- Blocking and diverting: Abuser will control the conversation and question the thoughts of the victim.
- Trivializing: Shrinking, or trivializing, the victim’s needs.
- Forgetting and denial: Occurs when the victim blatantly denies or forgets events or promises
When these techniques are used gradually and subtly, they can be especially difficult to
acknowledge within a relationship – especially due to the long-standing emotional manipulation that the victim has been subjected to, often convincing the victim that they are ill-informed or “crazy” for their thoughts or feelings.
Signs of gaslighting include:
- Blatant lying
- Denying things they previously said
- Using emotional topics or things you love as a bargaining chip or ammunition
- Using flattery as a crutch
- Their actions don’t align with their words
- They project themselves onto their victims
- They try to align people against you
- They try to convince you that you’re crazy
- They try to convince you that other people are liars
Because gaslighting is a strategic type of emotional abuse, it can have long-lasting effects that often follow the victim throughout their lives. Unfortunately, it is incredibly manipulative and deeply rooted. It can be challenging to overcome.
According to NCN News, there are some steps you can take if you believe you’re being gaslighted:
Identify the Problem
Step back and analyze the relationship for what it is. Are you being manipulated? Are you constantly questioning whether you’re crazy? Sit back and write down specifics about events that have occurred in your relationship
Feel whatever you need to
After being manipulated for quite some time, it can be difficult to allow yourself the freedom to feel your emotions and think your thoughts openly. Set aside some time to be completely open and vulnerable to whatever flows toward you. Give yourself permission and meet it with validity.
When gaslighting is present in relationships, it’s typical to have two sides to you’re your connection. AKA: it isn’t always bad – which makes it much more difficult to leave. Acknowledge the fact that you will be making a painful sacrifice. You’re giving up the good, but you’re also giving up the bad. You’ll be stronger for it!
Make Small Decisions
It may not be an all-at-once decision – and that’s okay. Say no when you need to and let yourself be gradual if you need to be.
Treat Yourself With Compassion
Talk to yourself as though you’re talking to your friend – with compassion, understanding and empathy. Be kind and gentle with yourself.
Relationships can be a tough road to navigate. Especially when your significant other is an abuser – however being self-aware and open to improvement, you’re already one step ahead of the game.
Allow yourself to no longer be controlled or manipulated by a gaslighter or a narcissist.
Written by Celina Dawdy