“You’re crazy….” “You’re just being emotional…” Sound familiar? If so, you may have experienced gaslighting, a sneaky, difficult-to-identify form of manipulation (and, in severe cases, emotional abuse). Gaslighting leads victims to question the soundness of their own judgment, their sense of self, their perception of reality, and the validity of their emotions. Repeated over time, gaslighting can result in the victim losing the ability to trust their own memory, experiences, and in some cases, their sanity.

How does this happen?

Denying things said during an argument, undermining another person’s emotions, asking another person how to think or feel, or bending facts in the gaslighter’s favour are all examples of gaslighting. Gaslighting may take more serious forms, such as denying physical or sexual assault or other significant negative incidents in the past.

If you feel compelled to justify your sanity or your worth as an individual, or if your self-esteem deteriorates when you try to voice a grievance, consider whether you’ve been gaslighted.

What makes someone vulnerable to gaslighting?

Three main needs that set the stage for gaslighting:

  • Our need to be liked.
  • Our need to be loved.
  • Our need to be understood.

These desires are part of what it means to be human, and they are ingrained into the majority of us. The positive side of these needs is that they encourage us to develop intimate and caring relationships with other people, which is beneficial. The downside is that when these needs are coupled with certain personality traits, people become vulnerable to gaslighting. Among these tendencies/traits are: 

  • Self-doubting tendencies.
  • People-pleasing tendencies.
  • Conflict-avoidant tendencies.

Do any of these scenarios ring true for you? If this is the case, you should be aware of the possibility of gaslighting in your relationships. When people enter into relationships with a significant situational or emotional power disparity, such as when one person is particularly vulnerable due to a work loss or suffers from “fear of abandonment” issues resulting from a prior loss or trauma, gaslighting is more likely to occur. It’s important to remember that the issue isn’t the desire to be cherished, liked, or understood; it’s the combination of these desires with specific tendencies and behaviours that makes people vulnerable to gaslighting.

10 signs to watch for that might indicate you are being gaslighted:

  1. You feel pulled by the other person to constantly blame yourself when things go wrong in the relationship, while the other person assumes no responsibility.
  2. You frequently second-guess yourself and question whether your perceptions of a situation are accurate. Over time, you may even question your sanity.
  3. You conclude that you are “just too sensitive” and should “get over it” when something about the other person bothers or hurts you.
  4. You hide your partner’s behaviour from friends and family (or lie about it) because you know something is wrong, but you are not sure what exactly it is.
  5. You begin to withdraw from close friends or family.
  6. You find it increasingly difficult to make decisions because you think you can’t do anything right.
  7. You notice your self-esteem plummeting, and you start to feel depressed and self-critical. You may even feel worthless and undeserving of love.
  8. Your memory seems hazy, and you have difficulty remembering what happened during conflicts with the other person.
  9. Conflicts with the other person are almost never productive. They usually result in the other person playing the victim, even if they have behaved irrationally or abusively.
  10. You notice that you sometimes gaslight yourself by invalidating and questioning your own reality and experiences.

If you recognise these warning signs, consider whether you’re in a gaslighting relationship and how it’s affecting your life and health. Remember that relationships should enhance people’s lives and help them become better people through encouragement and support, not disempowerment and manipulation.

Steps to recover and reclaim your life after being gaslighted:

  • Step I: Get a Reality Check

There is an old saying in psychology: “What you monitor, you manage.” To alter a gaslighting dynamic, you must first recognise that it is occurring. However, since gaslightees have been taught to blame themselves and mistrust their own judgement and experiences, this understanding may be difficult.

  • Step II: Begin to Take Back Your Power

When you have figured out how to spot gaslighting, it’s time to examine your part in the situation and make some adjustments. Recognizing your position does not imply that you are to blame for the gaslighting, nor does it imply that someone deserves to be gaslighted. Understanding your position, on the other hand, implies that you have power in the relationship and that you might be able to change its dynamics.

  • Step III: Get Out (If You Need To)

Not all gaslighting relationship has to come to an end. It’s possible that gaslighting is a learned trait that, like any other, can be reshaped and eliminated with some effort. Most gaslighting partners will be shocked to hear what they’re doing and will sincerely want to quit. Others will be more hesitant at first, but they may eventually change how they communicate with others. Relationships may often be restored with the aid of couple or family therapy. If your efforts to avoid gaslighting fail and it seems that there is no way to change the dynamic, you may want to end the relationship. Source: PsychToday

Counsellors at halcyon counselling clinic provide relationship and family counselling which could help you with these three steps. Book now!