You may be a target of gaslighting if someone purposefully distorts realities to make you believe that what you are seeing or experiencing is unreal. A love spouse, a boss, a member of the family, a doctor, or anybody else with a position of authority can gaslight you. There are certain actions you can undertake to communicate with your attacker and seek assistance if you are being gaslighted.
How Does Gaslighting Work?
The psychological trick known as gaslighting relies on instilling self-doubt. According to Paige Sweet, Ph.D., a faculty member of sociology around the State of Michigan that specializes in the study of gaslighting in interpersonal interactions and the workplace, “I think of the gaslighting as seeking to identify somebody with the label “mad.” It is the act of making someone appear or feel unstable, irrational, and unreliable; it is the act of making someone feel as though what they are seeing or feeling isn’t genuine, as if they are making it up, and as if nobody else will believe them.
When someone is being gaslighted, there is a power disparity among the abuser & the victim. Abusers frequently take advantage of prejudices or weaknesses based on a person’s gender, sexual orientation, color, nationality, or class.
Andrew D. Spear, an assistant professor of theology at Grand Valley State University, located in Allendale, the state of Michigan, writes about gaslighting in a 2019 paper published in Inquiry. “The most distinctive aspect of the practice of gaslight is that it’s not sufficient for the gaslighter just to dominate his victim or had things proceed his way: It’s essential to them that the victim her own be able to agree with him,” he says.
Why is it referred to as gaslighting?
The 1938 play Gas Light, which was made into the 1940 movie Gas Light, and the more well-known 1944 movie Gaslight, featuring Charlie Boyer and Ingrid Bergman, are where the phrase “gaslighting” originates. In each story, the male lead convinces his wife that real-life events, such as the fading of the house’s gas lights, are just in her head, leading her to feel she is insane.
Common Gaslighting Warning Signs
Gaslighting is problematic in part because it is fundamentally unclear, according to Sweet. “It’s intended to deceive you, so it’s really hard to figure out it,” she explains, adding that it frequently originates from somebody you love about and trust.
Examples of warning signs are:
The “Twilight Zone” result. Gaslighting victims frequently describe a situation as dreamlike, as if it were taking place on an other level from the remainder of their lives.
the use of words that characterize you or your actions as insane, irrational, or overly emotional. In “The Sociology of Gaslighting” in the American Sociological Review, Sweet says, “When I inquired with women about their partners’ abusive tactics, they frequently described being called a ‘crazy bitch’.” This expression was used so frequently that I started to consider it to be the literal speech of gaslighting.
hearing that you’re making things up.
leave a conversation feeling bewildered and helpless.
Isolation. Many gaslighters try to keep their victims away from their friends, families, and other social networks.
Tone control. If you confront a gaslighter about something, they can object to the tone of your voice. This is a strategy to change the narrative and make you believe that you, not your abuser, are at fault.
a pattern of hot and cold activity. A gaslighter may switch between verbal abuse & praise, frequently even within the same conversation, to put a victim off-balance.
Five methods are listed by the National Hotline for Domestic Violence that a gaslighter may employ against a victim:
Withholding. The abusive partner acts as though they don’t understand or won’t listen.
Countering. Even though the victim has a clear memory of the events, their partner of abuse questions it.
Blocking/Diverting. The abusive partner shifts the conversation or probes the victim’s ideas.
Trivializing. The abusive partner minimizes the victim’s requirements or feelings.
Forgetting/Denial. The violent partner makes up memories of what actually happened or disputes commitments given to the victim.
What Effects Does Gaslighting Have on Your Mental Health?
Gaslighting is intended to arouse apprehension and doubt about yourself, which is frequently detrimental to the mental health of a victim. When you are gaslit, you could feel:
- Anxiety Depression
- decreased sense of self
- trauma-related stress disorder
- Hypervigilance, or an exaggerated fear of risk
- Suicidal ideas
If you experience any of the aforementioned symptoms as a result of gaslighting, you might want to think about getting aid from an expert in mental health or another therapist. It can assist you in navigating the trauma both during and after a specific occurrence.
Illustrations of gaslighting
The following list includes instances of gaslighting that scholars have identified through in-depth research into the issue and in-depth interviews with victims. Remember: These are a few of the instances of the widespread issue of gaslighting. Even if none of the scenarios listed below apply to your situation, you can still be a victim of gaslighting if you recognize any of the warning signals in the section above.
According to Valerie M. Davis & Rose Ernst, who discuss gaslighting in their paper in Politics, Groups, and Identities, “A typical scenario is a lavishing partner that tells the other person that their impressions of unsuitable or fraudulent conduct are untrue.”
Numerous instances of common gaslighting are given in Sweet’s research, which concentrated on heterosexual relationships:
“Ebony’s partner would steal money from her and then accuse her of being “careless” with money and having lost it on her own.”
Adriana’s boyfriend tried to deceive her and keep her from speaking with others by hiding her cell phone and then telling them she had lost it.
Jenn called her ex-boyfriend a “chameleon” who concocted little lies to throw her off balance, such as lying regarding the color shirt she was wearing the day before before.
Emily explained how her ex-husband took her keys, preventing her from leaving the house, and then claimed she had misplaced them “again.”
Romantic Relationship Gaslighting
Any romantic relationship is susceptible to gaslighting. The gaslighter’s position of power remains unchanged. However, research on the subject has shown that men gaslighting women most typically occurs in heterosexual partnerships.
Domestic abuse and gaslighting frequently coexist. In a poll conducted by the National Hotline for Domestic Violence, 74 percent of older female victims of domestic abuse said their partner or ex-partner had used gaslighting tactics on them.
Gendered stereotypes are frequently used by male abusers to mistreat their female partners. According to Sweet, a lot of the practice of gaslight in heterosexual personal relationships is based on the notion that women are fundamentally irrational, that men are rational by nature, and that women are too emotional and irrational. In her studies, she discusses how stereotypes still exist today, especially in personal relationships, despite the appearance that society as a whole has moved past them.
Gaslighting frequently focuses on a woman’s physical attributes and sexuality. When Sweet spoke with 43 Chicago-area women who had suffered gaslighting and domestic violence, she heard tales like:
“Margaret’s husband persuaded her that dressing up, fixing her hair, and wearing makeup were drawing too much attention. She began to wear sweatshirts and overeating because she started to accept his worries about men staring at her. In her own words, she stopped “taking care” of herself in order to assuage his fears.
“Carla’s husband attempted to persuade her that she was having affairs with local guys by pointing out men on the sidewalk and asking her to name those who had been waiting for her. He ordered her to have the IUD removed after calling her a “prostitute” for using one of the birth control devices. Carla’s mobility was hampered by his sexual gaslighting techniques; she started to stay at home constantly out of fear of what he may make up.
Dealing With Gaslighting
Inform as many individuals as you can about the situation. Do not confide in just one individual that you believe to be experiencing this, advises Sweet. Tell several people in your circle of friends so they can attest to your account of reality and support you.
According to Rodrigues, Mendenhall, and Clancy’s research, “you are better able to understand that the abuse is not related to personal shortcomings when friends and coworkers acknowledge that your tales of mistreatment are true.
Keep in touch with your loved ones.
Keep in touch with relatives and close friends, even if you’re not specifically talking about the gaslighting. You are more prone to self-doubt when you are alone. Gaslighters are aware of this and frequently attempt to persuade you that they alone have your best interests in mind. “‘You are nuts,’ he said. Nobody cares for you. I’m here with you. One gaslighting victim remarked, “You don’t have anyone else here,'” to Sweet. If you keep an eye out for such conduct, you could be more aware of it when it occurs and more inclined to put a stop to it.
Publish a journal.
According to My CWA, an organization that assists families who have suffered domestic abuse, maintaining a journal “can help you take up some control” if gaslighting has destroyed your self-esteem and left you feeling perplexed and disoriented.Even if the perpetrator continues to tell you something different, you may still examine your account of events to make sure that what you remember happened.
Call the National Sexually Assault Hotline or the National Violence Against Women Hotline.
Sexual assault advocates have a lot of experience dealing with different types of psychological manipulation, according to Sweet. The National Center for Sexual Assault Hotline can be reached at 800-656-4673, while the National Hotline for Domestic Violence can be reached at 800-799-SAFE. Both are accessible around-the-clock and have online chat features.