Gaslighting is the attempt to alter someone’s sense of reality. This is a power and control manipulation tactic commonly found in an abusive relationships. Gaslighting often accompanies other forms of abuse, like physical and verbal abuse. The name “gaslighting” comes from the 1944’s movie of the same name where the husband attempts to convince his wife that she is crazy by dimming the lights (powered by gas) and denying that the lights are dimming. Gaslighting is often used in abusive relationships to try and convince the survivor that they are losing their mind and that they are the actual problem in the relationship. Commonly asked questions while using gaslighting are: “That didn’t happen?” “You imagined it?” and “Are you crazy?”
Tactics used in gaslighting:
- Withholding: The abuser will ignore, refuse to listen, or shut down the survivor when the attempt to confront them about the abusive behavior.
- Countering: The abuser will tell you that you aren’t remembering things properly, “that didn’t happen like that”.
- Diversion: The abuser will change the topic when you attempt to confront them about their abusive behavior.
- Trivializing: The abuser will tell you that you are “overreacting” or are “too sensitive”. They will attempt to convince you that you are blowing the whole situation out of proportion.
- Forgetting: The abuser will “forget” the sequence of events that led to you being upset. They will often say “I don’t know what you’re talking about” in order to try and convince you that you are not remembering the events correctly.
Why is gaslighting so dangerous?
- It distorts the survivor’s reality and frame of mind.
- Forces the survivor to constantly doubt themselves.
- Disables the survivor’s ability to call out the abuse and mistreatment due to them thinking that the problem is themselves.
- Causes the survivor to question their instincts.
- Will often lead to the survivor feeling isolated and depressed.
Gaslighting is one of the most dangerous and insidious forms of manipulation that is found in domestic violence. The reason for this is due to it’s side effects of causing the survivor to doubt themselves, and to depend on the abuser’s frame of mind for everything. Gaslighting is not often discussed and because of this, many survivors do not know what is happening to them.
How to survive gaslighting?
- Keep a journal: document things that occur that you believe may be twisted or lied about later on.
- Get a second opinion: try and stay connected with family and friends. Get a reality check from them when you are in need of it.
- Seek objective support: talk to a counselor or therapist in order for you to start rebuilding your intuition and self-trust.
- Meditate: keep yourself grounded through meditation and breathing exercises; this will help you know what is real and what is gaslighting.