What is Gaslighting?
The term “gaslighting” is derived from the movie Gaslight (1944), in which a husband manipulates his wife until she thinks she’s losing her mind.
This manipulation tactic is used in all kinds of relationships because, sadly, it’s effective. No matter who you are, you are susceptible.
Why does it work?
Gaslighters know confusion weakens us because we need a personal sense of reality. Their goal is to consistently make you question what you saw, heard or noticed. Over time, you may doubt your own perceptions. Ultimately, you may give up and defer to the manipulator as the source of your truth and power.
How do you know when someone is gaslighting you? Ask yourself these questions:
Do they deny their words or actions even in the face of verifiable proof?
People who gaslight you tell blatant lies. You know they took the car keys. You saw it five minutes ago. Yet, they still deny they have them. This is a method to make you question your own reality.
Do they attack what’s most important to you?
Kids are important to you. But they constantly tell you you shouldn’t have them. You’d be an unfit parent.
Do they project their negative traits onto you?
They lie. Constantly. When you confront them, they say that you are not smart enough to understand them. They may suggest that you are the liar, not them. You end up having to defend yourself instead of discussing the problem.
Do they tell others that you are crazy?
They isolate you by inviting people who support you to question your sanity. This is usually cloaked in grave concern for your welfare.
Do they say that everyone is a liar?
By telling you that everyone but them is a liar, it makes you question reality. The goal is to give them the position of power as the only source for the "correct" information.
Do you feel like you have no one to turn to?
People who gaslight you are usually charming. They manage to get people close to you on their side, so you feel isolated.
Are they randomly awesome, supportive, appreciative of you?
Gaslighters throw occasional niceties into their long string of interactions that are aimed at devaluing you. This is what hooks you, because after they succeeded in having you feel terrible for so long, a break feels incredibly welcoming. You’ll want to believe they changed, and that everything will be different now. You’ll believe this even if, or especially when, you’ve been around this cycle multiple times. You look so nice today. I’m lucky to have you. I made your favorite meal, just for you. You look tired, why don’t you take a break? Let’s go out to your favorite restaurant tonight, it’ll help you feel better. It’s always short-lived, and it’s part of the gaslighting process. It makes you feel they care, that you had really just misunderstood them, that, deep down, they have a good heart. This will make you stay longer.
Are you starting to question your own grasp on reality despite data points not adding up?
Please remember: when stories consistently don’t add up, it means that they really don’t. They are filled with lies, half-truths and intended omissions. Trust your instincts.
Have you decided it’s just easier to not say anything, even when you feel something’s very wrong?
A person who gaslights wins by attrition, by wearing you down over time until you question yourself and avoid bringing up what concerns you.
If you think you may be in a relationship with a person who gaslights you, it’s time to find someone who can help. Contact a family member or friend outside the manipulator's circle of loyalty, or contact a therapist to help you get out of this toxic relationship