Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse whereby the perpetrator inflicts psychological manipulation that makes the recipient question their feelings, instincts, and even their sanity. It is a serious form of domestic abuse and it is used by both men and women who have strong narcissistic traits.
Gaslighting is a tool of narcissistic personalities and a form of emotional abuse. It is where a person doubts the realities of another person, leaving that other person extremely confused, and oftentimes questioning their sanity. Narcissists often engage in this behaviour to safeguard their own fragile egos and to keep the world in line with their own reality, with little regard to how much it hurts another person.
Gaslight (verb): A form of psychological manipulation where a person seeks to make a targeted individual or group question their own memory, perception and sanity.”
The term was coined after a 1930’s stage play, Gas Light, by renowned playwright Patrick Hamilton, and then the famed Hitchcock thriller, Gaslight. In it, a husband attempts to drive his wife crazy by dimming the gas lights in their home, and then denying that the light changed. And then of course, the plot thickens …
How to Spot The Signs Of Gaslighting
One of the first ways to spot the signs if if someone tells you, “you’re too sensitive”, or “you have no right to feel that way”. When this happens, these people immediately tell you that their emotional world is invalid, and they are judging you for the way you feel, which is something they have no right to do. It makes you doubt your physical experience.
When faced with this situation, the best thing to do is not engage, as you can’t win. Whatever you say, this person has shown they are willing to emotionally manipulate you and disrespect you. There is little point in engaging. Simply tell them, “they are incorrect” and remove yourself from the situation.
The second red flag to look for is deflection. This is a form of gaslighting. You may take the time to say, “We need to talk about this issue”, and they deflect it to: “well, you did such and such”, which may even be from years ago, rather than address the issues at hand.
When people deflect, it is typically to a situation that makes you look bad. You can do one of two things. 1) Don’t respond. It only ends in a lot of back and forth that gets you nowhere. Once again, remove yourself from the situation entirely. Or 2) Respond with, ‘OK I hear that is an issue for you and I would like to discuss it in further detail, but right now we are talking about X. let’s resolve X, and then move on to Y”.
The third and probably most dangerous form of gaslighting is “that never happened”. For most of us, we would actually question this, especially if we were busy, overwhelmed or maturing in age. We may go over old emails., old photographs, or write long emails, However, a gaslighter will never listen as they are always deflecting. They may even go so far as to or send texts telling you their version of who they think you are. Don’y bother writing the email, don’t bother bring out the old photogprahs, as the narcisit will load up both guns and bring it back to you double.
Your best bet with dealing with a gaslighter is to step away from the situation as much or as quickly as possible. Get the mental health services you need and the support you may need to exit the situation.
More Gaslighting Techniques
Gaslighting includes a variety of techniques, such as:
- Pretending not to understand when you do.
- Labelling your partner’s thoughts as crazy or imagined.
- Questioning the other person’s memory of events when they remember correctly.
- Pretending to forget what actually occurred when you actually remember.
- Denying promises that you know you made.
- Trivialising the other person’s feelings as being too sensitive when their reaction is somewhat normal.
Gaslighters Have The Exceptional Ability To Fool Others, Not Just Yourself
As typically narcissistic and charismatic personalities, gaslighters frequently can influence the beliefs of others about your behaviours or wellbeing. This means, they may well be able to convince family and friends that you are unstable, not to be trusted or wrong, when in fact you may be neutral or indeed, right.
If you feel this may be the case, I strongly urge you seek independent mental health consultation and have everything documented.
Should you need to seek couples counselling to work through any of the above issues, please do get in touch.