Gaslighting seems to be one of those words that gets mentioned a lot in recent years.
The term “gaslighting” comes from a play and subsequent movie called Gaslight made way back in 1944. In the movie, the devious husband, played by Charles Boyer, manipulates and torments his wife, played by Ingrid Bergman, to convince her she’s going mad.
Gaslighting, whether intentional or not, is a form of manipulation. It’s important to know what gaslighting is and how to recognise it in relationships, so you know how to tackle it.
What is gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse that leads someone to question their own sanity, own reality and own memories. It is a type of manipulation that tends to happen in intimate relationships.
Victims of gaslighting end up turning against their own mind, opinions and views on events in their own life. When not stopped, gaslighting can have devastating affect’s on a person’s over-all well-being and understanding of their own emotions.
Gaslighting typically occurs in relationships where there is an existing power-dynamic, this is why it can be seen sometimes in relationships between parent and children, but it is most commonly experienced in romantic relationships.
How To Spot If You Are Being Gaslighted
- You find yourself apologising a lot
- It feels like everything you do is wrong
- You start to question your own emotions – “am I overreacting?”, “am I being too sensitive?”
- You can’t understand why you aren’t satisfied
- Felling being more anxious and less confident than you used to be
- You start to make excuses for the gas-lighters behaviour
- Always thinking it’s your fault when things go wrong
- You often doubt yourself, your feelings and your recollection of events
- You question your worth
Phrases A Gaslighter May Use
- “I was just joking!”
- “You’re so sensitive!”
- “It’s not that big a deal.”
- “Here you go again, making a deal out of nothing.”
- “That’s just because you are insecure.”
- “I never said that!” (even though you know they did)
What To Do If You Discover You Are Being Gaslighted
If you have realised you are being gaslighted don’t worry this is the first step to sorting out the problem and feeling safe in your own emotions again.
1. Identify the problem
Identify the problem in the relationship, pay close attention to the dynamic of the relationship, be it with a parent, partner or a friend and pay close attention to the words they are saying to you and how those words make you feel.
A good way of doing this could be writing down the conversation in a journal and looking at it from that perspective, this will allow you to fully see the dynamic of the relationship and see how often the conversation goes to their point of view.
2. Analyse the power dynamic of the relationship
Commonly gaslighting occurs in relationships that have a pre-existing power dynamic. Typically the gaslighter will have more power and this is event in their decisions about how valid/invalid your feelings are. Looking at the conversation you have had written down on paper will also help determine the power dynamic.
3. Feel your feelings
Now that you have realised that your feelings are being undermined, allow yourself to feel what it is you are feeling and know that whatever it is it is valid.
Remember that your feelings are your own and they are never wrong. You may never get the person to agree that you aren’t over reacting or you aren’t too sensitive but that doesn’t matter it is your feeling and it is valid.
4. Think about your options
No relationship is the same so the decision you make on what to do with yours after you realise you are being gaslighted is completely up to you but know you have to do something.
After looking at the relationship from a more objective perspective and allowing yourself to feel whatever it is you are feeling, have a think about whether you see it worthwhile seeing this relationship through to the future.
Consider having a conversation with the person first and set a boundary on the comments about your emotions.
It’s the important that the other person respects your feelings. If after raising the subject they continue with their behaviour you know where you stand, and it may be time that you consider cutting contact with them completely. It’s also important that you realise that you are not the problem, they are.
If you have been affected by this article please reach out to someone who can offer advice and support. You can contact Women’s Aid on 1800 341 900.