What Is Gaslighting and How Can We Save Ourselves From It Before It Drives Us Crazy
Psychological abuse is a phrase that can frighten anyone. But it exists and the particular type of abuse we’re talking about today is called gaslighting — possibly one of the worst kinds out there. This method of emotional abuse is used by manipulators. You’d be surprised at how common this abuse is — it’s often overlooked and is practically invisible most of the time. You may find that after reading this, you will realize that you’ve used gaslighting before — or that someone else has used it on you.
Here at Bright Side we want to educate and help our readers in order to prevent them and others from becoming victims of this chilling form of manipulation.
So, what exactly is gaslighting?
Gaslighting is manipulating someone using psychology — forcing them into doubting their own sanity. A gaslighter hopes to twist the victim’s view of reality and to make them question their own sanity and memory. It’s a way for the abuser to hide the abuse. It’s lying, but with a goal.
They compulsively lie to gain power and control over us. It can happen in relationships, friendships, families, and in the workplace. And politicians, corporations, cult leaders, advertisers, and lawyers have all been known to use it. They want to convince you that they’re right, and that your memory of what happened is wrong.
It may start by them saying things like:
“I never said that.”
“It’s not a big deal.”
“Why are you so sensitive?”
“You must have dreamt that happened.”
“This is all in your head.”
Cheaters accusing their partner of cheating is a common example — it makes them feel better by believing that their partner has felt or behaved in the same way.
By using gaslighting, abusers can:
- Minimize or erase the abuse that took place
- Dismiss the victim’s feelings, needs, and view of reality
- Play the victim
- Avoid responsibility
- Make up conversations or events that never happened
- Go back on a promise or agreement they previously made
- Make the victim feel like they’re going crazy, or that their memory doesn’t work right
The word “gaslighting,” originated from the 1940’s movie Gaslight.
The abuse shown in the film gave light to a type of manipulation that hadn’t really been given a name before. To summarize the film (spoiler alert I guess), a man named Gregory is attempting to find and steal his wife’s heirloom rubies. He tries to drive her insane with the goal that she will be institutionalized and out of his way so he can take them. The wife only realizes she is in fact not going crazy when a police officer visits and confirms that he saw and heard everything her husband had told her and that it was all make-believe.
How we can save ourselves from it
When you confront the gaslighter, they’ll say, “You’re paranoid” or “I’m concerned you’re going crazy,” to convince you that you’re mentally unstable. To drop your family and friends from the picture — they’ll begin to say things like, “So and so said this about you” or “Everyone thinks you’re...” pitting you against the people you love and making you feel like you can’t speak up. This way, they have total control. Walking away can feel like it’s not even an option.
Gaslighting can cause us to suffer from a loss of confidence, clinical depression, uncertainty of what’s real and what’s not, confusion, and disorientation, which, in the end, results in heartbreaking self-doubt, fear, and paranoia. But there is hope. Gaslighting only works if you don’t realize what’s happening, once you catch on, it doesn’t work anymore.
9 tips to save your sanity:
We have put together a handy and life-saving list of 10 tips that will spare you from becoming a victim of gaslighting.
- Notice the inconsistencies between what they say and what they do. Or what they say on one day and then say on another.
- Use your ability to feel! Sense if something is off or doesn’t feel right.
- Trust your intuition first before comparing your truth with someone else’s.
- Write things down — don’t forget what was said or what happened. Record conversations if you need to.
- Go get a reality check from someone outside the situation.
- Own your reality — if you are certain about what happened or what was said.
- Do not try and rationalize with a gaslighter — it will not work.
- Do not try to get them to take responsibility — the whole reason they’re gaslighting is to avoid taking responsibility.
- Opt-out of any unnecessary interactions with gaslighters and when possible cut them out completely!
Remember — they are putting your sanity at risk.
These tips really are your only chance of getting out of a manipulative relationship with a gaslighter. If you or someone you know is being victimized by gaslighting — share these tips with them. Not only will they save your sanity, but they could also save your life. Gaslighting is a vicious cycle of manipulative abuse — but spotting the signs early and refusing to let yourself be fooled will truly set you free.
Have you ever heard of gaslighting? Share your previous tips on how to protect yourself from these people.
Illustrated by Daniil Shubin for BrightSide.me