Gaslighting seems to be a problem that is becoming more and more common.
Victims may wonder if they are going crazy, because gaslighting is about feeling minimised, lost and uncertain, at the hands of another.
As a result, the gaslighting victim is constantly second-guessing themselves, their feelings, their perceptions, their memories – and a small, suffocated part inside of them wonders whether they are actually going crazy. Why am I not good enough anymore? they question.
It is like being a hampster on a wheel, never achieving what is needed, except exhaustion; the victim feels neurotic, hyper-sensitive, and an overwhelming sense of alienation.
What is wrong with you?
If you can identify with what I just wrote, you are most likely experiencing a sophisticated manipulation technique known as “gaslighting”.
This technique undermines your entire perception of reality, and can slowly creep into your relationships, friendships, family life and work life.
Although you might feel minimised and undermined – maybe even crazy – there is hope!
What is Gaslighting?
Inspired by the 1940s films “Gas Light,” where a husband systematically manipulates his wife in order to make her feel crazy, the term “gaslighting” is now commonly used to describe behaviour that is inherently manipulative.
Gaslighting, at its core, is a form of psychological and emotional abuse that slowly eats away at the victim’s ability to make judgments.
How Gaslighting Works
A Gaslighter works their negative, harmful or destructive words and actions in their favour, deflecting the blame for their abusive deeds, and pointing the finger instead at you. This is often done by making you feel overly sensitive, paranoid, mentally unstable, silly, unskilled, unconvincing, unhinged, and many other sensations, all of which cause you to doubt yourself.
Commonly adopted by psychopathic, sociopathic and narcissistic types of people, gaslighting tends to eat away at you slowly until you realise that you’re a shell of the person you once were. Who are you now? Very different!
There are many reasons that someone would adopt gaslighting behaviour, but it is always done for personal gain.
The abuser has very little interest in their victim, other than using them for their own twisted benefit. When the victim becomes so low that they are no longer of any great use to the gaslighter, the relationship will die out. The abuser will distance themselves by ignoring their victim and using silent treatment as an intense form of emotional torture.
The victim will have no idea what to do to please or satisfy their abuser, and will often try anything to win over their abuser and regain the affection that was shown in the beginning stages of the relationship. By now though, it is far too late. Any little amount of respect that the abuser had for their victim will have been completely depleted, and it is very unlikely that the dynamic will change again.
Once the abuser walks away, the victim is left with a deep sense of frustration, shame, guilt, anger and often riddled with anxiety and depression. The victim is usually left in a vortex that they will struggle to climb out of, however, it is often compounded by a deep sense of relief that this vicious dance is over.
The abuser will walk away with a great feeling of satisfaction having won each and every battle, moving onto their next innocent victim with even more skill and experience, so they can begin this horrendous behaviour once again.
Is Someone Gaslighting You?
Gaslighting is so harmful because it promotes anxiety, depression, and with enough frequency, can sometimes trigger nervous breakdowns.
So the question now is: are you being gaslighted? How can you know whether you’re experiencing this subtle form of manipulation in your life?
Here are some key signs:
- There is something “off” about your friend, partner, son, daughter, mother, father, sister, brother, colleague, boss, or other person in your life … but you can’t quite explain or pinpoint what.
- You frequently second-guess your ability to remember the details of past events.
- You feel confused and disorientated.
- You feel threatened and on-edge, but you don’t know why.
- You feel the need to apologise all the time for what you do or who you are.
- You never quite feel “good enough” and try to live up to the expectations and demands of others, even if they are unreasonable or harm you in some way.
- You feel like there’s something fundamentally wrong with you, eg you’re neurotic or are “losing it.”
- You feel like you’re constantly overreacting or are too sensitive.
- You feel isolated, hopeless, misunderstood and depressed.
- You find it hard to trust your own judgement, and given a choice, you choose to believe the judgement of another.
- You feel scared and as though “something is terribly wrong,” but you don’t know what or why.
- You find it hard to make decisions.
- You feel as though you’re a much weaker version of yourself, and you were much stronger and more confident in the past.
- You feel guilty for not feeling happy like you used to.
- You’ve become afraid of “speaking up” or expressing your emotions, so you stay silent instead.
Common Gaslighting Techniques
Gaslighters use a variety of subtle techniques to undermine your reality and portray you as the disturbed and messed up one, to both yourself and others.
Over time you are eroded emotionally and physically as your energy is spent on trying to understand why you are not yourself. Common gaslighting tactics include twisting what you say and discrediting you. But, be assured, the baggage is theirs.
Healing the Wounds Ignited by Gaslighting
Gaslighting can cause you to doubt your own memories, perceptions and judgements, throwing you emotionally and psychologically off balance.
If you feel as though your self-esteem, confidence, skills and independence have withered under the flame of gaslighting you are not alone … and there is hope!
Almost all of us, including myself, have experienced one form of gaslighting or another throughout life. The good news is that knowledge and awareness is the first step to healing your life and rebuilding the person you are!
While it is true that in some situations we genuinely might be overreacting, or might genuinely be exhibiting irrational behaviour, it is also important for you to listen to your instinct, or intuition. Do you have a heavy feeling in the pit of your stomach? Do you feel weighed down and oppressed? Do you feel depressed? These are signs that you have unconsciously picked up on deception and “foul play”.
While we can consciously be fooled, unconsciously we can’t, and often we will have a lingering feeling that “something just isn’t right.”
You may need counselling and support to build yourself back to a stage where you have confidence and can trust your own mind and intuition.
Make sure that you listen to this feeling and seek professional help with a psychologist – you will not be judged, you will be understood and helped.
Remember: There is a high likelihood that we have ALL been gaslighted by someone at some stage in our lives, even if only on a small scale.
Unfortunately, many people fall victim to it within their intimate relationships, or even in dealings with family members and friends.
With help, you can regain your control and confidence!
Author: Trudy Sheffield, B Beh Sc (1st Class Hons).
Trudy Sheffield offers a non-judgmental, interactive, and common sense way of addressing this treatment area. Violence and aggressive behaviour in its many forms is preventable. Stop the cycle now!
To make an appointment with Trudy Sheffield, freecall 1800 877 924 or try online booking – Mt Gravatt today