The Gaslighting is a psychological abuse is to change the perception of reality that has someone else into believing that everything you see, remember or captures is the product of the invention. For example, a man might make his wife believe that she is not psychologically abused and that everything is in her imagination.
It is a common form of abuse, used mostly by narcissistic people, psychopaths and sociopaths. This type of manipulation is present in many types of relationships, whether sentimental or between family members. In fact, it is one of the forms of abuse used in cases of bullying in schools.
Gaslighting is a very serious psychological abuse that can cause post-traumatic stress syndrome in victims, as well as loss of self-esteem, anxiety disorders, or mood disorders.
The main problem when it comes to avoiding psychological abuse by gaslighting is the way it is given. It is a slow and gradual process, which gradually destroys the victim’s self-esteem.
Up to the point that those who suffer from it have great difficulties to identify this manipulation. Those who suffer from gaslighting to a very extreme degree, believe that the abuser is the only person who acts correctly and who does them good, the only person they can trust.
This situation is used by the “gaslighter” to continue increasing his power while continuing to undermine the self-esteem of those who suffer the abuse.
If this intense way of managing the minds of others occurs so often, is there any way to know that I am suffering from it? How can I get around this manipulation?
How to identify your gaslighter
To avoid abuse by gaslighting, the first thing is to identify the way of acting of those who practice it.
Stephanie Sarkis, Doctor of Philosophy and Licensed Mental Health Therapist, writes in Psychology Today magazine about the techniques these abusers often use:
They lie about obvious things
They lie about them as if they were true with a totally serious face, despite the fact that you know more than that what they are saying is a lie. According to Sarkis, it is a way of setting a precedent, for when they lie about something more important, you blindly believe in that lie.
In this sense, Dr. Robin Stern, states in her book The Gaslight Effect that “gaslighting only works when you believe in what the gaslighter says and you need it to think well about yourself”
They deny things they have said, even if you have proof
It’s a basic way of making you wonder if he really said what you thought he said or not. This action is repeated on a recurring basis so that you increasingly doubt about what you perceive and begin to believe what the gaslighter says.
They attack the people or things you appreciate the most
They make you doubt your own essence as a person. It is a way of judging yourself for how you are or how you act.
They give you positive comments
Just as they recriminate aspects of your personality or your actions, they praise you for others. It is a totally premeditated action for you to think that they are not as bad as they seem and continue to distort your perception of reality.
They try to turn others against you
They recruit people, who they know will support them, because they are aware of who they are easy to manipulate. One of the most used strategies is to tell others that you are crazy.
They make you rethink your mental health; They try to convey to you that people will not believe you when you tell them that that person, the gaslighter, is abusing you psychologically. They also accuse others of being liars, so you don’t trust them either.
It is a way to control you better, since they function better when that person is alone or isolated. In the end you will think that the only reality is what he tells you.
Lack of humanity or empathy
One of his most outstanding and also most dangerous traits is his lack of humanity. Those who practice gaslighting trivialize their own actions.
They have no regard for the other person, so they can commit extremely serious actions, such as raping or taking the victim hostage, even committing murder.
Dr. Robin Stern distinguishes three stages within the gaslighting process:
At this stage, the victim is still aware of their own judgment. She would like to get approval from the abuser, but she is not desperate for it.
This phase is characterized by the need for the victim to defend herself. He compulsively searches for evidence to show that the gaslighter is wrong in his recriminations. Desperation for approval begins.
At this point in the relationship, self-esteem is already pretty undermined. The abuser tries to prove that the manipulator is right, with the thought that this will begin to act as the abuser wants and finally get his approval.
How to recognize if you are suffering from gaslighting
In addition to knowing the techniques used by manipulators, you can observe your own feelings or your actions to identify if you are suffering from gaslighting.
Some of the signs that you can detect are collected in a questionnaire Dr. Robin Stern in her book Gaslight Effect . The behaviors that you can observe within yourself to know if you suffer from this type of abuse are the following:
- See if you are questioning yourself all the time.
- You wonder if you are too sensitive several times a day.
- You often feel confused, even “crazy” at work
- You are always apologizing, be it to your parents, your boyfriend, or your boss.
- You constantly wonder if you are good enough to others, as a girlfriend, husband, friend, daughter, or employee.
- You don’t understand why, despite all the good things around you, you are not happy.
- When it comes to buying things for yourself, you think about what the partner, friend or family member who is supposedly gaslighting you would like, instead of your own happiness.
- You constantly excuse that person that you suspect is abusing you in front of your family or your friends.
- You hide information from your friends and family so that you don’t have to make excuses for them.
- You know that there is something very wrong, but you cannot express it, not even yourself can identify what is wrong.
- You start to lie to avoid slights towards yourself and distortions of reality.
- You have trouble making simple decisions.
- You think twice before bringing up certain seemingly innocent talking points.
- In the case of a romantic relationship or that you live with your “gaslighter”, you mentally review everything you have done during the day to anticipate those negative things that can be thrown at you.
- You have the feeling that before you used to be a different person, more sure of yourself, more fun, more relaxed.
- You start talking to your gaslighter through an intermediary, because you are afraid that he will be upset by something you have done.
- You feel like you are not capable of doing anything right.
- In the event that you have children and your partner is the psychological abuser, you begin to notice how they try to protect you from him or her.
- You feel angry with people you used to get along with.
- You feel desperate and unhappy.
How to avoid gaslighting
Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, it is a fairly common psychological abuse technique. Despite the difficulty of identifying it when you are suffering, there are ways to avoid it. Here are some tips to keep you alert to the strategies used by these abusers:
Trust your ideals and your own criteria
According to Terence Williams in his book I cited earlier, the best defense to avoid gaslighting abuse is to have your own judgment. This means that if you perceive that something is not right, it probably is not.
Being strong and trusting your own criteria is the best way to scare off those who exercise gaslighting, who usually take advantage of those with low self-esteem.
Also, by being more confident in what you see, hear and remember, it will be much more difficult for the abuser to distort reality, creating a parallel.
Surround yourself with those who do you good and not evil
Who makes you feel bad does not love you. A partner, a friend or a family member does not judge or recriminate you, either for your personal characteristics or for how you act. They love you just the way you are.
That person who questions everything you say or do is undermining your self-esteem in order to better control you.
Terence Williams defends that you have to focus on the people who make you feel good about yourself. In addition, this strategy will make the abuser realize that he is not the only one with whom you can enjoy or have a good time, encountering more difficulties when manipulating you.
On the other hand, enjoying with other people will make you see that you are not alone and that you can trust other people. In addition, as I explained before, those who practice the gaslight strategy, like other controlling people, act better when that person feels alone and has no one to trust or to help them get out of that network of abuse and manipulation.
Don’t change your plans or your way of life because someone tells you
You must be strong in your posture and make yourself strong in front of others. You come first and whoever really loves or appreciates you will respect your space and your decisions.
First is your well-being and then that of those around you. Remember that you have a life of your own, regardless of what that manipulative person can tell you.
You must live your own life. Terence Williams says that you also have to be careful about turning the controlling person’s problems into your own. Each one to settle their conflicts.
Confront those who behave in a controlling way with you
Make that person see that you are aware of their behaviors. Williams states that at this point, it is necessary to be strong and not let the manipulator blame you for their way of acting or change your point of view.
Stay away from that person
If finally, after trying everything, including having talked to that person, you cannot have a normal and healthy relationship with them, flee permanently, before they can cause you more damage.
- Molding, N. (2016). Gendered violence, abuse and mental health in everyday lives: beyond trauma. Sl: Sn
- Williams, T. (2013). How to deal with a controlling person: getting out of an abusive relationship. Place of publication not identified: Overcoming.
- Stern, R. (2008). The gaslight effect: how to spot and survive the hidden manipulation others use to control your life. London: Fusion.
- Jacobson, NS, & Gottman, JM (1998). When men batter women: new insights into ending abusive relationships. New York: Simon & Schuster.
- Dorpart, T. (1996). Gaslighthing, the Double Whammy, Interrogation and Other Methods of Covert Control in Psychotherapy and Analysis. New Jersey, London: Jason Aronson Inc.
- Summit, V. (2014). Stop Dancing in the Gaslight: Recognizing Domestic Abuse is Half the Battle. Place of publication no identified: Scarlett Publishing.