Gaslighting in relationships
Gaslighting involves undermining someone else’s reality by blatantly denying facts, their environment, or their feelings. In simpler terms, it is when someone knowingly makes you think that you are crazy or that you don’t know what you are doing or talking about when all they want is to control you.
Have you ever heard someone tell you “don’t you know your other friends are constantly laughing behind your back?” or “come on, I never said that!” or “wear tighter clothes, buy some jeans and do some makeup, you will look more like a woman that way, I am only looking out for you”
Newsflash, they are not looking out for you, they are gaslighting you. It is subtle, many times cruel, and the person doing it knows exactly what they are doing.
What then happens is that you start to doubt yourself, have second thoughts about things or people that you were 100% sure about a second before. Then you start depending on the gaslighter, looking to them for what to do or think. You become putty in their hands to do with as they please. It is not a good feeling, and it has been used to great effect by bullies in many relationships.
Where the word “Gaslighting” originated from
According to Britannica, the term gaslighting originated from a 1938 British stage play called Gas Light. This was eventually made into a film in the UK in 1940. In the film, a husband tries to make his wife think she is losing her mind by subtly changing her environment, including slowly dimming the light of a gas lamp.
The wife eventually began to doubt her reality, she started feeling out of control, and overly sensitive. This is exactly the goal of a gaslighter, making a partner confused and vulnerable. The movie portrayed this quite well.
They undermine your thoughts and feelings
Gaslighters tell you that the way you are feeling is wrong or is not valid, even if it is. Watch out for this in any relationship you are in. If your partner keeps disagreeing with your feelings, opinions, suggestions, and making it seem like you are making things up, then the gaslight is on (or is it off?).
They are accomplished liars
Gaslighters are pathological when it comes to lying. They will look you in the face and lie to you, even when you call them out, they will stubbornly stick to it. That is the entire basis of gaslighting though, so it follows.
They use feely-feely words as a weapon
New word alert! Okay, feely-feely simply means mushy, romantic, or compassionate. Your partner would say something like “sweetie, you know I love you, and I will never do anything to hurt you” The problem is that their words are in direct contradiction to reality. Remember they are liars, do not be taken in by all that.
They bad-mouth you to others
Gaslighters are great at spreading rumours and gossips about you. They can be kind and sweet to your face, but tell others how unstable or crazy you are.
This can be very effective because it is possible for your friends and people around you to side with your bully if they don’t know the full story. This could also go the other way round, gaslighters could tell you your friends think bad things about you when it is not true.
How do you know if you are a victim of gaslighting?
This is fairly easy to figure out if you know what to watch out for. Simply ask yourselves these questions:
– Are you always second-guessing yourself
– Is your relationship confusing you? Like you used to think that you had a good relationship but now, it doesn’t look or feel like that anymore?
– Are you always apologizing?
– Do you constantly make excuses for your partner’s behaviour?
– Do you feel unclear about your thoughts, or decisions you make?
– Are you sad? But you can’t put your finger on what is wrong, even though you know something is wrong?
If any of these or a combination of these are true, then you are probably a victim of gaslighting.
Make sure it is gaslighting
Sometimes, gaslighting can be hard to pinpoint. Some people could just be obnoxious and stubborn about being right. They might not be necessarily be gaslighting you, especially if there is no manipulation involved. If you want to be sure, look more at how what they are doing is affecting you emotionally, not necessarily physically.
Take some time out
You might want to distance yourself for a bit from that situation. The emotions you are feeling, while valid, will not help you to analyze the situation and work your way out of it.
Try to physically leave the space (your gaslighter), and if that is not possible, try breathing exercises or counting to 10.
Don’t be afraid of collecting evidence
Keep records, screenshots, voice notes, videos if you can. Have evidence of your gaslighter’s abusive behaviour. It will help you in those moments when they make you start doubting yourself. They can also help if you want to seek professional or legal help.
Self-care is important
Take care of your emotional and physical needs. This won’t probably have any direct effect on the gaslighting but it will improve your ability to withstand it.
Spend time with loved ones, eat well, exercise, and engage in activities that make you happy.
Seek professional help
Gaslighting could get abusive and affect your mental and physical health. Do not be afraid to talk to a licensed professional.
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