Gaslighting is a term that has been around for some time now. Although the word isn’t commonly used and some people may not know its meaning, very many people practice this act unknowingly. Several other people too, are victims of gaslighting, unknown to them.
Gaslighting is the process where a person or group of persons abuse another individual psychologically, twisting their sense of reality, sanity, or memory such that the individual suffers anxiety, confusion, and inability to trust themselves.
Gaslighting usually occurs in relationships and is most predominant in abusive relationships. This is because gaslighting if left unchecked for a long time, can become a full-blown abuse. By this time the victim won’t even know how to react to it, or may not even be aware that they are being gaslighted, because it has become a norm for them. This proves why gaslighting is dangerous and should be addressed at the early stages, before the victim becomes mentally enslaved by the abuser.
However, it is important first of all to know the various forms of gaslighting so as to easily detect it and take the necessary action.
Forms of gaslighting
There are various ways a gaslighter can abuse a victim. But no matter the method used, at the end of the day it all boils down to psychological manipulation.
Here are the various forms of gaslighting
In this method, a gaslighter completely ignores the other party, refusing to engage in the conversation. Sometimes they’ll pretend not to understand or know what the person is talking about.
In this case, a person disregards the other person’s feelings. They may make it seem as if the victim is too sensitive, too childish, or overreacting when in actuality the victim is expressing valid feelings or behavior.
This is a very common form of gaslighting done by many people. In this situation, a person will pretend to forget things, or deny expressly that those things ever happened or existed. In the process of denying the facts, the victim is accuse of telling lies or making things up. At the end of the day, it’s the victim who ends up looking like a fool.
This is another common technique, whereby a person changes the topic of the discussion and begins to discredit the other person instead. For instance, instead of answering a direct question, they (the gaslighter) will respond with a cunning question of their own, throwing the other party off balance.
In this method, a person’s memory or ability to remember things correctly is directly challenge. The gaslighted individual may have presented a real or true fact, and yet the manipulator will tell them they’ve been hallucinating or they have a bad memory.
A stereotype is a fixed idea or notion that many people believe concerning a thing or person which may be wrong or only partially true.
In the stereotyping method, the gaslighter may use negative stereotypes of a person’s gender, age, race, etc. to manipulate them. Unlike some other forms of gaslighting that may be done unknowingly, stereotyping is mostly intentional, as the manipulator will use a well-known stereotype to control the victim’s actions.
Examples of each form of gaslighting
Wife: “You don’t love me anymore, you never spend time with me or allow me to touch you”.
Husband (gaslighter): “When will you grow up? I’m very busy please, quit being childish”.
Boy 1: “That’s my pen you’re holding, you stole it. I know my pen has a blue cover”.
Boy 2 (gaslighter): “That’s a lie, my mom gave me this pen today. Are you the only one using this brand of the pen? You’re the thief!!”.
Wife: “Honey, I saw you sneaking out of the house late last night. Where did you go to?”.
Husband (gaslighter): “Are you sure of what you saw? You’re sure you weren’t still dreaming? Hope you remember how you were sleepwalking last time”.
A man is approached by the police and asked a question, and he pretends not to understand the English Language, when in fact he understands English perfectly and even has the information the police are seeking.
Mom: “Junior did you steal money from my bag?”
Junior (gaslighter): “Why are you asking me mom? I’m sure you’ve misplaced that money. You always forget little things and then find who to blame”.
A man and a woman are in a relationship, and the man beats the woman on a daily basis. The woman out of frustration then promises to take legal action again him, but he tells her that if she does that, she’ll only be proving to him and everyone else that she is weak and vulnerable.
(In this context, the man uses the stereotype that women are weaker vessels to gaslight the woman).
Causes Of Gaslighting
Generally, gaslighting occurs because someone wants to get undue advantage or control over someone else. It is a trait some people develop on their own, or by watching others do it.
People who gaslight do it because they are abusive, or feel they are entitled to control other people for some reason.
Gaslighting is also cause by personality disorders present in individuals.
For individuals without personality disorders, gaslighting can be caused by:
- Having a constant need for admiration, respect, or attention
- Having a sense of belief that they are better than everyone else
- Lack of empathy
Real-life scenarios where gaslighting can occur
Here, an abusive partner will use gaslighting to keep the other person under subjection or control. For instance, a man who beats his wife all the time will equally gaslight her to the point where she believes that those beatings are a sign of love.
Abusive parents or guardians may use gaslighting to shame or control children. They may do this by tugging at the child’s feelings or misinforming them of things they did when they were younger, all in a bid to manipulate that child.
This can occur when a medical professional dismisses or trivializes a patient’s health concerns or assumptions. For instance, a man goes to a clinic believing he has malaria, and the doctor tells him it’s nothing, that the malaria is only “in his head”.
Based on the doctor’s statement, the patient will become confused and begin to question whether or not the symptoms he felt before coming for checkups were actually true.
Racial gaslighting occurs when people apply gaslighting techniques to a person or group of persons based on their race or ethnicity.
For instance, a particular race of people may protest for equal rights, and some others of a different race may accuse them of being sentimental.
This is a very common scenario, as political figures tend to use lies and other forms of manipulation to control people, usually to win votes. These same politicians when they finally get into power may ignore the masses, and deny when they are reminded of the promises they made while campaigning.
How To Know A Gaslighter
There are certain red flags you’ll see in a person that should let you know they are gaslighters. Here are some of them.
They Tell Lies A Lot
Lying is the backbone of gaslighting. Gaslighters will blatantly lie and won’t back down or change their story even when pieces of evidence are pointing against them.
They Love Discrediting Others
A gaslighter will never give you credit when due, but once they achieve something they make sure the whole world gives them credit. They may go as far as manipulating you to act or behave in a certain way, and then go around telling others that you’re a crazy person.
They Like Shifting Blame
A gaslighter will never want to take the fall for anything. They’d always find a way to shift the blame to someone else.
These are the main signs and characters gaslighters exhibit, but they may equally exhibit characters like twisting and retelling stories to favor them, using compassionate words as weapons of manipulation, thinking little of other people’s thoughts and feelings.
How To Know A Gaslighting Victim
People, who are victims of gaslighting? ay often do not accept or even realize that they are being abuse or manipulated. But generally, gaslight victims may show the following signs:
- Feeling confused and constantly second-guessing themselves most times
- Finding bit difficult to make simple decisions by themselves
- Withdrawing or isolating oneself from others
- Frequently pondering whether or not they are too sensitive
- Constantly apologizing to the abusive person
- Having selfless affection and devotion to the abusive person
- Always defending the abusive person’s behavior before others
- Feeling worthless, hopeless, helpless, and joyless, especially when the gaslighter is not around
- Feeling vulnerable and insecure always
- Getting disappointed in themselves and assuming others are disappointed in them too
How To Control Or Stop Gaslighting
The best way to stop or totally free yourself from gaslighting is to get therapy. It can be very difficult to fight the mental cracks and loopholes created by the manipulator in a victim’s mind. Even in the early stages, gaslighting can be a challenge to stop.
Emotional abuse is a very serious matter and can lead to traumatic outcomes like suicide. It would take a psychological solution to solve a psychological problem.
However, there are some little things a gaslighting victim can do to slowly free themselves from an abuser.
Here are some of them
- Distant themselves from the manipulator: So long as the manipulator is close to the victim, there is always a chance for such a victim to be exploited. No amount of therapy will do if a gaslighted person doesn’t separate themselves from the oppressor. The separation will help give the victim some breathing room, so they can collect their thoughts and have some peace of mind.
- Keep diaries and save evidence: Because gaslighters lie and deny facts, a gaslighted person will do well to keep a diary to record events and also take pictures or videos as evidence. This evidence will help to prove the victim right on any set day the gaslighter may have denied the facts. It will also help the victims trust themselves more.
- Get outside help: It won’t hurt to share your feelings or experiences at the hands of a gaslighter, with someone. Such conversation with an outsider may open the individual’s eyes to see that they are being abuse. It mustn’t be a medical professional or therapist. A friend, family member, or neighbor will do for the purpose of sharing experiences. Isolation escalates the side effects of gaslighting.
- End the relationship: This is the best solution to end gaslighting. However, it is the hardest. Gaslighting victims find it hard to stay without their manipulators because they feel confused or lost without them. The manipulators too on their own part will try to do everything possible to keep their victim trapped so that their own ego or sense of superiority isn’t hampered. Most times it may take the intervention of an outside party to end such a relationship and save the victim from further damage.
No one deserves to be a victim of gaslighting. It is merely a technique used by toxic people to suppress and control others. It may not be possible to completely stop people from gaslighting others, and even if these individuals are approached, their own manipulative nature may aid them in twisting their way out of judgment.
Gaslight victims most times are not even aware of their condition. They usually feel they have a problem with themselves, and they deserve to be treated the way they are being treated by their manipulators.
If you suspect you are being gaslighted, you should act fast, and take the necessary steps to curb the situation. For starters, you should separate yourself from the person manipulating you, and then seek professional help. Even after seeking professional help, you’d need to believe in yourself and set physical and mental boundaries to keep your manipulator at bay.
Time heals all wounds. And so with healthy counseling, over time you’ll develop a positive and healthy mind, mastery over your emotions, and you may even be able to detect and repel any form of gaslighting.