Our world is full of spin. It’s often hard to tell if someone is being truthful with you, or if there’s some unseen angle in their actions. Being able to find secure relationships, rooted in love and truthfulness becomes more valuable because it’s rare. When gaslighting occurs in a relationship, it undermines reality and the flourishing of that relationship.

What is gaslighting?

The term “gaslighting” comes from a 1938 play called “Gaslight,” which was later adapted twice into a movie in the 1940s. In the play and the movies, the husband of a young woman slowly and deliberately manipulates her into believing that she’s becoming insane. She doubts her reality, questions her memory of things, and begins distrusting herself.

Gaslighting is a form of manipulation and psychological abuse in which one person causes another to question their memories, sanity, or perception of reality. It is a form of control that breaks down the other person and their ability to trust their intuitions while making them increasingly dependent on their abuser.

Gaslighting often occurs over time and might be absent at the beginning of the relationship. It can occur in romantic relationships, but it can also be present in work situations, in the parent-child relationship, in interactions with political figures and institutions, and the doctor-patient relationship as well.

How gaslighting affects a person

Gaslighting sows self-doubt and confusion in another person. That is how the abuser is able to gain control of the other person. When a person is told consistently that they are crazy, imagining things, confused, oversensitive, or wrong, that can result in many negative mental health effects. Gaslighting results in a person questioning their beliefs and reality, low self-esteem, confusion, isolation, as well as feeling powerless.

Additionally, being gaslighted results in feeling anxious, struggling to trust yourself and your perception of reality, and an increased risk of mental health conditions such as depression. Not trusting yourself and second-guessing your perception of reality can lead to struggling in social situations as well as at work and school.

Signs of gaslighting to look out for

If someone is gaslighting you, there will often be a disjunction between the words they say, which are meant to soothe you or disorient you into compliance, and their actions, which display their true position and mindset. You can also look at the various ways gaslighting affects you. Some of the signs of gaslighting to look out for include the following:

  • Taking the blame for how the other person treats you.
  • Indecision and struggling to make even simple decisions.
  • Constantly second-guessing yourself.
  • Doubting or questioning your memory and sanity.
  • Believing that you’re oversensitive.
  • Excusing or defending your partner’s behavior to your family member or friends.
  • Convincing yourself that the gaslighter’s behavior isn’t that bad.
  • The gaslighter insists that something you witnessed never happened.
  • Constantly walking on eggshells around the other person.
  • Second-guessing your observations, judgments, and feelings.
  • Feeling isolated and trapped, withdrawing from others.
  • The gaslighter separates you from friends and family.
  • Not speaking up and expressing your thoughts and beliefs.
  • The gaslighter trying to excuse hurtful behaviors or words by saying, “It was just a joke” or “You’re way too sensitive”.
  • Being on edge and feeling threatened all the time.
  • Constantly apologizing to the gaslighter for your actions.
  • Feeling incompetent or worthless.
  • The gaslighter lying about or denying things and refusing to admit the truth when confronted with evidence.
  • Changing the subject or refusing to listen when confronted with a lie or other gaslighting behavior.
  • Being told you’re overreacting or acting irrational or crazy.
  • Being blamed for things you didn’t do and are not responsible for.

What to do about signs of gaslighting

If you recognized these signs of gaslighting and suspect that you’re being gaslit by someone, one way to respond is by gathering proof, whether through taking pictures to fact-check your memory, keeping voice memos or a diary, or talking with someone that you trust. Such proof can be kept close at hand or given to a trusted person in situations where it’s unsafe to keep it with you.

As you deal with gaslighting, you need to remind yourself that you’re not to blame for the gaslighter’s behaviors and abuse. Such abusive behavior is not your fault, and the problem with gaslighting is that it can convince you that it is. However, gaslighting is about control and manipulation, and it is the gaslighter who is at fault.

It may take time, but it is important to practice trusting yourself again. What the gaslighter is saying about you is not true, and you can take small steps to trust your perceptions and instincts. In many cases, ending the relationship with the gaslighter may be an important step in reclaiming space for yourself.

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse, and it can evolve into physical abuse. Where the situation is unsafe, you can talk with a friend or contact a domestic abuse organization for guidance and help with creating a safety plan or an exit strategy. Speaking with a counselor who specializes in addressing abusive relationships can also help you address the mental and emotional effects of gaslighting. Contact us today at Wylie Christian Counseling in Texas to find support.

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