What is gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation intended to make the targeted individual doubt themselves, question their memory, reality, and in more extreme cases, their sanity. The term “gaslighting” originates from a 1944 play titled “Gas Light”. The story follows a husband who isolates and manipulates his wife with an end goal of institutionalising her.

Dr. Robin Stern, co-founder and associate director for the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, helped bring the term “gaslighting” into public consciousness with her 2007 book “The Gaslight Effect”.

What are the most common tactics used by gaslighters?

  • Denial of reality – lying about things you know are true
  • Projecting – shifting blame and responsibility for their actions onto you, to make you feel guilty
  • Trivialising – making your concerns or feelings seem exaggerated or unimportant; calling you crazy, emotionally unbalanced or too sensitive
  • Twisting the truth – manipulating information or events to create doubt in your mind about what actually happened
  • Withholding information – deliberately keeping information from you, contributing to your sense of confusion

How can you tell you are being gaslighted?

Gaslighters have low self-esteem, avoid accountability, and have a persistent need to feel validated. Primary goal for them is to gain power and control, whether it’s over your behaviour, thoughts, or emotions. Getting control provides the validation they need to feel worthy and superior over you. Over time, this type of manipulation can wear down your self-esteem and self-confidence, leaving you dependent on the person gaslighting you, often overwhelmed, confused, and uncertain about your ability to make decisions on your own.

So what are the signs to look out for?

  • You are always apologising – he/she will regularly place responsibility for their behaviour on your feelings and reactions “I would not treat you this way if you acted differently”
  • You often feel confused – gaslighter will try overriding your recollection of events, convincing you that your perception is inaccurate “That’s not true, you’re imagining things!”
  • You question yourself and your judgement – writing off your thoughts and viewpoints, often using language like “crazy”, “ridiculous”, “stupid”, “paranoid”, “overreacting”
  • You frequently make excuses for your partners’ behaviour – when confronted by friends or family who see the bad behaviour you may go into denial and pretend everything is fine, or come up with excuses such as ” It’s my fault” or “I’m being too sensitive”
  • You gradually feel more and more isolated – by questioning who you can trust a gaslighter is putting you in isolation to only trust him/her.

How to respond to gaslighting?

If you’ve noticed some signs of gaslighting, you can take steps to address it and reclaim your emotional space.

  • Set boundaries – clearly communicate and let your partner know what behaviour is unacceptable.
  • Seek support – talk to friends, family or a therapist about your experiences. Having a support system around you will provide perspective and validation.
  • Take notes – keep a record of incidents, including dates, times, and details. This will be useful if you decide to seek professional help or end the relationship.
  • Nurture your independence – maintain connections outside of the relationship. This can help you resist isolation tactics.
  • Educate yourself – learn more about gaslighting and emotional abuse. Understanding the dynamics can empower you to recognise and address the behaviour.
  • Consider professional help – if the gaslighting persists, seek the guidance of a therapist or counsellor, who can provide support and tools for coping.
  • Evaluate the relationship – if the relationship is affecting your wellbeing it may be time to consider walking away. If necessary, seek help from authorities or support organisations.

Healing from gaslighting is a gradual process, and seeking professional support is a first proactive step toward recovery. Our team of experts, many of whom have a psychology or coaching background, are not only here to help you find new love. We can also offer guidance on how to come to terms with gaslighting, give you tools to begin working through it and to set healthy boundaries in any future relationships. We can help you on your pathway to a more positive, equal and successful long-term future with your new partner, through supporting you and guiding you towards the relationship that you truly deserve, whilst also helping you to avoid negative traits in a partner that you may have unfortunately experienced before.

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