You may have heard of the expression ‘gaslighting’, but what does it mean? Unfortunately, the likelihood is at some point in your life you may have known a few gas-lighters… it’s common.
The term is from the movie Gaslight, where a husband psychologically manipulates his wife into thinking she is going ‘crazy’. He did this by deliberately dimming the gaslights in their house. When she questioned why the lights were so dim he would tell her she was imagining it. As she started to believe this he had achieved his goal to ‘make’ her doubt herself.
How gaslighting starts
More often than not you won’t even begin to notice it happening. That’s because the gas-lighter manipulates in a covert disguise of kindness, compliments and gifts. This is known as ‘love bombing’. Gas lighting is more common in romantic relationships, but can also happen within families, friendships and the work place.
Over time the gas-lighter will start to make subtle, negative comments about you that start to make you feel lesser. As this continues, you feel more insecure about your thoughts, and often question your own worth. The gas-lighter feels more in control of you through this slow change. They tactically may even accuse you of gaslighting them to confuse you further. Remember the gas-lighter has an intentional strategy. Which they deliver slowly.
Gaslighting over time
Over time gaslighting can negatively affect you. You might lose your sense of identity perception and worth or feel inferior and confused. This is because the foundations of who you are being undermined. This can make you debilitated by your own fear and vulnerability. It can also lead to high levels of anxiety, depression and even breakdowns.
Listen to your brain and body
When subconscious messages start to become conscious, a part of your brain (amygdala) can warn you of danger. Initially, you may be confused as to whether the danger is real or perceived. However, using the front part of your brain (cortex) can help you regain your intuition. At the end of the day, gaslighting is toxic psychological abuse, and accepting this is happening to you can be tough.
How you can help yourself
- Equip yourself with an understanding of what gaslighting is and how it can play out
- Gas-lighters are master manipulators, don’t feel ashamed that they have drawn you in
- Talk to other, they may have noticed similar tactics being dealt by the gas-lighter
- Focus on your feelings, rather than what the gas-lighter is telling you is right or wrong
- Try not to react or retaliate, it’s unlikely the gas-lighter will back down, the power struggle ultimately is theirs, not yours
- Listen to your body, gut and mind
- It’s ok to end/leave an abusive relationship and ok to get help to do so