If you have found yourself in recurring situations where someone has consistently challenged your perception of reality, dismissed your feelings, or provoked you enough to distrust your intuition, you may be on the receiving end of gaslighting. Gaslighting is beyond the realm of harmless teasing. No matter how subtle, gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse.
The term gaslighting originates from a play turned film, where a husband notoriously dims the gas lights on and off until his wife loses her sanity. In the film, the abusive husband works steadily to create shifts in her environment and convinces her she has simply imagined it. This manipulation seems to have no underlying agenda other than to inflict disorientation and cruel suffering on their victim. So, why do people gaslight? Emotional and psychological abusers often gaslight their victims for control.
If an abuser works hard enough to make their victim question their reality, develop feelings of hopelessness, or successfully deter them from the truth about a situation, they achieved a form of control. In fact, many other forms of abuse also share the theme of control.
Achieving control through the deterioration of someone else’s mental state is characteristic of narcissistic behaviour. Narcissists will challenge someone’s perception of their own reality, and leave them questioning their sanity. If you are a victim of gaslighting, you may find yourself rehearsing your experiences and the details of an event. This preparation is an unfortunate defense mechanism that develops after experiencing consistent gaslighting.
A person who gaslights others does so to gain control of the narrative. These abusive trends lead to experiences of feeling invalidated all the way to feeling completely unraveled. So, what are some examples of gaslighting?
Here are a few common gaslighting phrases:
- “You’re being too sensitive”. This phrase shifts blame to the victim, rejects accountability, and dismisses the victim’s feelings.
- “You’re crazy/paranoid”. This phrase is a common gaslighting phrase that challenges and even insults a person’s mental health. If you suspect someone is being dishonest, this phrase is a common deflection which further stirs the pot.
- “I never said that/ did that”. The denial of a memory or experience of another person can be a form of gaslighting. This phrase is often coupled with a refusal to reflect honestly about past behaviours and demonstrates an inability to be accountable.
Manipulating victims to feel they lack a grip on reality is a strategy to isolate them and create dependency. If successful in planting seeds of doubt, an abuser can circumvent even a person’s deepest intuition and prevent them from leaving the abusive relationship. If you think you are experiencing gaslighting, reach out to a professional for help to take back control of your life. If you feel a push back when trying to self-advocate in moments you suspect gaslighting, these moments might indicate you are on the right track. If you think or feel you’re being controlled, it might be because you are. Gaslighting is all about control.