Science, Art, Litt, Science based Art & Science Communication
Q: My friends say my boyfriend is gaslighting me. I am not certain what it is. How can I find out? and most importantly what can I do about it if this is true?
Krishna: Oh my! Okay some people are so naive they trust everybody and can't realize the dangerous situation they are in. Now let me explain.
The term gaslighting comes from a 1938 play by Patrick Hamilton, known in America as "Angel Street" and later developed into the film "Gas Light" by Alfred Hitchcock (3). In the suspense film, a manipulative husband tries to make his wife think she is losing her mind by making subtle changes in her environment, including slowly and steadily dimming the flame on a gas lamp. Not only does he disrupt her environment and make her believe she is insane, but he also abuses and controls her, cutting her off from family and friends.
Gaslighting is "psychological manipulation of a person usually over an extended period of time that causes the victim to question the validity of their own thoughts, perception of reality, or memories and typically leads to confusion, loss of confidence and self-esteem, uncertainty of one's emotional or mental stability, and a dependency on the perpetrator"(1).
For instance a routinely cheating husband when confronted with evidence tells his wife "she is “crazy,” “jealous” and “paranoid”. He often uses the words, "making things up", "that never happened", "misunderstanding" and “irrational,” to describe her behaviour. He uses them in such a way that she gets confused, doubts her own analysis, behaviour and perception of things. If he says these thigns before others, this will have a tremendous effect on his wife. Then she starts believing him and thinks she is really at fault and not him!
People who gaslight spread rumours and gossip about you to others. They may pretend to be worried about you while subtly telling others that you seem emotionally unstable or "crazy." Unfortunately, this tactic can be extremely effective and many people side with the abuser or bully without knowing the full story. Additionally, someone who engages in gaslighting may lie to you and tell you that other people also think this about you. These people may have never said a bad thing about you, but the person who is gaslighting you will make every attempt to get you to believe they do(2).
Lying and distortion are the cornerstones of gaslighting behaviour. Even when you know they are not telling the truth, they can be very convincing. In the end, you start to criticize yourself.
Gaslighting is a technique that undermines a person's perception of reality. When someone is gaslighting you, you may second-guess yourself, your memories, recent events, and perceptions. After communicating with the person gaslighting you, you may be left feeling dazed and wondering if there is something wrong with you. You may be encouraged to think you are actually to blame for something or that you're just being too sensitive.
Gaslighters manipulate your emotions a lot. Your emotions allow the person who is gaslighting you to gain power over you. They might make statements like: "Calm down," "You're overreacting," or "Why are you so sensitive?" All of these statements minimize how you're feeling or what you're thinking and communicate to you that you're wrong! People who engage in bullying and emotional abuse are notorious for denying that they did anything wrong.
Blame-shifting is another common gaslighting tactic. Every discussion you have is somehow twisted to where you are to blame for something that occurred. Even when you try to discuss how the abuser's behavior makes you feel, they're able to twist the conversation so that you end up questioning if you are the cause of their bad behavior. For example, they may claim that if only you behaved differently, they would not treat you the way that they do.
Gaslighting can confuse you and cause you to question your judgment, memory, self-worth, and overall mental health. It manipulated reality and push you into a state of high confusion and disorientation.
A woman told a psychiatrist that her husband tends to retell stories in ways that are in his favour. For instance, if he pushed her against the wall during their fights and they 're discussing it later, he twists the story and says she stumbled and he tried to steady her, which is what caused her to fall into the wall!
In such a situation you may begin to doubt your memory of what happened. Encouraging confusion or second-guessing on your part is exactly the intention.
Gaslighting can include a range of tactics including lying, distracting, minimizing, denying, and blaming. When you are dealing with someone who uses gaslighting as a manipulation tool, pay close attention to what they actually do, not the words they use.
Being subjected to gaslighting can cause anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns including addiction and thoughts of suicide. For this reason, it's important to recognize when you're experiencing gaslighting.
Ask yourself if any of the following things are happening when you are with your boyfriend ....
If you identify with any of these signs of gaslighting, it's important that you seek professional help right away. More importantly, dump the person who is gaslighting you. You can never be happy with manipulators and control freaks.
1. Definition of gaslighting. Merriam-Webster.
2. Ahern K. Institutional betrayal and gaslighting: Why whistle-blowers are so .... J Perinat Neonatal Nurs. 2018;32(1):59-65. doi:10.1097/JPN.0000000000000306
3. Thomas L. Gaslight and gaslighting. The Lancet Psychiatry. 2018;5(2):117-118. doi:10.1016/S2215-0366(18)30024-5