If you have ever dated a narcissist you probably already understand most of what there is to know about gaslighting. For everyone else, it’s challenging to recognize the difference between getting gaslit and a variety of different vibes. The main reason is that most forms of gaslighting are intended to be subtle, and some are intended to be impossible to uncover.
Gaslighting is a common phenomenon in everyday life. Many people do it on accident, or worse some do it on purpose. When people do it on purpose there’s an intended target, and that target is repeatably stabbed in the back. Keep in mind, you can gaslight yourself, but usually, there’s an external antagonist. That antagonist could be a person, a computer program, or a government policy.
What It Means To Gaslight Someone
Gaslighting is a psychological manipulation technique that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a target’s mind, making them question their memory, perception, and sanity. It can be an extremely effective tactic, mainly when used on someone who is already vulnerable or has low self-esteem.
Gaslighting comes from the 1938 stage play “Gaslight,” A husband attempts to drive his wife crazy using various tricks and deceptions. Psychology professor and author Dr. Robin Stern coined the term in her book The Gaslight Effect, also inspired by the movie “Gaslight.” Stern writes that it often happens with narcissistic partners but can exist in other relationships, such as with parents, children, or friends.
How To Recognize
If you want to learn to recognize gaslighting, ask yourself about your current relationship dynamic. Am I talking to a narcissist? If you answered yes, you solved one part of the riddle. Narcissism along with the following behaviors are a pretty good sign of gaslighting.
- Gaslighting is compelled to shift blame onto others to manage. You
- Along with deflecting responsibility, there is a lack of self-awareness.
Gaslighters try to make themselves out to be fantastic individuals. But it’s never real. Maybe they think it’s the only way to have power over someone else, or perhaps it makes them feel better about themselves to put down other people. If you ever call them out on anything you will get the following line:
I feel like you are being overly sensitive towards me. I don’t think anything I’ve said was meant to be hurtful.Gaslighter
But however the gaslighter thinks about their actions, it’s always wrong.
They know how to look good and will tell you their abusive behavior is not a big deal. This means that even if they are caught in a lie, there’s a high probability they will say you imagine things. The gaslighter knows that most people rarely see behind the mask, so it’s easy for him to accuse someone else of being mentally unstable.
One typical example of gaslighting is when an abuser denies or minimizes their abusive behavior instead of blaming the victim for overreacting or making things up. This can make the victim second-guess themselves and start to question their reality. It can also be used in a more general sense, such as when a politician or other figure tries to discredit an opposing view by calling it “fake news” or claiming that the people who hold that view are “crazy.”
If you want to know more about gaslighting the following movies are a good start. Some are classics, and some might surprise you. Of course, movies are an odd medium to convey gaslighting in its proper form because the audience is often in on the joke.
“Gaslight” is a 1944 mystery-thriller film directed by George Cukor and starring Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, and Joseph Cotten. It is based on the 1938 play Gaslight by Patrick Hamilton, which is based on the Victorian novel The Angel of the House by Mrs. Humphry Ward.
The film is about a woman whose husband slowly manipulates her into believing she is losing her mind. The 1944 version of Gaslight was very successful and was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Bergman won the Oscar for Best Actress, and Boyer was nominated for Best Actor.
The Girl On The Train
The Girl On The Train is a story about an obsessive woman who starts to see things she shouldn’t while riding the train. It’s a psychological thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat. This movie is sure to leave you guessing until the very end.
The Bold Type
The Bold Type is a show about three young women working at a magazine. They have to deal with the problems that come with their jobs and their personal lives. The Bold Type is a show that deals with essential topics such as feminism, sexuality, and friendship. One of the characters gaslights her best friend, and we see some of its impacts on her, including an episode where she feels like she’s going crazy while trying to remember what happened so she doesn’t fall apart and can keep working at Scarlet Magazine.
In the movie “Memento” the main character has a condition where he can’t remember anything longer than a few minutes. Two other characters then proceed to manipulate him into doing their dirty work. If you have seen this film you know it doesn’t end well or begin well.
Who Is Affected
Gaslighting affects everyone, but no single type or group gets targeted more than others. It also affects everyone based on past experiences. Some people may notice feeling more anxious, depressed, or isolated, and others may not see any changes to their mental health.
It can take one incident to make the person feel like they are losing their sense of reality; they may believe they are imagining things or are responsible for the bad behavior of others. It’s also possible to go years without realizing you are experiencing a form of gaslighting.
In A Relationship
There are probably many telltale signs of gaslighting in a relationship, but if you feel like someone is trying to convince you that something didn’t happen or say things so often it has no basis, their actions are a big gaslighting flag. When one person has more power than the other, it allows them to control the relationship dynamic and, therefore, the outcome of said relationship.
Sometimes it seems like everyone utilizes gaslighting as a form of control–whether through ignorance or malice–but ultimately, anyone who tries very hard to convince others something didn’t happen (or make them question reality) stands to benefit. It may seem like a viable option at first, but ultimately it is a tool for reactionary types. In other words, there’s no deep thought involved.
In The Workplace
Gaslighting in the workplace is a form of harassment. The harasser manipulates and controls the victim to the point where they no longer trust their memory, perception, or judgment. It can be very subtle and insidious, making it hard for the victim to identify and stop the abuse.
Some signs that you may be experiencing abuse at work include feeling confused, anxious, or hopeless; doubting your abilities or judgment; second-guessing yourself all the time; feeling like you’re losing your grip on reality, and being constantly on edge.
In medicine, gaslighting can take the form of a doctor denying the patient’s experience of their own body. For example, a doctor may tell a patient that their pain is inaccurate or their symptoms are all in their head. This can damage a patient’s mental health and make them feel like losing touch with reality.
How To Stay With Reality
Learn about the different forms of abuse and what they look like.
Become aware of your actions and emotions
Practice positive self-worth
Share your story
How To Heal From Gaslighting
The first step is to talk to someone. It can be challenging to talk about what is happening, but getting help from someone who understands and can offer support is crucial.
Keep a journal. Writing down what is happening can help you see the patterns of abuse and can be a way to release some of the pain you are feeling.
Get out of the toxic environments. This is often the most challenging thing to do, but it is vital to get yourself to safety.
Seek professional help. As mentioned above, medical care can help you recover from a toxic relationship.
Take care of yourself. Taking care of yourself physically and emotionally after a gaslighting relationship is essential, including getting enough rest, eating healthy, and exercising.
Your main takeaway should be not to let anyone control you. That isn’t always easy, but if you keep focused on yourself and maintain open and honest communication with others you can stay off the gaslighting track. As you have learned, there are many reasons and examples of that track ending badly. Don’t gaslight others, and don’t be the victim. Stay safe out there, and thanks for reading.