Gaslighting is a common phenomenon in everyday life. The most accepted gaslighting meaning is questioning one’s reality, but the phrase can mean more than that.
Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse that makes you doubt yourself because of an external antagonist. That antagonist could be a person, computer software, or government policy.
Gaslighting movies and popular culture often depict a situation where one person tries to control another. Sometimes there is hidden manipulation, and sometimes it’s obvious there’s something wrong.
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 “gaslighting” in her book The Gaslight Effect, also inspired by the movie “Gaslight.”
Stern writes that gaslighting often happens with narcissist partners but can exist within other relationships, such as parents and children or even friends.
Related: Famous Narcissist List
Recognizing Emotional Abuse
If you want to learn to recognize gaslighting, ask yourself this about your current relationship dynamic. Am I talking to a narcissist? If you answered yes, you are running into the definition of emotional abuse.
If someone constantly tells you how sexy or beautiful or intelligent or good-looking they find certain parts of your body, face, etc., they are probably just feeding their fragile self-image.
- Gaslighting is compelled to shift blame onto others to manage.
- Along with deflecting responsibility, there is a lack of realizing its own perceptions.
I feel like you are being overly sensitive towards me. I don’t think anything I’ve said was meant to be hurtful.A Gaslighter
Gaslighters try to make themselves out to be fantastic individuals. 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.
But however the gaslighter thinks about their actions, it’s always wrong.
- They know how to make themselves 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 that they will say you are imagining 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.
They may do things behind your back, call you names, or spread rumors about you, and it’s all a part of their abusive relationship with themselves.
Another spot on gaslighting phrase is to say they act like they love you one day and hate you the next. Those types of psychological manipulation make it hard for anyone to defend you because nobody can see these actions.
Related: Love Bombing Meaning
Of course, there’s “Gaslight” (1944), a gaslighting movie where a husband tries very hard to convince his wife she is insane.
The Girl On The Train
Another great example would be “The Girl On The Train,” which has so many layers of hidden realities based on unreliable narrators at play.
The Bold Type
There’s a gaslighting show on Freeform called “The Bold Type.”
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.
Effects Of Gaslighting Someone
The effects of gaslighting are different for everyone.
It could affect anyone, 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.
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 sign.
The trademark of a gaslighting relationship is a power struggle (of any kind).
When one person has more power than the other, it allows them to control the relationship dynamic and, therefore, the outcome of said relationship.
If you aren’t aware that your new boyfriend has low emotional intelligence, you will feel confused when the fake mask slips and they let their true colors show before your eyes.
Mask slippage is where the problems always start because you are left wondering why they act a particular way.
There are a few examples of gaslighting in politics. One example is when Kellyanne Conway, an advisor to Donald Trump, said he won the election because he was a “change candidate.” This is an example of gaslighting because it is not true – Trump lost the popular vote by a wide margin.
Another example of gaslighting in politics is when Trump tweeted that he had “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” This is an example of gaslighting because there is no evidence to support Trump’s claim that millions of people voted illegally.
Gaslighting can also be seen in how Trump has attacked the media. He has called the press “the enemy of the people” and said that they are “fake news.” These are examples of gaslighting because Trump is trying to discredit the sources of information that he doesn’t like.
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.
Gaslighting may seem like a viable option at first, but ultimately gaslighting 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 psychological abuse. The abuser 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 gaslighting 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 that their symptoms are all in their head. This can be very damaging to a patient’s mental health and make them feel like they are losing touch with reality.
Quotes are frequently used to show the manipulation and mind games during gaslighting relationships.
Saving Your Mental Health
Some ways to deal with gaslighting:
- Learn about the different forms of gaslighting and what they look like.
- Become aware of your actions and emotions
- Practice positive self worth
- Share your story
Related: Guilt Trips Meaning
How To Recover
There are many support groups available for people who have been in abusive relationships and therapists who specialize in helping people recover from these types of hurtful behaviors.
There are a few things you can do to help heal:
1. The first step is to talk to someone. It can be challenging to talk about what is happening, but it is crucial to get help from someone who understands mental health and can offer support.
2. 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.
3. Get out of the toxic environments. This is often the most difficult thing to do, but it is important to get yourself to safety.
4. Seek professional help. As mentioned above, medical care can help you recover from an abusive relationship.
5. Take care of yourself. It is essential to take care of yourself physically and emotionally after a gaslighting relationship, including getting enough rest, eating healthy, and exercising.
How To Correct Abusive Behavior
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to stopping gaslighting, as the best way to do so will vary depending on the situation and relationship.
However, some tips on stopping being a gaslighter include respecting boundaries, communicating effectively, and seeking professional help.
The best way to think of gaslighting is as a situation in which your reality is questioned by someone or something else. To second guess or have any self doubt is a risk to your mental health.