By Kelly Graham, MSW, RSW
You may or may not have heard of gaslighting before. No, I’m not talking about a light that runs on gas, or your gas light that comes on in your car. What I’m talking about is a form of psychological and emotional abuse. While you may have never have heard of the name before, it is more common than you probably think.
Gaslighting is a manipulative maneuver that people use to get you to question your reality. They do this as a way to control others and gain power over them. When the abuser has power, they can make the victim feel like they are the ones responsible for the abuse. It happens slowly, so the victim doesn’t realize what is happening. It may begin by the person telling lies or denying certain things you know to be true. But, because they seem so confident, you start to question whether what you know to be true, is actually true.
A simple example of this is if you were to move a lamp to a different table, then someone who knows the room well, comes in and asks why the lamp is moved. You look at them like they are crazy and deny the fact that the light was moved, insisting that it’s always been there. The other person then begins to wonder if they are wrong and the light has been there the whole time. Once somebody begins to question something they know to be true, then they begin to question other things in their life.
While it may start out as something small that you might brush off, it can get worse and worse to the point where you are questioning your whole reality. You begin to feel like you’ve gone crazy. You feel like you can’t trust yourself anymore. You become vulnerable, and this is when the abuser takes control. They control your perception of reality and can make it their own. You begin to believe what they want you to believe.
There are a few techniques the gaslighter may use:
The abuser may use some or all of these techniques to try and gain power over you. You may not even notice what is happening. While gaslighting can occur in a variety of situations, it is more common in romantic relationships. This is another reason why we don’t question what is happening. We want to believe that the person we love is good and wouldn’t hurt us. We trust them and don’t believe that they would ever do anything bad to us. It may be hard to recognize it as abuse because the abuse and effects aren’t physical. We also question everything we think, feel, and experience because of the abuse so even if it is recognized, it is often second-guessed.
Signs you may be getting gaslighted:
Gaslighting can have damaging effects on the victim. Depending on the severity of the abuse, it can cause depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, feelings of fear, shame, and guilt, suicidal thoughts, and even post-traumatic stress disorder.
It may be hard to tell if you’re a victim, but if you suspect you are being gaslighted, there’s always hope. The first step is learning about what it is and how it can impact you. Here are a few other steps that you can take:
Remember that you are not alone and you are not crazy. You deserve to be happy in life, and there is always help available if you need.
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