Updated: Nov 9, 2020
Do you find yourself second-guessing if you’re being manipulated, mentally abused, or slowly going crazy? If you answered yes, keep reading! Someone may be gaslighting you.
What is Gaslighting?
The term gaslighting gets its name from a stage play of 1938, in which a character strategically manipulates small things in his wife’s environment. He intended to convince her and others around that she was insane. Specifically, gaslighting refers to instances when an abuser makes the survivor doubt their sense of reality by making them question their perception, memory, and sanity.
Dr. Robin Stern coined the term ‘The Gaslight Effect’ in 2007 to explain the hidden manipulative patterns occurring in emotionally and psychologically abusive relationships. In intimate relationships, the perpetrators often use this tactic to further imbalance the power dynamic and make their partner second guess themselves when they complain about the perpetrator’s behavior. Gaslighting is considered to be emotional and mental violence.
Signs You're Being Gaslighted
If you're experiencing the following, you're being gaslighted:
• You are frequently told by your partner that ‘you’re too sensitive/emotional,’ ‘you’re overreacting’ when you question them about their hurtful behavior.
• You’re questioning the validity of your experiences and memories more often.
• You start lying to avoid being put-down by your partner or have them twist your reality.
• Your partner flat-out denies certain things happened - when you’re sure you saw something. This deception can reach an extent where they make you feel as if you made it up, imagined, or they’ll question your intelligence.
• Your partner plays the victim and blames you when you try bringing to light their incorrect, abusive, or hopeless behavior or accusations.
• You have to think twice before bringing up a topic of conversation with your partner.
• You feel low, hopeless, and as if you have lost your confidence.
Three Stages of Being in a Gaslighting Relationship
There are three stages of being in a gaslighting relationship. While such a relationship pattern might be hard to spot earlier, it can soon take over your entire life and start preoccupying your feelings and thoughts.
Stage 1: Disbelief
In this stage, your partner says something critical or accuses you of something outrageous, leaving you confused. You question whether you or your partner have misunderstood the situation. However, despite being criticized, you still believe you’re right. You may even get into an argument trying to prove that you are not wrong.
Stage 2: Defense
In this stage, you're trying hard to defend yourself by gathering evidence and attempting to prove you’re not wrong. This is because you no longer feel sure you will be listened to or believed.
Stage 3: Depression
Stage 3 is the most challenging of all three because you believe you’re mistaken and can’t do things right anymore. That’s why you end up accepting your partner’s pessimistic view. You’re too exhausted to argue. You try to do things their way to win their approval and stop the arguments and criticism.
What To Do If You’re Experiencing Gaslighting?
The first and most significant aspect is to remove yourself from being the victim of these manipulative patterns. It’s time to take action. It would be best if you were prepared to meet your partner with resistance.
Here are the five ways by Dr. Stern to create shifts in perspective, which may help you change your partner and your dynamic.
• Decide whether the conversation is a power struggle. If it is a power struggle, opt-out. In a genuine discussion with high emotions, both people listen to each other and acknowledge their concerns. While in a power struggle, the influential person tries to put the other person down while the survivor attempts to defend themselves. Disengage if you find yourself amidst a power struggle.
• Sort out the truth from distortion. Hold on to what you truly feel deep down and stick to your sense of reality.
• Focus on your inner feelings instead of thinking about who is right or wrong. If you feel the accusation made by your partner is real, and you are genuinely sorry about that, then admit your mistake, apologize, and move on. However, if you’re feeling frustrated, attacked, terrified, then something is wrong in your relationship.
•. Identify your gaslight triggers, as well as your partners. It’s not your fault if your partner misbehaves. However, avoiding the predictable situations and topics that set off these chains of interaction is a good idea from the self-preservation point of view.
•. Remember that you can’t control anyone’s opinion, even when you’re right. It is vital to accept that your partner alone has control over their thoughts and actions. Although you may be correct, you cannot do anything to change their beliefs. So, focus on controlling the controllable.
• If things don’t get better after discussing the situation, decide the best course of action. Is it time to make plans to leave, or do you need to set strict parameters?
If the gaslighting behavior has been going on for a while and is not getting better, talk with someone who can help you see things clearer. Get professional help before your confidence has wholly eroded and know that you have control of the life you create.
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