Gaslighting Is Abuse. How To Recognise It.

Gaslighting

Who… Can It Affect?

Gaslighting is an insidious pattern of control, and while it most often occurs in intimate relationships, it can occur in many other contexts.

Intimate Relationships

Gaslighting is not gender-specific, but some researchers indicate that in heterosexual relationships where gaslighting is present, men are more likely to gaslight and women are more likely to experience it.

Child-Parent Relationships

Gaslighting is often a learned behavior that children experience first at home. Gaslighting can occur within the family system, between children and parents.

Medical Relationships

When people seek healthcare treatment, they may be told by healthcare providers that:

“It’s all in your head.”

“There’s nothing wrong with you.”

“You’re a hypochondriac.”

Racial Gaslighting

Racial gaslighting incorporates the same principles of manipulation in intimate partner gaslighting. It is accomplished through perpetuating false or dismissive narratives about the reality and lived experiences of different racial groups in favor of the reality of the dominant power structure.

Political Gaslighting

Gaslighting can be a political strategy. It involves manipulating the sense of reality to amplify power and seek political domination, while using gaslighting tactics to weaken the perception of the opponent.

Institutional Gaslighting

Research into the experience of whistle-blowers indicates in institutions, such as universities, companies, government agencies, religious organizations, and sports organizations, when individuals speak out, they are often traumatized by the emotional manipulation used to keep them quiet.

What… Is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting is manipulative emotional and psychological abuse that causes a person to question their reality, memories, instincts, and, ultimately, their sanity. A person gaslights to obtain power and control, which are classic elements of abuse. Gaslighting often occurs in an intimate partner relationship.

Where… Does The Term Come From?

The term “gaslighting” comes from the 1938 play, “Gaslight,” in which a husband covertly dimmed gas lamps, causing his wife to question her reality and drive her toward madness so he could gain control of her inheritance.

When… Does It Happen?

Gaslighting is subtle, subversive abusive behavior that may go on for years in long-term relationships. One way to detect it is to observe patterns of behavior over time. The following are a few examples.

Lying

People lie to conceal the truth, but with gaslighting, it also manipulates another’s reality and throws them off-balance.

Examples include:

“I didn’t do that.”

“I would never say that.”

“You never saw those texts on my phone.”

Discrediting

People who gaslight discredit others by making up false stories of things that were or were not said. Or, they convince others their partner is crazy, which discredits the partner if they speak out about the abuse.

Examples include:

“You’re crazy.”

“No one will ever believe you.”

“They said they don’t like you.”

Trivialising

People who gaslight will trivialize or minimize a person’s feelings to gain power.

Examples include:

“Calm down.”

“Quit overreacting.”

“You’re being dramatic.”

Withholding

People who gaslight may withhold in the relationship. This may involve a cycle of giving then withholding affection, sex, compliments, money, or even celebrating special occasions.

This cycle introduces confusion and cognitive dissonance and may intermittently activate the reward system in the brain of the partner who is being gaslit. The pattern of intermittent reinforcement is part of trauma bonding.

Diverting

The person who gaslights will change the subject to divert attention from their behavior. They may pretend not to understand, interrupt, or shut down the conversation.

Examples include:

“That’s enough! Just stop talking.”

“That’s not true.”

“Where did you get a crazy idea like that?”

Stereotyping

People who gaslight exploit stereotypes and vulnerabilities, especially in relation to imbalances of power with regard to race, religion, age, sex, gender, and nationality.

One study indicated that women, minorities, immigrants, and marginalized groups are particularly vulnerable to stereotyping by authorities who may set them up to look unstable.

Shifting Blame

A person who gaslights will shift blame to others in order to avoid responsibility.

Examples include:

“It’s all your fault!”

“I wouldn’t have messed up if you hadn’t upset me.”

“Look what you made me do!”

Why… Do People Become Manipulative?

Some possible causes of manipulative behavior include:

Dysfunctional relationships: Dysfunctional relationships during childhood may contribute to unhealthy communication patterns and behavior models.

Personality disorder: Some research shows personality disorders, such as borderline personality disorder or people with narcissistic traits, may be more likely to engage in manipulative behaviours.

History of abuse: A history of certain types of abuse may lead someone to not feel safe communicating their needs directly and can make a person vulnerable to developing manipulative behaviours.

What You Need To Know:

How to Respond

When facing gaslighting, setting boundaries and remaining calm, assertive, and non-reactive may be helpful. Some suggestions of ways to respond include:

“I experienced that differently.”

“I can understand your perspective is different, but I am not imagining things.”

“I get that you were just joking, but what you said was hurtful.”

“I find it really hard to listen when you talk to me like that.”

“We can agree to disagree.”

“I’m going to take a break, because I’m not feeling heard. We can try to discuss this again later.”

“I realise you feel strongly, but my feelings are valid too.”

Some ways to help you cope with manipulative people.

Partner

To manage a manipulative partner, it’s helpful to:

Acknowledge that manipulation tactics are being used in the relationship.

Talk about the impact of those tactics, and be direct in expressing your needs and how both parties can communicate more effectively.

Accept contribution to problems and frame your concerns in a way that shares your perspective without assigning and emphasizing blame.

Set and enforce boundaries. Couples or marriage counseling can be a great way to get an added layer of support.

Taking care of yourself individually through counseling, support from loved ones, or self-care and stress management strategies can help with healing.

Parent

Coping with an emotionally manipulative parent can be tough. Address your concerns calmly and concisely by sharing your perspective on what’s happening and how it impacts the dynamic. Be upfront about what you need and how the relationship can be improved.

If needed, find a trusted individual who can help facilitate the conversation. Family therapy may be a resource to help families identify problems and improve relationships.

Friend

To help manage manipulative behavior in a friendship, be clear about what you need in the relationship and provide helpful solutions to improve the situation. You get to decide what your boundaries are and have the freedom to say “no” if something doesn’t feel right.

Remember, you can always choose to end a friendship or any other kind of relationship if it doesn’t feel healthy for you.

Colleague or Boss

Addressing manipulative behavior in the workplace can be particularly challenging, especially if you fear you are risking losing your job and your livelihood. But it’s important to have an honest conversation about the impact of the behavior and how it impacts you in the workplace.

If you are unable to resolve the issue amongst yourselves, it may be time to inform a supervisor or manager.

Originally published on Verywellhealth.

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