Gaslighting has become an increasingly common topic among young people, especially with mental health becoming better understood. Moreover, the topic of gaslighting has appeared in popular media more often. Examples include movies like the Girl on the Train, the Netflix series Maid, and the reality show The Bachelorette. This kind of representation is essential as it ensures that awareness of unhealthy relationships of this kind is spreading. This allows individuals of every age to avoid them and have a better chance of getting out of them when they find themselves living in them.
Recognizing Gaslighting Abuse
An individual being gaslighted is being manipulated to experience self-doubt and confusion by their abuser. The goal of their abuser is to exert control and power over the individual by distorting their reality and causing them to feel uncertain about their intuition and judgment. The origin of the term is from a play originally performed in 1938. Known during its stage days by the name Angel Street, it would later be adapted into a film by Alfred Hitchcock under the name Gaslight. The film’s plot involved a man convincing his wife that she was losing her mind. His goal was to steal her jewelry collection from the attic.
As he searched the attic, he would turn on the gas lights. This would cause the pressure in the pipes fueling the lights in the house to drop briefly, causing all the lights to flicker. When she asked him about this, he would tell her she imagined things. Ultimately, this would lead her to question her perceptions and memories about events, leading her to lean more and more on him to define her reality.
These kinds of exchanges are a standard in relationships of this kind. Over time the abused individual begins to lose faith in their ability to determine reality from fiction and becomes dependent on their abuser. Not all gaslighting takes place in the context of romantic relationships. This abuse can happen in friendships, familial relationships, and workplace relationships.
Some common signs of gaslighting include:
- Denial of behaviors or events, even in the presence of incontrovertible proof
- An insistence on their version of events, that an event never happened, and that others’ memory of events is incorrect.
- The spreading rumors or gossip about you or insisting that others are doing so.
- Deflection when being confronted with their lies or gaslighting behavior
- Attempts to smooth things over with words that don’t match their behaviors
- Minimizing their behavior by twisting events
- Insisting that their hurtful behaviors were a joke or that you’re too sensitive
- Isolating you from friends or family that attempt to highlight their gaslighting behaviors
What To Do If You Suspect You’re Being Gaslighting
If you suspect you are being gaslighted, help is available. It’s essential to separate yourself from the situation long enough to gain perspective and to get the opinion of a qualified mental health professional. The road ahead may be difficult, as gaslighters rarely admit to their wrongdoing, making it difficult for their victims to break free and move on.