Gaslighting, a form of psychological abuse, is a manipulative technique used by an individual or a group of people to control another individual or people. In the long run, the victim of gaslighting finds it difficult to trust themselves on anything thereby relying on the gaslighter for guidance or emotional assistance. Unknowingly, they give their power of control to the manipulator trusting them to help them make sense of things, and what to do (and, not to do).
The manipulator will have attained their objective when they destabilize the essence of the victim. This is established when the victim begins questioning their own sanity, what everyone is saying, their perception of reality, what is happening around them, and their memories. In short, they have been brainwashed that they can't draw a line between reality and illusion.
In an article entitled, 'How to Recognize and Get Help,' published on the medical website, Healthline, Susan York Morris states, "People who gaslight become experts at pushing your buttons, and they know your sensitiveness and vulnerabilities and use that knowledge against you. They make you doubt yourself, your judgment, your memory, and even your sanity."
Dictators and cult leaders are particularly fond of using manipulative tactics to brainwash people. Mixing lies and truth, they get hold of people's minds, and when successful, can control people at will.
This form of psychological abuse is mostly prevalent in intimate relationships (thought it can happen in any form of relationship including friendship).
Gaslighting doesn't occur instantly. It takes time before the abuser takes control of their victim's mind by using various manipulating tactics. National Domestic Violence Hotline (US) states, "Gaslighting typically happens very gradually in a relationship; in fact, the abusive partner's actions may seem harmless at first. Overtime, however, these abusive patterns continue and a victim can become confused, anxious, isolated, and depressed, and they can lose all sense of what is actually happening. Then they start relying on the abusive partner more and more to define reality, which creates a very difficult situation to escape."
Causes of Gaslighting
Gaslighting is a behaviour that a person learns by watching others, or having had experienced it while growing up. Even though some may not know they're gaslighting others (manipulative), the underline reason for their behaviour is to be in control of other people and/or their own.
According to Medical News Today, another cause of gaslighting is if a person has personality disorders, such as narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).
Symptoms of gaslighting
The following signs are a mark that you or someone you know is being gaslighted. If that's the case, you should seek the assistance of a psychologist, psychiatrist or therapist.
- You are no longer confident about yourself. Additionally, you have become more anxious than was the case.
- You often apologize to your partner even when it's evident you didn't wrong them in any way.
- You sense something is wrong, but are unable to identify what it is. This leaves you in a state of confusion.
- So as to avoid confrontation that may ensue from your friends or family members, you withhold providing them with information about your abusive partner.
- You feel like you're not doing anything right - everything you do is wrong.
- When people question your partner's behaviour, you make excuses for them. You defend them even though it's evident your partner is in the wrong, or is abusive. You don't agree with others that your partner is abusive, or try to provide a justifiable for their abuse on you.
- You always thing you're the one to be blamed for the things that didn't go well. You think it's your fault that you made a mistake or did something to warrant your partner's anger, and so on.
- You don't feel you are the same person you used to be. You have changed a lot, and not for the better.
- You find it difficult to make decisions, even simple ones.
- You are uncertain about yourself. You can't trust yourself resulting from the confused state you are in.
- You are no longer sociable as you used to be, or you become more withdrawn from your friends and loved ones.
- You feel helpless, hopeless, and worthless. You no longer feel joyous in the activities you used to do. They no longer thrill you, and if they do, not much.
The Manipulative Techniques Used by Gaslighter
Some of the tactics they use to gain control of their partners are:
- Filling them with lies. It reaches a point the target can't tell whether their abusive partner ever tells anything true.
- They deny or blatantly refuse they said something.
- They engage their partners in conversations that question the reality of things e.g. the media, people, their partner's family members. While there's nothing wrong with this, the abuser uses this chance to confuse their partner on several things. As a victim, you no longer know what to believe.
- They will reinforce the notion everyone is a liar. You shouldn't listen to them. You friends, the media, the government, even your boss.
- They accuse you of having done something, or of not having done it.
- They blame you for not being considerate to them, for abusing them, siding with others and not them, and so on.
- They will praise you which will throw you off guard. You might think your partner is not bad at all.
- They make you believe you are crazy (or insane). In fact, they will tell you that your friends think you're crazy. And, they can prove that.
- They alienate you from your family members and loved ones by talking I'll of them. This is to prevent you from seeking their help.
Many people seek to attain power and control over others. Even though they know a relationship is based on mutual respect, gaslighters bypass that important element in a relationship. They don't care how their partners feel, the psychological damage they've caused, or future consequences of their behaviour.
Millicent Okello from Nairobi, Kenya on October 09, 2020:
The manipulative techniques
They accuse you of having done something, or of not having done it. This is one of the main reason people fail in relationships.
Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on October 08, 2020:
It's entirely a new word for me. Even though these tactics are used by people, I considered it is a way of mental torturing. Thanks for sharing all these facts of Gaslighting.
Alianess Benny Njuguna (author) from Kenya on October 07, 2020:
Those who lack self-confidence or esteem become easy prey for narcissists or manipulators. It becomes easy for them to trust the abusers, even though at times they may know they're being lied to.
I love that quote: Know yourself, love yourself, and trust yourself. This way, one want fall in their trap.
dashingscorpio from Chicago on October 06, 2020:
I imagine it's no coincidence the symptoms of gaslighting are the same for those who lack confidence/self-esteem to begin with!
People who don't love themselves are easily drawn toward narcissistic types because they admire their perceived confidence, talents/skills, achievements, or whatever that makes them stand out. They want to be close to those in the limelight!
The person with love self-esteem believes if she/he can befriend or date the narcissist who they deem to be "special" that would mean they too must be "special" by association.
It's also easy to blindly (follow/believe) someone you admire.
Know yourself, Love yourself, Trust yourself.
Self-esteem is a gift you give yourself!
If something doesn't feel right to you it's probably not right for you.
No one is "stuck" with anyone. Suffering is optional.