Gaslighting: Is Someone Meddling with Your Perception?
Does the way someone communicates with you make you question your reality? Then, perhaps they are gaslighting you. Possibly, though, you aren't sure if your self-doubt springs from their attempts to muddle your perception. When you understand what gaslighting is, you can identify whether you are its victim and improve your life.
What is gaslighting?
Gaslighting involves manipulative attempts to persuade someone they're illogical or mistaken about something, although they're not. According to the relationship support counselors at Relate, most everyday gaslighting entails pettiness, where the manipulator doesn't want people to see them as wrong.
The average gaslighter might insist you've made a mistake or say your opinions are invalid and you are feebleminded. The idea is to shift blame if they're at fault or give themselves an advantage over you.
In severe cases, gaslighting alters an individual's perception of reality and creates damaging self-doubt. It can reduce self-esteem, knock confidence, and be controlling.
Is Gaslighting A form of emotional abuse?
When somebody gaslights because they want to control another person, they are emotionally abusing. Even if gaslighting stems from narrow-mindedness rather than the desire to harm, it hurts and is unacceptable.
What are the effects of gaslighting on a relationship?
Gaslighting can make you question everything from your memory to your intelligence. Repeat attempts to persuade you that you are weak-minded might make you imagine the manipulator must be right about you, and you could depend on them to help you see sense.
Gaslighting damages relationships. An imbalance of power evolves, whereby the manipulator takes control. The gaslighted person may be anxious, apologetic, and nervous. They might also feel frustrated and hopeless and worry they are inadequate.
If someone gaslights you, you might know something is wrong, but confusion stops you from figuring out the cause. Gaslighted individuals sometimes lose a sense of identity and feel numb.
How do you know if someone is Gaslighting you?
The best way to know if someone's gaslighting you is to look for signs. Gaslighters might display the following behaviors:
Insist you do or say things when you don't.
Say that you are over-sensitive or stupid when you convey your opinions.
Trivialize your needs when you express them.
Tell people you are emotionally unstable.
Reshape events to make you look guilty.
Refuse to see your view.
Deny your memory of events.
What to do if someone is gaslighting you
If you are unsure whether someone is gaslighting you, imagine you look at the situation as an outsider. Viewing what is happening this way will help you see events unhampered by strong emotions that can muddy the picture. Tell a couple of close friends about your fears and get their opinions too.
Take a scientific approach to the situation and explore the potential gaslighter's behavior. Is it an intentional attempt to control you? Or might they have issues regarding staying in control whether or not you are involved?
Intentional gaslighting is cruel and malicious, and you may benefit from seeking professional help if the gaslighter is your partner or someone else you see often. Unconscious gaslighting can still damage you, but the gaslighter doesn't intend to cause harm. In such circumstances, talking to them can help.
Discuss the problem
Address unconscious gaslighting, or it will continue. Your partner, or whoever gaslights you, might be unaware their behavior hurts you. So, tell them how you feel. Explain the way they communicate with you damages your relationship. Talk when you are both calm and available and outline the behavior that upsets you.
For example, "When you say I’m oversensitive, the thought I have is that I am not loved, and I feel small”. Framing your sentences like this helps the gaslighter see the exact behavior you find unacceptable and its consequences. It also makes them think about their intentions and reminds them to take responsibility for their behavior.
Tell them how you want them to communicate with you. "What I need from you is validation of my feelings when I express them. Responding this way will help me recognize you care for me and accept me."
If the gaslighter reacts negatively, remind them your relationship is at stake and ask them if it matters to them. Be patient if the individual is willing to change. Open, mature communication is a skill that takes time to master.
When a gaslighter refuses to alter their behavior, consider whether you want them in your life. Healthy relationships involve kindness and support, and someone who knowingly gaslights you won't offer these qualities.
Gaslighting is hurtful, and you need not put up with it. Sometimes, a perpetrator is unconscious of the damaging effects of their behavior, and it's worth enlightening them. You might help them improve their communication skills and save your relationship. Other gaslighters are aware of their actions and mean harm and doubtless you can do without them.
References: Healthline.com/health/mental-health/emotional-manipulation#outlook, (signs of gaslighting). Relate.org.uk/relationship-help/help-relationships/communication/gaslighting-what-are-signs-and-how-can-it-be-addressed, (definition and psychology of gaslighting).