“Gaslighting: What Every Woman Needs to Know About Emotional Abuse”
In college, I dated an abuser who would often gaslight me. I remember feeling confused, hurt, and with each confrontation, my self-esteem continued to drop. As victims often do, I blamed myself and because I was told my reactivity really me being “too emotional”, I fell into a terrible cycle of owning the abuse as my worth and because quite depressed. Thank goodness I had a good friend who took notice of what was happening. She advises me to reach out to the on-campus counseling center and there I began learning how to seek out healthy relationships and set healthy boundaries.
Gaslighting is a sinister form of emotional abuse that can be used to manipulate someone into questioning their reality, memory, and sanity. It is a serious issue and victims often find it difficult to recognize, but it is important to understand the signs and learn how to avoid it. Gaslighting is typically thought to be contained to relationships with narcissists or partners of domestic violence. However, today we see gaslighting from everything in advertising, the news outlets, and even in politics. It is important understand what gaslighting is, how to recognize it, and how to seek help.
What is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a psychological technique used by abusers to make their victims question their own sanity. It can be used in a variety of situations, including personal relationships, work environments, and as we have seen worldwide – even in politics. The term “gaslighting” comes from the 1938 play and 1944 film “Gaslight,” in which a husband manipulates his wife into believing she is going insane by slowly dimming the gaslights in their home. In more recent times, singers and authors have begun highlighting gaslighting in their works. Natalie Maines of The Chicks co-wrote a song about gaslighting and many believe the lyrics are based on Natalie Maines’s experience with her ex-husband. Taylor Swift’s creative project, All Too Well, The Short Film is a video and song about a toxic relationship filled with gaslighting.
Gaslighting can take many forms. It often involves the abuser denying their behavior or making the victim doubt their own memory or perception of events. The abuser may also use psychological tactics such as withholding information, twisting the truth, or making false accusations. Victims may be called, “dramatic, crazy, forgetful” or other terms. In domestic violence we often see that abusers will isolate victims by telling them friends and loved ones are talking about the victim behind their backs and that only the abuser really loves the victim. Over time, gaslighting can erode the victim’s sense of self-worth and lead to feelings of confusion, anxiety, and depression.
How to Recognize Gaslighting
Recognizing gaslighting can be challenging, as it often involves subtle manipulations that can be difficult to pinpoint. Sometimes the manipulation can be so slight that the victim dismisses it, questions their reactivity, or tries to justify the reason for it. However, there are several signs to look out for that may indicate that you are being gaslit. These signs include:
- Second-guessing yourself: If you find yourself doubting your own memory, perception, or emotions, it may be a sign that you are being gaslit. For example, if someone tells you that you said or did something that you don’t remember, it may be a sign of gaslighting.
- Feeling confused or disoriented: Gaslighting can be disorienting, as it involves the abuser manipulating your sense of reality. You may feel like you’re going crazy or like you can’t trust your own judgment.
- Feeling like you’re walking on eggshells: If you’re afraid of upsetting someone or saying the wrong thing, it may be a sign that you’re being gaslit. The abuser may use your fear to control you and make you doubt yourself.
- Feeling isolated: Gaslighting can be isolating, as the abuser may try to turn other people against you or make you feel like you can’t trust anyone.
How to Avoid Gaslighting
Avoiding gaslighting can be challenging, as it often involves relationships that are difficult to leave or change. However, there are several steps you can take to protect yourself from gaslighting, including:
- Trusting your instincts and intuition: If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Trust your instincts and pay attention to any red flags that may indicate that you’re being gaslit.
- Setting boundaries: Establish clear boundaries with the person who is gaslighting you. Let them know that their behavior is unacceptable and that you won’t tolerate it.
- Seeking support: Talk to friends, family, or a therapist about your experiences. Having someone who believes you and supports you can be empowering and validating.
- Taking care of yourself: Gaslighting can be emotionally exhausting. Make sure to take care of yourself by getting enough sleep, eating well, and engaging in activities that bring you joy.
- Educate yourself: If you believe you are being gaslit, research what the signs Try googling terms associated with gaslighting and emotional/psychological abuse. Many times we pick partners who have similar traits to our own abusive family systems. It may have been normalized in your family system and so you believe everyone moves in the world this way. More than half (51%) of adults who were abused as children experienced domestic abuse in later life, new analysishas revealed.
How to Seek Help
If you’re experiencing gaslighting, it’s important to seek help. Gaslighting can be emotionally abusive and can have long-term effects on your mental health. Here are some resources to help you get the support you need:
- Talk to a trusted friend or family member: Sometimes it can be helpful to talk to someone you trust about what’s going on. They may be able to provide support and help you see the situation more clearly.
- Consider seeing a therapist: A therapist can provide a safe and confidential space for you to talk about your experiences and feelings. They can also help you develop coping strategies and work on building self-esteem.
- Join a support group: There are many support groups for survivors of gaslighting and emotional abuse. Joining one of these groups can help you connect with others who have had similar experiences and provide you with a supportive community.
- Contact a hotline: If you are in an abusive situation and need immediate help, you can contact a domestic violence hotline. They can provide you with resources and support.
Remember, you don’t have to go through this alone. Seeking help is a sign of strength and can help you break free from the cycle of gaslighting and emotional abuse. Gaslighting is a severe and harmful form of emotional abuse that can leave you feeling confused, anxious, and powerless. It’s important to be aware of the signs of gaslighting and to trust your instincts. If you think you might be experiencing gaslighting, it’s important to seek help and support. Remember, you deserve to be treated with respect and kindness.
- Stern, S. (2019). Gaslighting: Recognize Manipulative and Emotionally Abusive People–and Break Free. Adams Media.
- Dorpat, T. L. (1996). Gaslighting, the Double Whammy, Interrogation, and Other Methods of Covert Control in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis. Jason Aronson.
- “Gaslighting.” National Domestic Violence Hotline, www.thehotline.org/resources/gaslighting/.
- “What is Gaslighting?” The National Domestic Violence Hotline, www.thehotline.org/2014/05/what-is-gaslighting/.
- Sarkis, S. (2018). Gaslighting: How to Recognize Manipulative and Emotionally Abusive People–and Break Free. Da Capo Lifelong Books.
- Evans, P. (2021). The Verbally Abusive Relationship, Expanded Third Edition: How to Recognize It and How to Respond. Adams Media.