ow to know you’re being misled into submission to your power
The term “gaslighting” is defined by psychologists as manipulation to sow doubt in someone’s objective perception of reality. The goal of gaslighting is to convince a partner, a relative, a friend, a colleague, or an interlocutor that her/his opinion is inadequate to the situation or the generally accepted standards.
The term “gaslighting” stuck in society and professional terminology after the success of the British play Gas Light back in 1938 and its subsequent film adaptations. In the story, the heroine’s husband rearranges and hides things in their shared home to give the impression that she is losing her memory and her mind. In the evenings, the gaslight in the house dims slightly, but the villain convinces his wife that it’s just her imagination, while he redirects the light power to another part of the house where he’s looking for hidden jewels.
How to tell if you are being gaslit
Experts consider gaslighting to be a form of psychological abuse, the main purpose of which is to devalue a person’s behaviour, opinion or intention through ridicule, accusation, intimidation and trivial indifference. An experienced gaslighting practitioner is always ready:
To twist the situation to make it look like you are to blame;
Make you question your emotional stability, memory, intelligence, adequacy, age and physiological competence;
deny feelings and facts that are important to you, not wanting to take them seriously and provide support.
“In essence, gaslighting is always about the desire for power and control, the need to get the upper hand and avoid responsibility,” explains psychologist and trauma specialist Iren Thomson. – The gaslighter is always right and his victim is always the opposite. The reason for the pressure may be the inability to cope with emotions or low self-esteem, which is uncomfortable gaslighted, and he seeks to assert himself at your expense. Such behavior cannot be justified, but gaslighting can also be unconscious. Those who have internalized the manner of control in relationships from a young age are most likely unable to realize how negative their influence on their partner is. Some torment those around them for so long that they elevate gaslighting to a survival strategy.“
Here are a few signs to look out for to identify (or not) the victim of gaslighting.
1. You are losing yourself
Of course, every relationship has its issues that hint to us from time to time that it’s time to rethink our behaviour. However, when you start questioning your own needs, interests and vision of reality to the point where you seem to lose your identity, it’s a clear sign of gaslighting. Moreover, it is the most damaging aspect of this format of communication.
2. Not being heard (or not wanting to be heard).
If you consistently find that in relationship discussions and other serious conversations your partner interrupts you, makes fun of your points of view or listens half-heartedly, take this as a signal to think about your compatibility. “If you’re trying to get your point across to your partner by talking or writing long messages instead of expressing them directly, you’re looking for ways to get through to your loved one by adapting to gaslighting,” adds Irina Tkacheva.
3. Your feelings are ignored
Another sign is when you share your feelings with your partner and he/she responds by saying that you are wrong or too receptive. “By convincing you that you should think or feel differently, the significant other confirms an unwillingness to take responsibility for your experiences, demonstrating a clear talent for gaslighting,” confirms the psychologist. – It is easy to predict the next stage of events: you will torment yourself with self-criticism and suppress feelings in favor of your partner’s opinion. No one deserves such a sacrifice, it is simply unacceptable. In a healthy relationship, you can always stand up for your personal views, feelings and ambitions, and your partner is there to listen to any doubts/concerns you may have and help you get rid of them.
4. You find it difficult to express an opinion
It is common for a gaslighting person to blame others or circumstances – including any quarrels, hiccups, tardiness and personal mistakes/failures. According to the psychologist, in order to prove himself right, the gaslighter is willing to insinuate that events unfolded differently than you imagined. Any objections on your part will be met with a blank wall of incomprehension, which in time will make it impossible to freely exchange opinions and sincerely express feelings, and therefore happiness in the relationship.
5. You begin to believe you are not good enough
In a long toxic relationship, someone who is constantly gaslit-attacked sooner or later starts to believe that the problem is with him or her. Negative suggestions enter your subconscious and gradually lead you to the conclusion that you are not really good enough and are to blame for literally everything. “This is objectively impossible,” the expert reminds us. – In a normal relationship, both partners recognise that they make mistakes and both know how to apologise for them. If responsibility is shifted to one side, this is an indicator of clear injustice and that the dynamics of the relationship are built around power and control.“
How to stop gaslighting in a relationship
Of course, you also need to talk to your partner first – what if she/he really doesn’t know what she/he is doing. Mind you, if you’re lucky enough to be paired with a narcissist, the conversation runs the risk of going nowhere and causing even more discomfort. Gaslighters don’t really care about your opinions and feelings, and narcissists have no capacity for remorse or empathy, which means you’ll need megatons of energy to try to convince them of anything.
If the gaslighter is on a rampage and you can physically feel the toxicity of the situation (you’re distracted, always nervous and your heart is about to leap out of your chest if you just start talking to the honey), but you can’t resist it, just run. Don’t talk too much. Get out of the relationship-the sooner the better. Yes, it’s not an easy step, but it’s necessary to protect yourself and preserve your dignity. Don’t forget that control is a key marker of gaslighting. Prepare for the fact that your escape will be accompanied by powerful emotional-manipulative attacks. You can’t do without support – turn to friends, a sister, your mother or a psychologist for support.
Regardless of whether you decide to stay or leave, the help of a professional is important to understand your attachment patterns,” Thomson says. – You may not just need to get out of your current relationship, but change your lifestyle to get rid of harmful patterns. It’s hard to immediately identify the essence of the person we fall in love with, but by taking apart past relationships, we get a chance to recognize the warning signs that we persistently ignore in the hope of love and a strong connection.”
The main truth to adhere to in the fight against gaslighting: it’s not your fault what’s going on, even if your partner convinces you otherwise. The second point: there is no need to adapt to such a “one-sided” union, remember your uniqueness and do not squander this gift in vain. As the expert said, in a healthy, honest, normal relationship, both take responsibility for their behaviour, without the need to suppress each other’s emotions and desires.