Welcome back to That’s What Pea Said…
Gaslighting is by no-means a new behaviour, however I’ve certainly noticed an increase in the term being thrown around my social media feeds. Whilst I think it’s important that this traumatic behaviour is highlighted and awareness is raised, I believe that it’s more important that the term is understood and used correctly in order to refrain from misleading others and causing confusion, which doesn’t help the situation.
The term ‘gaslighting’ is used to describe abusive behaviour, it specifically occurs when the abuser manipulates facts and situations so that the victim is left questioning their own sanity. In short, gaslighting makes the victim doubt their recollection of events and question their perception of reality.
Gaslighting is a behaviour coined by psychologists and although, initially the offences start out small, it always escalates and is always serious. Gaslighting predominantly happens in personal relationships (abusive spouse/ parent), although it can also happen in the workplace (manipulative boss, bullying co-worker). It’s important to remember that for gaslighting to take place, there must be a relationship between both parties, whether professional or romantic. There is a power dynamic between the abuser and the victim.
Although, gaslighting is a dangerous behaviour the perpetrator doesn’t always behave this way out of intent or with malice. Worryingly, they’re often unaware of their actions and the effects of their behaviour.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline outlines the following behaviours as gaslighting techniques:
• Witholding: The abusive partner will pretend not to listen or refuses to listen. For example they may say ‘I don’t want to hear this again’ or ‘your just trying to confuse me’…
• Countering: In these cases, the abusive partner will question the victims memory of events, despite the victim remembering them correctly. For example, they may say something along the lines of ‘You’re wrong, you never remember things correctly’.
• Blocking/Diverting: In these situations, the abusive partner changes the subject and will question the victims thoughts. They may say something along the lines of ‘Is this another crazy idea you got from (friend/family member)’ or claim that the victim is imagining things.
• Trivialising: In these cases, the abusive partner will make the victims needs or feelings seem unimportant. The abuser will say things like ‘You’re going over a little thing like that?’ or claim the victim is too sensitive.
• Forgetting/Denial: In these cases the abusive partner will pretend that they’ve forgotten what has actually happened or they’ll deny things like promises which they’ve made to the victim. They may says things like ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about’ or claim that the victim is making things up.
There are a number of red flags which may indicate that you’re a victim of gaslighting, these include:
• You’re constantly second guessing yourself and have trouble making decisions.
• You’re questioning yourself as a person, wondering if you’re too sensitive or not good enough
• You may feel confused about your relationship, questioning what’s changed or if you’re imagining things
• During confrontations, you may find yourself in an argument which you never intended on having
• Your thoughts become fuzzy and unclear
• You often make excuses for your partners behaviour
• You can’t understand why you’re unhappy, or you know somethings wrong but you don’t know what
If you feel that you may be a victim of gaslighting, it’s important to do the following:
• Identify The Problem: Once you have recognised the problem, you can begin to deal with it.
• Give yourself permission to feel what you feel: Your feelings are valid, due to the nature of gaslighting, the victim often questions their own feelings and thoughts. Acknowledge what you’re feeling and then you can work towards dealing with the situation and focus on your healing.
• Allow yourself to make sacrifices: It’s often difficult for victims of gaslighting to leave their relationship with the abuser, because it’s often somebody who they care about. Unfortunately, it’s not worth undermining your reality. You have to give yourself permission to find yourself, strengthen your self-worth and in some cases, this means making big lifestyle choices. In the long-run, the sacrifice is worth your sanity.
• Start with making small decisions: In order to break the gaslighting cycle, take one step at a time and ensure that you don’t engage in an argument which is ultimately a power struggle.
• Get a second opinion: Ask a friend or family member if they agree that you’re a victim of gaslighting.
Following on from this post, I’ll be looking at common gaslighting techniques in greater detail.
If you feel that you’re a victim of gaslighting, it’s important to speak out, get advice and break the cycle.
Thanks for reading,