The phrase “gaslighting” stems from Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 drama “Angel Street,” which was later adapted into Alfred Hitchcock’s film “Gas Light.” We’ll look at what gaslighting behavior is and some common examples in this article. We also go over how to respond to gaslighting behavior and when it’s time to get help.
A manipulative husband tries to make his wife believe she is losing her mind in the thriller film by making small alterations in her environment, such as gradually lowering the flame on a gaslight. He not only disrupts her environment and convinces her that she is nuts, but he also abuses and controls her, isolating her from her family and friends.
As a result, the wife is continually questioning herself, her thoughts, perceptions, and recollections. She also feels neurotic, hypersensitive, and out-of-control, which is exactly the purpose of gaslighting: to make the target feel off-balance and unsure of what is true and what isn’t.
Because this film accurately depicted manipulative people’s controlling and destructive behaviors, psychologists and counselors coined the term “gaslighting” to describe this form of emotionally abusive behavior.
What is Gaslighting Behavior
In abusive relationships, gaslighting is a type of manipulation that occurs. It’s a sneaky, often subtle form of emotional abuse in which the bully or abuser causes the target to doubt their own judgments and reality. After a while, the victim of gaslighting begins to doubt their own sanity.
Gaslighting behavior is most commonly seen in romantic relationships, although it can also happen in dominating friendships or among family members. Toxic people utilize this sort of emotional abuse to gain control over others, manipulating friends, family members, and even coworkers.
Signs of Gaslighting Behavior
People who are subjected to gaslighting typically have a hard time recognizing that they are being abused. Because they are in a position of authority or are dependant on the abusive person, they may not question their behavior. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, a victim of gaslighting may:
- Be perplexed and continuously doubt themselves
- Have trouble making simple decisions
- They frequently wonder if they are overly sensitive
- Become reclusive or a loner
- Make a habit of apologizing to the individual who is abusing you.
- Justify the behavior of the abusive individual
- To prevent having to make excuses for family and friends, lie to them.
- A sense of hopelessness, joylessness, worthlessness, or incompetence
Gaslighting can lead to anxiety, sadness, and psychological trauma, particularly if it is part of a larger pattern of abuse.
Gaslighting Behavior Examples
Someone lying to you, expressing a different opinion, or telling you, you’re wrong about anything is not the same as someone gaslighting you. It’s more complex, which can make it more difficult to spot. According to Stern, this usually occurs in three steps, but not every gaslighting scenario contains all three:
- Suspension of disbelief. Someone is behaving in a gaslighting manner. It appears strange, but you dismiss it as a one-time occurrence.
- Protection. You begin to fight yourself after a few more incidents of gaslighting.
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- Depressed mood. To avoid disagreement, you eventually embrace their interpretation of reality and do everything you can to gain their acceptance. However, denying reality saps your vitality, isolating you from yourself and leaving you feeling hopeless and depressed.
Anyone, not just others in your personal life, can be duped by gaslighting. When politicians, for example, deny incidents that have been captured on film or witnessed by several people, they are using gaslighting. When doctors indicate you’ve imagined your symptoms, suggest you’re exaggerating your suffering, or propose therapy instead of medical treatment, they may be gaslighting you. Here are a few more instances of gaslighting in action:
In the company of family
You share a home with your mother. You get along quite well, but she frequently interrogates you when you arrive home late. One day, she maintains, “You said you’d be home straight after work tonight.” “I need my prescription, but by the time we get there, the pharmacy will be closed.”
She shakes her head in surprise when you tell her you don’t remember the talk about running errands with her. “You promised you’d come home early while standing right there.” However, you recall making coffee discreetly in the kitchen so as not to wake her. You mention this, but she refuses to listen to your side of the story.
When it comes to romantic relationships,
You have some very strong evidence that your partner cheated on you. You immediately question them about it, providing them the opportunity to be candid.
Consider the following two responses:
- ” Wait, what?” No, I’m not being unfaithful to you.”
- “You have no right to accuse me of cheating.” I work all day and come home to see you, but you’re never around. You claim to be at work, but no one knows where you are. You’re most likely the one who is cheating. And it’s not like you could blame me if I was cheating, since you’re always too sleepy for sex. “
At the workplace
You’ve been promoted to the position of manager. With the promotion comes the addition of an assistant manager — someone who was hoping for the same thing. You’ve noticed that key phone messages aren’t getting through and documents are vanishing from your desk during the last two weeks.
When you ask the assistant manager if they’ve seen any of the paperwork, you’re surprised by their hostile response. “Are you accusing me of robbing you of your belongings?” Remember, it is my responsibility to assist you. “What makes you think I’d do something like that?”
“You know, you seem pretty agitated lately,” they say when you inquire about another lost file a few weeks later. This promotion represents a significant shift. “Not everyone is capable of handling the responsibilities.”
How to Respond to Gaslighting Behavior
You can take actions to confront gaslighting behavior and recover your emotional space if you’ve recognized some indicators of it.
1. Reach out to those you care about.
It never hurts to gain some outside perspective if you feel someone is gaslighting you. Without being personally involved in the relationship, trusted friends and family members can:
- Express their viewpoint
- Assist you in gaining some clarity
- Offer emotional assistance
If you’ve lately begun to separate yourself from your loved ones, remember that isolation will only make gaslighting more effective.
2. Make a list
It’s generally easier to question yourself about a debate or discussion that took place several days ago. Recording occurrences as soon as they occur provides evidence that you don’t have to second-guess. When your memory is called into doubt, jotting down key points from a conversation or recording your argument with a smartphone app gives you something to go back to. You may not want to face the person, but your notes can help you understand what’s going on.
3. Establish explicit limits
Setting boundaries can stop someone from gaslighting you and provide you some physical and emotional space.
When that happens again, you could say:
- “It appears that we have different memories of events, so let’s go on.”
- “I’m going to leave the room if you label me ‘crazy.'”
- “We can talk about it, but if you yell, I’m leaving.”
It’s critical to stick to these limits. They won’t be able to manipulate you if you follow through.
4. Cling to the things that make you unique.
Gaslighting frequently results in a loss of personal identity. You may begin to feel as if you’ve changed irreversibly or that you’ve become numb and hollow over time. Living in a constant state of anxiety and stress can sap your vitality and prevent you from taking care of yourself or pursuing your own hobbies.
Making time for your physical and emotional needs, on the other hand, might help you recoup your vitality and maintain your sense of self. As a result, you may find it easier to navigate and resist attempts to gaslight you.
How to stop Gaslighting Behavior
Although this approach is most typically used by emotionally abusive partners and family members, it can also be seen in friendships and the workplace. It can have a negative impact on your mental health, work productivity, and other relationships if left unchecked. Here are eight suggestions for reacting and regaining control.
1. Check to see if it’s gaslighting.
Gaslighting isn’t always easy to spot, especially because it typically starts out modest and can resemble other behaviors. True gaslighting becomes a pattern of manipulation that is performed over and over again. The individual who is gaslighting you is usually trying to make you doubt yourself and rely on their interpretation of reality. So someone who expresses an opposing viewpoint, even if it is unpleasant or critical, isn’t always gaslighting you.
2. Remove yourself from the situation.
When coping with gaslighting, it’s natural to feel a range of powerful emotions. Anger, irritation, concern, grief, fear – these and other emotions are all valid, but don’t allow them dictate your instant response. Maintaining your composure can help you deal with the issue more effectively.
You may want to refute what the individual attempting to gaslight you has said because it is entirely false. However, they may not give up, and your distress may encourage them to continue manipulating you.
3. Gather evidence
Keeping track of your interactions with someone attempting to gaslight you can help you stay on top of what’s really going on. You can go back and verify the truth for yourself if they deny a discussion or event took place.
4. Express your displeasure with the behavior.
Gaslighting works because it perplexes you and makes you doubt yourself. If you demonstrate that the behavior does not upset you, the individual attempting to gaslight you may decide that the effort is not worth it.
Gaslighting frequently includes criticism and insults in addition to lies and deception. Calling them out – calmly and gently — sends a message that you will not tolerate their behavior. Don’t be scared to speak up, because letting others know about the situation can encourage them to leave you alone.
5. Have faith in your interpretation of events.
On sometimes, everyone remembers things differently than they happened, and you could think, “What if it really happened the way they said?” But resist the desire to doubt yourself; they want you to question reality. You already know what happened, so say it again, quietly and confidently. Showing them any evidence you have may persuade them to back off. However, it is possible that it will have no effect.
6. Prioritize self-care.
While taking care of your physical and mental needs won’t directly solve the gaslighting, excellent self-care can help you feel better. Worries about gaslighting and how it can affect your employment or relationships can sneak into every aspect of your life, making it difficult to enjoy even your favorite things.
Investing time in relaxation and wellness routines, on the other hand, can help you feel stronger and more capable of dealing with obstacles in your daily life.
7. Enlist the help of others
You may be concerned that discussing the problem with others would result in drama. When coping with gaslighting, though, it’s critical to seek advice and assistance from individuals you can trust. Getting feedback from a variety of people in your life might help you confirm that you aren’t confused, “crazy,” or losing your mind.
8. Seek expert assistance.
Gaslighting can sometimes escalate into something more serious, even abusive. This isn’t to say you’ve done anything wrong; dealing with emotional abuse can be challenging. An excellent first step is to speak with a therapist. Psychology directories, for example. The Find a Therapist tool available now might assist you in beginning your search for local counseling providers.
Gaslighting may begin subtly, yet this subtle manipulation can have long-term consequences. A therapist can assist you in recognizing gaslighting and providing assistance for dealing with its effects positively without losing yourself in the process.
Frequently Asked Questions
What personality disorder is gaslight?
Many that will gaslight suffer from antisocial personality disorders, including borderline personality disorder. They suffer from a significant degree of worry and do what they do to regain control over their life. They are also prone to abusing narcotics in order to dull their bad emotions.
What causes someone to gaslight?
People gaslight for a variety of purposes, one of which is to acquire dominance over another. This need for dominance could be a result of narcissism, antisocial personality disorder, or other factors. Gaslighting, like other forms of abuse, is all about power. The abuser may eventually persuade the target that they are the source of the abuser’s rage.