Imagine being told something that you know isn’t true but the person telling you insists that it is…. Think about being told it over and over again until you start to question your own sanity and think you’re going nuts. That’s a form of gaslighting and we’re only just scratching the surface with that example. Unfortunately this form of manipulation is still very common, so it’s important that you know the signs and protect yourself from people who intend to inflict this harm upon you.
The term ‘Gaslighting’ was originally coined from the 1938 stage play ‘Gas Light’ and the film adaptations released in the 1940’s. The story follows a husband trying to convince his wife and others in their lives that she is insane by dimming the gaslights in their home while pretending nothing has changed. When his wife points out these changes, he insists that she is mistaken, delusional or remembering things differently.
Today, gaslighting refers to a form of manipulation used in abusive relationships that causes a person to question their thoughts, memories and their own reality. It’s not just relationships between a couple where this kind of behaviour can occur. It can happen in many different relationships including those with co-workers, bosses, friends and family. The danger of gaslighting is that the victim may not even realise it’s happening to them until it’s too late.
Here at So Just Be, we realise the importance of protecting ourselves from all forms of abuse so we have pulled together the following list of warning signs to watch out for in case you’re being gaslighted by someone in your life. Whatever the reason or the situation, there is no excuse for anyone to treat you like this or for you to feel this way:-
- Blatant lies – They tell you huge lies that you know logically can’t possibly be true yet they insist that they are. This is designed to keep you off kilter and make you question your reality. The behaviour will only increase as time goes on.
- Denying what was previously said – You know you heard them say or promise something but they flat out deny it. This causes you to question your memory and wonder if you’ve got things wrong. The more this happens, the more you question your own reality and accept their version of events instead.
- Feeling worn down – Gaslighting wears you down over time. The accumulation of lies and negativity can leave you feeling anxious, confused and depressed.
- Personal attacks – A gaslighter will attack your sense of identity, seeking out the things that you feel self-conscious about and picking at them bit by bit. They will tell you that you’d be fantastic if only you could change.
- Actions don’t match their words – With gaslighters, their actions don’t match their words. What they are saying means next to nothing but what they are doing will show you who they really are.
- Positive reinforcement – Amongst the negativity, gaslighters often throw in the odd bit of positive reinforcement. It might make you question your perception of them further, confuse you more and ultimately end up benefitting them in some way.
- Confusion – Gaslighters know that causing confusion will weaken a person mentally and socially. We all rely on having a sense of stability in our lives with people we can trust and rely on. The gaslighter up-ends this stable life and causes you to start questioning everything and everyone in your life.
- Projection – Gaslighters will often accuse you of something they have done themselves such as drug abuse, cheating or something else. This is to cause you to spend all of your time defending yourself and distracts from their actions.
- Turning people against you – These masters of manipulation will start socially isolating you from the people you care about by filling your head with things they are meant to have said about you behind your back. They’ll attempt to turn the people in your life against you and if that doesn’t work, they’ll make you believe that they have. Isolating you gives them more control over you, which is their ultimate goal.
- Changing your environment – Just like in the play, you may notice changes in your surroundings that the gaslighter flat out denies. Valuables may be damaged or go missing. Some of your favourite things may go missing, only to turn up somewhere else. Again, this is about causing you to doubt your sense of reality and your own memories.
- They tell others that you’re crazy – If people start questioning whether there is something wrong with you, the gaslighter knows that people will not believe you when you tell them about what is happening to you.
- They tell you everyone else is lying – Questioning your reality, doubting your friends and family – all of this puts the gaslighter at the centre of your world. They become the only one you can rely on and they have complete control which is what they wanted all along.
We hope that the above will help you to build your awareness of gaslighting and quickly identify any negative influences that come into your life. If you feel like you have or are experiencing any of the above then please seek help as soon as you can. You will be believed. The more people who learn about gaslighting, the more we can do to prevent this from happening to our friends and family. Stay safe and be aware. No one deserves to be gaslighted and it needs to stop.