A typical experience with gaslighting may go something like this:
You present an issue you are having to a partner, and they react by saying “you’re too sensitive!” or “you’re crazy.”
Gaslighters deflect any responsibility away from your legit feelings and instead pin their behavior on you. While the example highlighted above is a light example, its roots can definitely get deeper and more insidious.
According to Psychology Today, “The term gaslighting originated from the 1944 film Gaslight, in which a husband systematically tormented his wife by convincing her that she’s insane, thereby robbing her objectivity and self-worth.”
Sound familiar? You’re not alone. A lot of women are unknowing participants in a relationship where their significant other is a chronic gaslighter, and they don’t even know it.
Most gaslighters are liars or spin masters–they turn any narrative on its head in order to take the heat off themselves and put it on you.
By definition, “the gaslighter takes the focus off of his or her significant weaknesses, flaws, and inadequacies, which the gaslighter is deeply afraid of exposing. Through constant lying and exaggerations, the gaslighter keeps his victims on the defensive and maintains social and psychological leverage.”
Repeated exposure to this kind of behavior can leave you stifled, unable to express your feelings out of fear your partner will attack you emotionally. This psychological gagging is how the gaslighter stays empowered. The aggressor may even become hostile when confronted about their behaviors, thus scaring their partner into silence.
On par with other emotional abusers, gaslighters may begin to isolate their victims from their friends and loved ones, hoping to keep them far away from the truth.
“By deploying demagoguery tactics such as “us versus them,” “divide and conquer,” “isolate and control,” “enemies are everywhere,” and “I’m your only hope,” the gaslighter places the gaslightee in a psychological straight jacket, and further establishes an authoritarian relationship,” Psychology Today explains.
If the scenarios outlined above sound like you, it’s important for you to seek professional help and counseling. It takes time and patience to unhinge yourself from a gaslighter’s lies and manipulation, but awareness is the first step towards healing.