Personal relationships involve a complex maze of thoughts and emotions. Unfortunately, those thoughts and emotions can open the door of abuse. The abuse can be emotional, mental, physical, or all three. One form of emotional and mental abuse is gaslighting.
The term ‘gaslighting’ is relatively new in terms of daily use. Whenever you have relationships between humans, you have the possibility of all sorts of abuse taking place – even gaslighting.
A Brief Explanation
Gaslighting is the practice of manipulating another person by misleading and creating false narratives. Whether done subconsciously or intentionally, the goal of gaslighting is to cause the other person to question their thoughts, emotions, principles, and ideals.
Therapists at Relationships & More in Westchester County, NY, explain gaslighting as psychological manipulation. They say it generally takes place over long periods of time and leads to the victim questioning everything from memories to perceptions of reality.
Common Gaslighting Tactics
It may be easier to spot gaslighting if you know what to look for. Here are some of the most common gaslighting tactics:
1. Chronic Lying
One of the more recognizable tactics of gaslighting is lying. A person who gaslights is a habitual liar who uses lies to deceive and manipulate. When called out with proof of a lie, the gaslighter accuses the other person of making things up.
2. Cutting Others Down
A person who gaslights makes a point of cutting other people down. The person spreads rumors designed to discredit the victim and their reputation. The goal is to paint the victim as the bad guy while portraying the gaslighter as the ‘real’ victim.
3. Avoidance Tactics
A person who gaslights is someone who cannot afford to let the truth come out. Therefore, gaslighting requires avoidance tactics. For example, the victim might confront the other person about something they did. Rather than deal with the situation, the gaslighter changes the subject or turns the conversation back on the victim.
4. A Dismissive Attitude
A person who gaslights also tends to have a dismissive attitude about the thoughts and feelings of other people. Every concern the victim raises about the relationship is met with dismissiveness. That person might be accused of being too emotional or too sensitive.
There are a few more gaslighting tactics including blame shifting, denying responsibility, using kind words to manipulate, and trying to ‘rewrite history’. All are intended to encourage the victim to second-guess.
Signs You Are Being Gaslighted
Here are some warning signs that you may recognize in yourself, even if you do not recognize the above tactics in the other person:
- Doubt about your own thoughts and feelings
- Doubt about your perceptions of reality
- Second-guessing your own judgment
- Feelings of insecurity and vulnerability
- Doubts about who you are as a person
- Confusion about who the other person is
- Concerns that you are too sensitive or emotional
- Concerns that you apologize too often
- Feelings of inadequacy and weakness
- Not trusting yourself to make sound decisions.
Because gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse, it is destructive to relationships.
Remember that gaslighting can occur in any relationship. It can occur between you and a romantic partner at any stage of your relationship. You can also be gaslighted by your boss. It can even occur in relationships with people with whom you only casually interact. If you feel you are being gaslighted by anyone, seek out professional help.