What Is Gaslighting and How To Handle It
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The term gaslighting comes from a British play from 1938 titled Gas Light that turned into a film called Gaslight in 1944. This adaptation is an extreme example of gaslighting where a husband tricks his wife into thinking she’s crazy so he can steal her inheritance. There are much more minimal ways to gaslight, but they are all equally as dangerous.
What Is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a form of manipulation and emotional abuse that can cause someone to question their sense of reality. This is not always done intentionally and can appear in subtle ways. If you find yourself questioning your feelings or judgment, you may be a victim of gaslighting.
Your feelings are valid no matter what they are. If someone you love makes you feel otherwise, you might be being gaslit, so they aren’t held accountable for their actions. Gaslighting can damage your self-worth and create a distorted sense of reality in its victims.
How It Happens
Gaslighting usually occurs in a power struggle between two people who love each other. This can happen between lovers, friends or even coworkers or bosses. It can be confusing because you want to believe that there is no malicious intent from the person you love. You begin to think that maybe you are too sensitive or your recollection of events is a little fuzzy.
Why would they make that up? It can be complicated to detect gaslighting behavior in a codependent relationship. When there is too much of an imbalance of power, the relationship can become unhealthy for both parties. When you feel like your voice isn’t being heard or your feelings aren’t OK, it can be challenging to feel like you are in a shared space in your relationship.
Red Flags of Gaslighting
Signs of gaslighting can vary based on your relationship, but the red flags are relatively universal. When your perspective of a situation is never right, your feelings are too much or off-base, and you can never finish your sentences or thought process, you’re most likely being gaslit. Denial and stereotyping are also signs of gaslighting.
There are many reasons people will try to gaslight you. They could be reacting to how they were raised and unaware of their gaslighting. They could be trying to exert power over you in your relationship to manipulate and control you by altering your thoughts and emotions. No matter why they are hurting you, it is never OK. Try to have a conversation about it with the other party and set some healthy boundaries. Once you identify a problem, you can begin working on it together. If they aren’t perceptive to working on their behavior, it may be time to cut them loose–no matter how difficult that may be.
How To Handle the Hurt
Understanding why you may be gaslighting someone is the first step to changing your ways. Reflect on why you react by gaslighting and identify the cause of the issue. Changing behavioral responses takes work from both parties involved.
This person can take necessary steps to change their actions and the person being gaslit can call out the behavior when it arises. Once it is given a name and both parties are working together toward eliminating gaslighting techniques, your relationship can result in resolution and growth.
However, if the person gaslighting refuses to change their ways and has no interest in how their actions affect you, you need to find a way to remove yourself from the situation to protect your mental health. People who use gaslighting behavior often deflect their emotions and can cause damage to self-esteem and self-image. Do what you need to do to protect yourself from this emotional abuse.
Gaslighting can cause you to feel disoriented and confused. You swear your loved one is a good person, so why do they always minimize your feelings? Maybe your feelings don’t matter as much as you think they do. Do not fall into this trap.
You are worthy, and your feelings are real and valid, no matter what. You are a strong person that is allowed to feel whatever emotions you are feeling. There are many ways you can seek help if you feel stuck in an abusive relationship, like contacting a mental health professional or a hotline for domestic abuse.