What is Gaslighting? How To Recognize It And What To Do About It
Gaslighting is a term that describes a form of emotional and mental abuse that causes the victim to start doubting her or himself and questioning their reality until they lose the sense of their own identity and self-worth.
As a form of brainwashing, gaslighting is most commonly used by dictators and cult leaders. However, this manipulating strategy also occurs in personal and all other types of social relationships, and it is often used by narcissists and abusers. These individuals use gaslighting to gain control and power – the victim slowly becomes so uncertain of who they are until they are completely dependent on the manipulator for their own identity.
Anyone can become the victim of gaslighting. Unfortunately, many people end up in a toxic relationship because this type of abuse is sometimes difficult to recognize.
Gaslighting Abuse in Relationships
Your partner may use this form of psychological abuse for months or even years before you recognize it. On a surface level, your narcissistic partner may be charming and fun. However, they may also be excessively obsessed with themselves, manipulative, and even controlling. Narcissistic abuse comes from their ultimate arrogance and inability to feel empathy for others. A narcissist needs to be in control because they believe that they are better than anyone else, including you.
In short, your narcissistic partner may use gaslighting to create a subtle but constant relationship dynamic where they have all the power and control.
How to Recognize Gaslighting?
Gaslighting can have a destructive impact on your mental health and overall wellbeing. If you are the one always apologizing, if you regularly make excuses for your partner’s behavior, often feel confused in the relationship, or keep asking yourself if you are good enough, you may be in a toxic relationship.
So, here are 5 red flags of gaslighting.
Lies and Denials
A gaslighter will tell you obvious lies and then deny ever saying it. They usually set up an abusive pattern in a relationship by lying to you constantly, until you begin questioning everything including your own sanity. And that is exactly what they want.
Your narcissistic partner may create constant confusion and have you doubt everything. For example, they may say things and later deny ever saying them, or hide objects from you, and deny doing so. The abuser knows that you, like anyone else, need stability, and will force you to rely on them for clarity, thus increasing their power.
You constantly feel that you need to defend yourself and apologize for things you haven’t said or done because your narcissistic partner always accuses you of being a liar and a cheater (things that they do). They also tend to twist and reframe what was said or done in their favor, so you start feeling as though you are unstable or crazy.
A gaslighter will do everything to discredit you by making other people think you are a liar, unstable, irrational, or crazy. They will often tell you things like: “Do you know that all of our friends are talking about you? They think you’re acting crazy”.
Trivializing Your Feelings
Your abusive partner may constantly minimize your feelings to gain more power over you. You’ll often hear them say things such as: “It’s not a big deal. You’re overreacting. I was just joking. Don’t tell me you’re going to feel sorry for yourself now!” and similar.
How to Escape a Vicious Cycle of Gaslighting?
Gaslighting can be damaging to your self-esteem, a sense of mental clarity, and mental health in general. It is possible, however, to pull yourself out of a gaslighting dynamic and regain self-worth. The knowledge and practice of self-regulation and emotional awareness are the best ways to regain the clarity of self and build self-reliance again.