Gaslighting: Manipulating That is Crazy-Making
Do you find yourself questioning and doubting your motives, feelings, actions, and even thoughts? Do you apologize even when you are not wrong? Do you often feel as if you are “too sensitive”, feel confused or constantly doubt yourself? Does this happen more when you are around a certain person (spouse, significant other, employer, parent) until you find yourself believing the other person, even while knowing that you are right? You may be the victim of “gaslighting”, the new buzzword that aptly describes a form of abuse that often is hard to identify, and perhaps even harder to disengage from.
Gaslighting is a “tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality”, according to 11 Signs of Gaslighting, an article in Psychology Today. (11-warning-signs-gaslighting) Dr. Robin Stern, in her book The Gaslight Effect, also wrote that the “gaslighter tries to convince you that you’re misremembering, misunderstanding, or misinterpreting your own behavior or motivations, thus creating doubt in your mind that leaves you vulnerable and confused.” (Stern, 2007) B
Both Stern’s book and the article from Psychology Today mentioned the 1944 movie, Gaslight, where a husband married a wealthy woman and then proceeded to convince her that she was going mad, in an attempt to abscond with her inheritance. Stern noted that “one of the worst parts of gaslighting is how hard it is to identify. You feel yourself slipping into confusion and self-doubt – but why? What has made you suddenly question yourself? How has a person who supposedly cares for you left you feeling so awful?” (Stern, 2007) The daily verbal, mental and emotional confusion adds to the self-doubt.
Gaslighting may be at the hands of narcissists (see previous articles on narcissism) or by bullies. It may be men or women, family, or someone in authority, or someone in a close relationship with you. The gaslighting may take place over such a length of time that it is difficult to realize the manipulation that is occurring. While there may be some variables, there are also some similarities.
Identifying a gaslighter may be difficult, but they may use one of the following techniques, according to Stephanie Mouton Sarkis, PhD in Psychology Today:
- They tell blatant lies.
- They deny they ever said something, even though you have proof.
- They use what is near and dear to you as ammunition.
- They wear you down over time.
- Their actions do not match their words.
- They throw in positive reinforcement to confuse you.
- They know confusion weakens people.
- They project.
- They try to align people against you.
- They tell you or others that you are crazy.
- They tell you everyone else is a liar.
If you are involved with anyone who matches these actions, you might question yourself, identifying if you have fallen into the “Gaslight Tango” (Stern, 2007) as the gaslighter needs a gaslightee to complete the dance. Lindsey Shafer, writing for David Wolfe.com in 10 Signs You Are a Victim of Gaslighting, suggests the following common red flags that mark a gaslightee:
- Constantly second-guessing yourself.
- Start to question if you are too sensitive.
- Often feel confused and have a hard time making simple decisions.
- Find yourself constantly apologizing.
- Can’t understand why you’re so unhappy.
- Often make excuses for your partner’s behaviors.
- Feel like you can’t do anything right.
- Often feel like you aren’t good enough for others.
- Have the sense that you used to be a more confident, relaxed and happy person.
- Withhold information from friends and family so you don’t have to explain things. (Shafer)
Stern writes about taking steps, after the identification, to extricate oneself from the relationship, after the “Four Questions to Ask About staying or Going”.
- Can I act differently with this person?
- Is he capable of acting differently with me?
- Am I willing to do the work it might take to change our dynamic?
- Realistically, if I give it my best effort, will I be happy with our relationship?
As one seriously looks at the dynamics of the relationship, serious thought must be given about staying or leaving, and how that is best done. As this is such an insidious and prevalent issue in our society today, I will be devoting more time to future articles on this very topic. If you found yourself answering in agreement to the above questions, please seek help. You are not crazy; you perhaps are being manipulated at the hands of a gaslighter, using one of the most confusing forms of abuse.
Shafer, Lindsey. https://www.davidwolfe.com/10-signs-victim-gaslighting
Stern, Dr. Robin. The gaslight effect: how to spot and survive the hidden manipulation others use to control your life. 2007, 2018. Harmony Books. NY, NY.Tags: crazy-making manipulation, gas;lighting, gaslight tango, manipulating, signs to mark a gaslightee
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner
Licensed Professional Counselor
Advanced Clinical HypnoTherapist
- Deb England began working part-time for Wholeness Healing Center in September 2004 and began full-time in May 2005. Deb practices primarily in the Broken Bow office and one day a week in the Grand Island office. Previously she had completed her practicum and internship at Morning Star Alliance, working in the Broken Bow and Grand Island offices.
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