A woman upset

Burnt by the Flame – Recognising the Signs of Gaslighting

Gaslighting

Gaslighting has recently come to light on social media and is being increasingly spoken about. It’s not a new concept though, it’s been around for a long time and was actually named after the 1944 movie, ‘Gaslight’ where the husband manipulates his wife into thinking she is losing her sanity.

Couple arguingGaslighting is a form of gradual manipulation and emotional abuse which sees the receiver questioning their own reality, perspectives or memories. It can occur in a number of relationships such as couples, family or within the work place.

How They Strike the Match

There are a wide array of gaslighting methods but they all have one thing in common: altering the reality of the receiver and making that person doubt their memories and themselves.

A Gas-lighter Might:

Lie

To an extent where constantly lying and dishonesty leads to confusion for the victim. A gaslighter believes their own lies and is insistent upon them which makes the person question themselves.

Deflect blame

  • Adding to the confusion, deflected blame is more than likely aimed at the person being gaslighted and puts the focus or questioning onto the victim. A gaslighter could accuse the person of bad memory or even deny an event or situation even happened further encouraging the victim’s self-doubt.
  • “You’re making it up, why are you lying?”

Minimising the thoughts and feelings of the victim

  • The gaslighter might target emotions and feelings in order to minimise the situation and focus the blame back onto the victim. This questions the persons right to be hurt or upset and encourages them to question their perception of events. With the denial of their feelings they are led to believe they don’t have a right to feel the way they do.
  • “You’re too sensitive, you need to calm down. It’s not a big deal.”

Deny conversations or eventsQuestion marks

  • With denial comes the doubt of the victim. The person being gaslighted knows that they were told something but when asked about it, the abuser says they don’t know what they mean or that they are wrong. The distortion of reality makes the victim question themselves and even start believing the gaslighter.
  • “You must be getting confused, I never said/did that.”

They use other people to reinforce their lies

  • Gaslighters might use people against the victim to further reiterate their lies. They might say someone they admire or are close with has expressed their concern with the victims memory or reinforce the belief that something didn’t happen when it did. This doesn’t mean the other people actually think or say these things, the gaslighter is trying to use someone else to ‘back up’ their lies and make the victim believe them too.
  • “They also told me that never happened so you’re wrong.”

They speak positively during/after manipulation

  • A gaslighter might praise the person in a way that reinforces their lies. This then makes the victim continue to question their reality but also sympathise with the abuser who had just praised them, encouraging the thinking that the abuser isn’t a bad person.
  • “I love you, I wouldn’t lie to you.”

Use time to wear down the victimYoung boy confused

  • Gaslighting is a gradual process, it can occur to the extent that the person being abused won’t even notice the slow progression and severity of their self-doubt and lack of confidence in their perspectives, memory or reality.
  • Going from: “I think you misunderstood.” To: “I didn’t say that, you’re making it up.”

Why Someone Might Gaslight

There are many reasons why someone might gaslight another person. The power imbalance feeds into the gaslighters own controlling behaviours. Gaslighting is commonly aligned with personality disorders such as Narcissistic personality disorder.

People with Narcissism:

  • Thrive on attention
  • Have a belief they’re better than other people around them
  • Lack the empathy and emotional capacity for other people’s feelings.
  • Exaggerate their achievements
  • Can’t take on constructive criticism
  • Are highly critical of others
  • Use others for personal gain
  • Can easily become envious or jealous

More Information

Our Psych Up! resources in July are based on ‘Gaslighting’. Thus, make sure to stay tuned for our weekly blog post updates, as well as our podcasts and webinar.

For more information about what is gaslighting or anything else mentioned, get in touch with our team today.

Send us an email, give us a call on (02) 9929 8515, check out our LinkedIn and Twitter or find more Psych Up! resources here.