The Consequences of Gaslighting and How to Stand up for Yourself
What is Gaslighting?
Have you ever found yourself in a relationship or friendship with someone who is constantly denying their actions or words? You know they said they would do something or that they went somewhere, you know you heard it or saw it but they are insisting it never happened.
Did you feel unsure of your own memory?
Were you made to feel like you were mistaken and in the wrong even though you KNOW the conversation or event happened?
This can be an example of gaslighting.
Gaslighting is a form of manipulation and emotional abuse seen mostly in relationships but can also be evident in friendships, family and work place relationships. Gaslighting is a manipulative technique which is used against the victim to distort their concept of reality, making the victim question themselves and their perspectives. It is usually done so gradually overtime so the victim doesn’t realise the full extent of the manipulation.
How it Makes the Victim Feel – The Burning
The ability to alter someone’s concept of reality and memory is a significant form of manipulation and can often go undetected if the person is not aware of the signs of gaslighting.
It initially feels forgetful, almost mistakable. Just an innocent misremembering. Forgetting the real events even though they remember hearing/seeing the person, but because they are insisting with such conviction that it didn’t happen, they are then led to question their own reality.
They think: “They must not have said it. I must have imagined it.”
People experiencing gaslighting may be confused, frustrated, isolated, anxious and defensive about the gaslighters behaviour. They could be feeling this way because of the direction of self-blame. They have been led to believe the abuser is not in the wrong, they are. Their self-confidence and self-trust has been diminished and greatly affects the depiction of themselves.
People of Gaslighting Abuse May:
- Confused and constantly second guess themselves: “I must have just imagined it”
- Second guessing their own emotions or being scared to express emotions out of fear or judgement
- On edge, having a bad feeling but not knowing what it is or where it is coming from.
- Find it difficult to make simple decisions on their ownStemmed by self-doubt
- Be socially withdrawn
- Not wanting to contribute to conversations or attend events
- Constantly apologise
- Not only to the abuser but to everyone. They don’t trust themselves or their own judgements and they have a feeling they are always in the wrong or at fault.
- Be defensive of their abuser
- They have been made to believe this person isn’t at fault and they defend the person as they have been lead to believe.
- Lie to loved ones
- To avoid confrontation or questioning of the abusers actions.
How to Extinguish The Flame?
Evidence is a great way of identifying the signs of gaslighting. Writing things down, documenting conversations or events can really solidify the reality of the person experiencing gaslighting. It can encourage their self-assurance and increase the confidence within themselves and their experiences.
- Keeping a journal or diary
- The person can keep it on their phone or in a written book and record events, dates, times and conversations which can then be reflected on in confidence.
- Taking pictures.
- Physical images are harder to deny and manipulate and is a good method of reinforcing reality.
- Confide in a trusted friend, family member or professional
- To keep note of events and conversations that could possibly be distorted in the future. If this third party can provide a source and perspective it would be easier for the victim to trust another person’s reinforcement of the situation.
- Voice memos on phones or other devices
- To store and describe detailed events or conversations in the persons own words and perspective. This allows for the immediate perspective to be recorded and can be used to reflect on the victims own thoughts and emotions towards the situation in a position when their emotions or memories might be distorted.
This form of manipulation is not easy to detect because it’s such a subtle and psychological assertion of power that is increased over longer periods of time. Through documentation and confiding in trusted individuals the victims self-assurance and power can be given back.
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.