Disclaimer: Gaslighting is in no way limited to romantic relationships. Yet, for the sake of this article, romantic relationships will be the focus.
Gaslighting is a harmful form of mental abuse in which a victim is manipulated into doubting their own memory, perception and sanity.
The effect of gaslighting happens over time and is often hard to identify. Typical signs of gaslighting include, but are certainly not limited to:
- A feeling of weakness.
- Uncertainty toward one’s true reality .
- Inability to identify when something is “off” with one’s partner.
- A tenancy to second guess oneself.
- A tenancy to lie to close friends and family about one’s relationship to avoid put downs and reality twists.
- Difficulty making simple decisions.
- A constant feeling of failure and/or never feeling “good enough” for one’s partner.
Gaslighting typically happens in three different stages that reflect very different emotional and psychological states of mind.
Stage one falls under the concept of disbelief.
This happens when the actions of the perpetrator are so odd the victim feels he or she can’t make sense of them. With this, the victim will typically brush the actions of perpetrator off as if they are no big deal, or fail to acknowledge them altogether.
For example: Tia and Troy met in class a few weeks ago, and took an interest in each other. Tonight was their first date. They had dinner at Troy’s house. Their date couldn’t have been better, and Tia was happy to find out they have much in common.
Yet, as their date finished up, Tia was surprised to find out that Troy wasn’t walking her home. Tia was confused when Troy exclaimed how he thinks it’s insane she’s going to walk home, and doesn’t understand why she won’t just “be smart” and stay over his house for the night. At this point, Tia is at a loss for words. Didn’t she make it clear she wanted to go home?
During her walk home alone, Tia thinks about the extremely weird situation that just occurred between her and Troy. While Tia is upset that Troy refused to walk her home, she concludes that Troy must just have something against walking and/or walking home at night. Ultimately, Tia writes off Troy’s behavior as just really odd. ‘
In other words, since Troy’s behavior was so incomprehensible to Tia, she subconsciously refuses to accept the reality for what it was.
Furthermore, stage two deals with defense.
This stage happens when one begins to defend themselves against the perpetrator’s manipulation.
If the victim is to challenge the perpetrator’s behavior, they are often overcome by a series of false accusations.
For example: Stacy doesn’t understand why her boyfriend, Rick, is always hating on her outfits and telling her to change. When she confronts him about the issue asking him why, Rick responds saying she’s just sensitive and always overreacting. At this point, Stacy begins to defend herself against Rick’s harmful accusations. “I’m not sensitive at all! I never overreact!”
With this, the victim often turns the conversation over in their head a million times. Ultimately, they are rarely able to come to a concrete conclusion.
What makes this stage even worse, is that situations like this begin to characterize the relationship. The victim can’t understand why their partner views the situation like this.
The third stage of gaslighting is depression.
At this point, the victim largely appears to be lacking joy. Their relationships with friends and family often become strained, and they have a difficult time recognizing themselves as well as their actions.
The victim begins to feel helpless, like they have no control over their own relationship and yet, as if they are destroying it at the same time.
And with this, the downward spiral of confusion and manipulation continues.
Gaslighting is a harmful process of mental abuse that is extremely hard to identify. Fortunately, if identified as destructive, there is hope for one to reclaim their reality and life back.
If you or someone you know might be a victim of gaslighting, please don’t hesitate to evaluate the following signs and, of course, seek professional help.
- Your Fears Are Used Against You
- You Don’t Know Your Own Mind
- You Don’t Know What’s Normal
- You’re “Diagnosed” With Major Issues
- You Doubt Your Own Beliefs and Perceptions
- You Can’t Remember Anything Anymore
- You Lie to Keep the Peace
- You Stop Trying to Be Heard
- You Start Thinking Maybe You Really Are the Crazy One
- You Are Depressed