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Gaslighting: A Toxic Method Of Manipulation In Relationships

Posted: August 22, 2020

Gaslighting is a dangerous method of control over a person by making them question their narrative on “how things happened.”

Gaslighting is a tactic employed by a person or an entity to manipulate someone (or a group) making the victim question their own reality, sanity, judgement and perception. According to psychologists it’s a serious problem that starts very small but snowballs over time. 

Gaslighting – how it came to be

The term gaslight is taken from the movie Gaslight (1944) in which a man manipulates his wife to the point where she thinks she is losing her mind. It is a slow process adopted by abusers, dictators etc. to brainwash someone where the victim does not even realize that it is happening to him/her. 

Gaslighting in relationships can be done by any close one including the spouse or in a rare case either of the parents. In a professional scenario, a manipulative boss or a co-worker can also use this technique for personal benefits. The victim becomes dependent on the abuser in thoughts and feelings and loses self-esteem and confidence in her own decision-making capacity.

A few examples of gaslighting would be of a mother who is always disapproving of her daughter’s decision to the point when the daughter starts questioning her decisions she suspects her mother would not agree with or when your spouse begins to tell you things that never really happened. Like he says that last week he told you that he would be going for a movie with his friends this Sunday evening, which you really don’t remember he told you.

Common techniques used by a gaslighter

  •       They tell you blatant lies with a straight face
  •       They deny they ever said you something even though you heard it and you have proof
  •       They attack your near and dear ones like your kids or parents by telling you something like you should not have had those children
  •       They attack your personality by reminding you of your negative traits
  •       What they say and what they actually do, do not match
  •       After a few abuses, they praise you sometimes so as to confuse you
  •       They use people against you by telling such things as ‘This person knows too that you are useless’
  •       They question your sanity and tell you and others that you are mad
  •       They convince you that your ideas are distorted and their thoughts are correct and true
  •       They try to distance your loved ones from you as they are your support system

To know more about Gaslighting and ways to avoid being a victim of gaslighting, Watch this video from Kya Tum Jaanti Ho series with Pooja Priyamvada.

Protecting oneself from “gaslighters”

Some gaslighters may have learnt this tactic of psychological manipulation from others or their parents. If a parent lives with an addiction, he/ she may gaslight the child to keep quiet about the issue. But most of the time, these children of gaslighters know exactly how bad gaslighting can be. Gaslighting can also be a part of an authoritarian personality in order to control others.

One way to protect yourself from a gaslighter is to educate yourself about the gaslighter’s behavior and seek counselling to prepare yourself to handle the abuse better. A gaslighting partner may refuse to go to therapy sessions with you and in case they do, they may tell the therapist that you are the problem and may label the therapist as incompetent as well. He may also simply refuse to accept that he has any such problem in the first place. If a gaslighter does not accept his manipulative behavior, that does not exempt him from being pathologically ill. It is still their responsibility.

Image source: Pexels

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