At some point in your life, you must have heard someone say that “you are overreacting” or “you are overthinking it”. If you have then you might have experienced some Gaslighting. Gaslighting is a type of emotional abuse. It is a kind of manipulation that is seen in abusive relationships. In this type of abuse, the bully or the abuser forces the victim to question their reality and understanding. It can occur in a toxic friendship or abusive relationship.
The term gaslighting originated in 1938. It was from a British mystery, thriller play created by Patrick Hamilton. The play has a man who manipulates his wife to believe that she has gone insane. She is stealing things without her notice and hearing voices that are not there. Gaslighting can become insidious and sometimes secretive.
How does this work?
Any form of communication with a person gaslighting you can leave you wondering what is wrong with you. You feel stunned by it. It is a technique that weakens your perception of reality. You also start second-guessing your memories or even your existence. This is when you start questioning your sanity and are confused.
Gaslighting is intentional. Some people might not know that they are being emotionally abusive. This is mainly because of the toxic personality traits they possess. In such cases, you can call out their behavior and they might acknowledge that and try to change. But a gaslighter would never accept it. Instead, they will respond by asking questions and changing the subject. Using compassionate words can be a way out for a gaslighter when called out. They can say things like “you know how much I love you” as a way of justifying their wrongdoings. Hence, these words are not good if there is a repeated bad behavior associated with them.
A walk through their mindset
They have mastered the art of deception and can leave you questioning yourself at the end. Their main objective is to humiliate you to the extent that you frustrate and give in. That is when they start to weave their world of deception around you. These people are pathological liars. They will never accept their lies even if you present them with proof of their deception. They are so good at lying that you start second-guessing yourself. The efforts they take to humiliate you know no end. People who are gaslighting you can make you believe that the other people think you are crazy.
Although these people will never say anything bad about you. The gaslighters spread all sorts of rumors and gossip about you. They act as if they care and tell others that you are mentally unstable at the same time. This is an extremely effective technique and hence dangerous. The worst thing that a gaslighter can do is minimize your emotions. This usually helps a gaslighter to gain power over you. The statements like “you are sensitive” can make you think ok that you are wrong. Therefore, this is the best form of manipulating someone.
How to outsmart a gaslighter
Now that you can make sense of their confusing behavior, the first and foremost thing is that you recognize the signs and not let them manipulate you. Therefore, the very next thing to do is consult a psychologist or a therapist. These people can help you through your doubts and fears. They can help you anchor to reality. Also, developing coping skills and managing doubts and anxiety can save you time. Try and build a concrete belief in yourself.
As Anna Pitoniak puts it,
“Lies require noise and misdirection to blend in, silence is the best way to draw the truth to the surface”