Abuse doesn’t have to be physical. Tragically, millions of people each day are victims of psychological abuse and bullying – and gaslighting is just one form that’s found a firm definition over the past decade.
Let’s take a look at some facts about gaslighting, including what it is – and how you can recognize it occurring.
If you, or someone you know or love may be experiencing emotional abuse, don’t feel afraid to reach out for help. Please visit Crisis Textline to learn more. Please note, the contents of this guide shouldn’t be used as a substitute for genuine medical advice and professional guidance.
1. What is gaslighting?
Gaslighting, by its very definition, is the psychological manipulation of a person. The goal in gaslighting is to make the victims doubt themselves, their sanity, and sometimes even those closest to them. It’s control manipulation.
2. Where does the term ‘gaslighting’ come from?
The term ‘gaslighting’ actually comes from a play, aptly named ‘Gas Light’. This 1938 play is the story of a husband manipulating his wife to make her question her own sense of reality. He does this to force her into a mental institution, giving him complete access to her fortune. Horrifyingly, this style of abusive manipulation is very real for thousands of people.
3. What is the legal term for gaslighting?
When the law is involved, gaslighting is often referred to as intimidation, psychological or ambient abuse. However, ‘gaslighting’ itself is emerging more and more as a term itself within the court of law.
4. What are the main forms of gaslighting?
Gaslighting can arise in multiple forms, though all are harmful. One of the most common ways in which someone gaslights another is by lying. Gaslighters are often found to be liars who can make their victims question facts by convincing them they are wrong. It’s part of how manipulators try and warp the worldview of their victims.
5. Ignorance plays a part.
Another form of gaslighting takes place through the perpetrator simply ignoring the victim. Gaslighters will also commonly undermine their victims by minimizing how they feel, their shared thoughts, etc. These are all ways to make the victim feel as though they are wrong, and unworthy.
6. Gaslighters strive to discredit people.
Gaslighting often also takes place outside of the relationship. For example, a gaslighter will often gossip about the victim, making up stories to discredit the victim. This can sometimes lead friends and family to abandon the victim, not realizing that they are giving even more power to the gaslighter. It also further isolates the victim, making it easier to make them question themselves.
7. Gaslighters are very quick to blame.
Gaslighters can be very adept at making their victims take the blame for anything and everything. They will even make them feel guilty for small things, or things that they have not even done. This makes the victim believe as though the abuse they are receiving is deserved. This is part of what can make gaslighting so difficult to diagnose from the perspective of the victim.
8. Gaslighters try to change history.
Gaslighters are also very adept at changing their victims’ memories. This is to change what happened to suit their way, and often make the gaslighter look better, and make the victim feel worse.
9. What happens to the victims of gaslighting?
Sadly, victims can be badly affected for a very long time by gaslighting. They can lose complete faith in themselves, and their loved ones. Therefore, they become dependent on their gaslighter – and should they break free from this cycle, it may take time for them to rebuild confidence.
10. What can victims of gaslighting do to get support?
If you are worried about being gaslighted, it is important to tell someone as soon as possible – even if you’re unsure about whether you’re in the right or wrong. Even talking to a trusted friend or family member can be helpful. There are also multiple organizations you can call if you have any concerns.
FAQs about Gaslighting
How can you tell if someone is gaslighting?
There are multiple signs of gaslighting you can look for. If you feel as though the person in question always makes you feel guilty, tries to deny your truths, speaks about you behind your back, etc., then they could very well be gaslighting you. If you are unsure, it is always best to speak to a professional.
How do you react to gaslighting?
The best thing to do is to get some distance from the relationship. You do not have to end it if you are unsure, but a bit of time apart can help you to gain some perspective. It’s not easy to face up to gaslighting in the heat of the moment - so when and if you do sense something is amiss, try and speak to someone else - anyone - who can offer perspective.
In what kind of relationship does gaslighting happen?
Sadly, gaslighting can happen in any kind of relationship. It commonly occurs in romantic relationships, boss/employee relationships, friendships, etc.
Do you know any interesting facts about gaslighting? Share them in the comments below!