How to Stop Gaslighting in a Relationship

25.03.2019

Toxic people don’t show their true self at the very beginning of the relationship. Of course, even at this stage, there are certain red flags, hinting at their true nature, but most of these markers are imperceptible to the untrained eye.

emotional gaslighting

When you have already plunged into such relationship, emotions have run low, but control and manipulation have become the norm, you wonder how you could be so stupid and blind to get caught on such a hook. You torment yourself with the question of what has happened to that ideal person with whom you were going to live happily ever after. The fact is that toxic people are really good at pretending to be someone else, and they can be very creative when they want to play with you and make you suffer. For example, they can resort to emotional gaslighting.

What Is Gaslighting?

The term “gaslighting” has appeared quite recently, however, you or your acquaintances might have already faced this phenomenon albeit not in the most advanced form. What is gaslighting in a relationship? It is deliberate and well-veiled psychological and emotional abuse. Its purpose is to make you become a very insecure person and change your perception of reality. Gaslighting tactics are based solely on the thirst for power, total control and willful concealment of information and facts. People who apply gaslighting techniques want to avoid responsibility. But in fact, this model of behavior refers to thoughtful manipulations aimed at making the victim doubt their own sanity. In short, the victim is literally brainwashed.

Why Is It Called Gaslighting?

This term comes from the title of the play and its film adaptation "Gas Light." The plot tells about a gullible and very sensitive woman who becomes a victim of psychological manipulations of her husband. He rearranges and hides things in the house as well as turns on gas lighting in another part of the house, causing the light in other rooms grows dim. The man insists that the dim light and the disappearance of things are only her fibs. He does all these manipulations to convince a woman that she loses her memory and goes mad. This way the husband wants to hide the traces of his crimes.

why is it called gaslighting Signs of Gaslighting

Even if you haven’t faced this phenomenon yet, you still need to find out about gaslighting psychology and ways of coping. Life is a difficult thing, and you cannot be sure 100% what awaits for you around the corner. As they say, “Forewarned is forearmed.” There are several signs of gaslighting that will make you understand that you are dealing with an abuser who is trying to control you.

1. These people are skillful liars

They do it truly professionally. All this is done to occasionally raise doubts in you and only then influence on you the way they want. It’s might be the most obvious sign of gaslighting.

2. They start denying the facts

Even if you have heard the information with your own ears from this person, you remember the exact date and time, your interlocutor can persistently insist on the impossibility of such a situation and the fact that something is wrong with you. If this story is still played out from time to time, you can start doubting your adequacy. The bigger number of people begin to doubt you, the better the abuser will feel.

3. They are aware of your weaknesses

If you are proud of your postgraduate degree, for example, the abuser surely reminds you more than once that it was not worth it, your efforts were wasted. They will also provide you with a list of the negative qualities that you may not have.

4. Abusers act gradually

They never finish what they started at a time. Their actions are circumspect and structured, this is a distinctive feature of gaslighting. It all starts with a little, for example, with comments, which then turn into serious accusations.

5. Everything they say is at odds with their actions

Here is a very important point: watch what is happening, and not what you are told. Their words do not bear any good or harm.

6. They change tactics

If earlier they gently humiliated you, now they have tempered justice with mercy, thereby creeping into your favor even more. You begin to like them and gradually forget past grievances. They have achieved the desired effect here: you doubt that they treated you badly.

7. They find associates

Surprisingly, they very quickly establish contacts with people who can theoretically support them. If the abuser is temporarily absent, their friends will “substitute” them, gaslighting someone. If the victim is unable to figure out who's right and who's wrong, they will return to the gaslighter. And this, in fact, was their initial goal.

8. They convince everyone that you are inadequate

The bigger number of people starts doubting you, the better the abuser will feel. And even if they ever begin to show aggression towards you, people will still believe them, not you.

Examples of Gaslighting

Although the concept of gaslighting is quite clear, the abusers use different ways to catch the victim. Here are the most common examples of gaslighting in a relationship.

1. Denial

  • A spouse who has a lover does not admit to this, even if there are unambiguous photos as evidence.
  • The drunkard-father denies having ever harmed his children, even though they have scars and memories that prove the opposite.
  • Dodging facts and sticking to alternative stories, the abuser makes a person doubt albeit little, but these doubts are gradually growing in the mind of the victim.
  • In general, an abuser denies facts, events, and insists on their version as the only correct one, “It seems to you that I humiliate you, but you just have a hysteric because of problems at work.”

It gets to the fact that even law enforcement and the public are beginning to focus on the victim’s way of speaking, and not on what has happened to them. Unfortunately, this is the most difficult form in terms of recovering from gaslighting. emotional gaslightingThe injured party so strongly expects that their relationship will become normal, that they can start protecting the offender and tell others that their relationship is stable and wonderful. The grown-up son does not want to admit that his parents never loved him, and a loving husband would prefer to believe that the neighbors’ words about the infidelity of his spouse are idle rumors.

2. Devaluation

The psychological abuser assures that your emotions and feelings are worthless, and you overdo, “You are too emotional,” “Only weaklings cry over nothing,” “Take the drama down a notch.” It can be said even about a very difficult or serious situation like the death or illness of a loved one or the bullying of colleagues. However, the abuser will still assure that your feelings and emotions are wrong. All these assurances are not to console a person.

3. Conviction of incompetence due to imaginary reasons

The reasons may be age, sex, physiology, "You don’t understand anything because women are stupid," "You are too young to talk about that," "The only thing you can think about is sex because you are a man." Shaming is a powerful means of suppression because it can impact on unhealed children's wounds and create the feeling of a “little man.” When we feel unworthy, we cannot speak out against injustice as well as defend our rights, and we begin to blame ourselves.

4. Inducement to bad habits

The most skillful category of abusers can decide on one more step, they try to discredit their partners to the fullest. They become "doctors" in intimate relationships and diagnose victims as "disobedient patients" who must be punished. According to the Combating Domestic Violence Hotline, 43% of people who didn’t know how to deal with gaslighting in relationships, were drug-dependent, and 89% were deprived of any treatment for mental health. In fact, this meant that the “predator” deliberately deprived a depressed person of medicines and then focused on the fact that any way they would not have helped. Abusers use vulnerabilities that they found out at the early stages of relationships to make them feel stressed again. They blame the victims for being paranoid, although they really chase them day in, day out. Such prolonged relationships may even lead to committing suicide of the victim.

Gaslighting in Relationships

Gaslighting in a relationship is a more common thing than you think. And it is not surprising that even in the folklore of different countries it has always been considered absolutely normal to support the abuser. Classic preverbs like, “You should not wash your dirty laundry in public” are another popular way to convince a victim that the problem does not exist and make them stick in unhealthy relationships.

The abuser is actively showing kindness and care to dispel all suspicions. A person who manipulates can easily be the nicest and kindest partner. When you are gaslighted, you feel guilty about the fact that you have doubts about your partner. Continuing to play with your mind, the manipulator skillfully fudges the facts and juggles with evidence, convincing you that you are wrong. They will flatter and surround you with attention to confuse and discourage you even more. As soon as they convince you of their absolute rightness, you will begin to doubt yourself and your feelings and stop listening to your gut.

And if you suddenly begin to ask questions or hesitate, the manipulator will express their indignation. They will put on the mask of the victim and tell you that you are ungrateful, overly susceptible and stupid. In the worst cases, gaslighting can be manifested in angry outbursts and death threats.

By the way, fans of gaslighting are often narcissuses and sociopaths. Their motives are solely in the thirst for control. For example, they involve a sense of guilt and shame to jeopardize the self-evaluation, confidence or independence of a partner. A wife can manipulate her husband, describing him as a weak person. The husband can destroy the self-esteem of the wife by harsh criticism of her appearance, weight or abilities. So, it is necessary to be aware of how to fight the gaslighting of a narcissist.

How to Stop Gaslighting in a Relationship?

how to fight the gaslighting of a narcissistIf you feel that your self-worth and confidence are slowly losing their strength because of the partner, then you should learn how to defend yourself against gaslighting.

Analyze

Think about the person who oppresses you and makes you feel unworthy. Pay attention to the red flags and make a list of incidents or events that have happened. Save everything, starting with diary entries, messages, audio recordings of talks, photos and videos. Be sure to comment on what you have felt, and why it is unacceptable for you. This will help you stay in your own reality and not focus on the false memories, imposed by the abuser.

Stand your ground

You can reiterate the same statement, pretending that it is true. Create "anchor statements" that will help pay attention to the fact that you are being abused. These can be the same diary entries or quotes. Remind yourself that you do not need to doubt the reality and minimize your feelings. Decide whether to continue such a relationship. If you give a positive response, think of a way to minimize communication with this person until you feel confident enough to break up.

Don't wait for confession

Stop hoping for the abuser to admit their guilt. They invest too much in confirming their vision of events, so they will never admit the fact of manipulation. Try to less communicate with this person and distance yourself from their circle of friends.

Consult with others

Consult with people you trust to clarify the situation. In the film "Gas Light," the woman understands that she was right all the time only after the policeman confirmed the blinking light. Find a psychologist who specializes in traumatic memories and the impact of hidden violence. Describe your feelings. Do not focus on how events developed in the eyes of your abuser.

Write down so as not to forget

Write down your story and all changes in your attitude to what is happening. Separate your experience and desires from abuser’s requirements. Just change your perception. Change the focus of attention, be a “winner,” not a “victim” in this difficult situation. You shouldn’t remain a victim for the rest of your life, so help others when you recover.