Are You A Victim Of Gaslighting?
Author: Dr. Julie. Sorenson, DMFT, MA, LPC
What is Gaslighting?
It is important that within your relationships you feel validated, heard, and loved. If you are in a relationship that you feel is unhealthy, you need to take steps toward deciding what to do for you to be the happiest version of yourself. It is not selfish for you to take care of yourself.
Some people experience gaslighting within their relationships which leads a person to second-guess themselves or question their sanity. The manipulative person in the relationship, whether done maliciously or not, is trying to control the other person for fear they may leave the relationship or have less control over that person.
Gaslighting is a form of manipulation where a person psychologically controls his/her victims. The gaslighter will purposely feed false information to the victim that leads them to question themselves about what they believe is true. Over time the victim of gaslighting starts doubting their memory or perception of events. Gaslighter's manipulations can grow so intense and complex that it makes it difficult for the victim to know what the truth is or where the lie began.
What to be Aware of When it Comes to Gaslighting?
Gaslighting could be done by a close friend, spouse, partner, parent, or boss. It isn’t necessarily done intentionally. Gaslighting happens by withholding money, sex, or your favorite together activities, and not listening to the other person. Countering happens when the gaslighter questions the events in question. Blocking or diverting occurs when the gaslighter changes the subject and questions the victim’s version of the event or events. Trivializing the event makes the victim’s feelings seem not important. Finally, the forgetting or denial stage is when the gaslighter forgets what happened or denies what he/she says they or would do.
Manipulative people target their victims to obtain power and control by stripping their victims of their self-worth and identity. The gaslighter enjoys emotionally, physically, and financially controlling their victims.
The relationship may start well the manipulative person may praise his or her victim and establishes trust quickly by confiding in their victim immediately. Once the victim becomes captivated by the gaslighter the next phase begins.
Gaslighter's tactics grow as the manipulative person starts lying to the victim. Possibly the gaslighter will accuse the victim of lying or they attempt to turn friends and family against them, so the victim feels alone and relies on the manipulator even more.
Signs You are in a Relationship with a Gaslighter
Gaslighting happens more often than you would think, and anyone can be vulnerable to gaslighting. An effective gaslighter can be difficult to detect. However, recognizing the victim’s actions and mental state could be a key element in recognizing a gaslighter. Gaslighters tend to have personality disorders and narcissistic tendencies. Often those that manipulate tend to have different behavior toward their victims than they do toward the rest of the world. Victims believe if they ask for help or speak out that no one will believe they are a victim because the manipulator shows a different face to others and wouldn’t believe the manipulator was emotionally abusing the victim.
Do You Think You Are a Victim of Gaslighting?
Do you think you may be a victim of gaslighting? Are you second-guessing yourself or making excuses for the person that is manipulating you? Are you constantly apologizing and wondering why you aren’t happy in your own life? Here are some examples of what an individual may say to manipulate the other person into second-guessing their words or actions:
“You are so emotional”.
“You are always turning things around. “
“Why are you always on the defense”
“You need help.”
“Stop getting upset over nothing.”
“ I never did that.”
“You are lying. “
“Stop feeling sorry for yourself.”
“ It’s not a big deal.”
“ I didn’t say that.“
“Stop being so sensitive.”
How to Help Someone You Love Who is a Victim of Gaslighting?
What can you do if you or someone you love is a victim of gaslighting? Start with making small conversations about the behaviors you notice. Ask a friend or family member if they have noticed the gaslighting to assist in getting a second opinion. Don’t allow yourself to engage in any arguments that are power struggles if the victim does not want to speak out against the manipulator. Let your loved one know that you recognize the gaslighting behavior and you are here for him/her. Let them know they aren’t alone, and they aren’t going crazy. Provide them with a space to talk and let them know they have permission to feel how they feel.
How to Leave a Gaslighter
The goal of a gaslighter is to keep the victim under the control of the manipulator. If the victim disagrees the gaslighter may turn it around making them seem like they are being victimized. The manipulator may try to praise the victim on their positive qualities and tell them that things will change to get the victim to stay. Using positive reinforcement, the gaslighter may influence the victim to stay. The victim must stay strong if they are ready to leave, the manipulator may feel he/she is losing control of the victim and may already have another target to replace the victim.
Gaslighting can be devastating. It violates trust and causes victims to become suspicious of people and difficult to start new relationships. Oftentimes victims have a difficult time remembering how to value themselves and blame themselves. Many times, the victim feels that they want to be a part of the relationship again because they don’t remember what a healthy relationship feels like.
You may need to look at yourself and see if you need to walk away from the relationship, even if it means changing your lifestyle or not having nice things.
Once you have decided the best course of action for yourself, breath and take baby steps in finding your success. If you are noticing that you are struggling with your mental health as a result of being a victim of gaslighting then it is not too late to reach out to a mental health provider. They are there to walk alongside you as you find the best version of who you want to be. Remember, at the end of the day the only person’s opinion of you that matters are your own.
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