Gaslighting: Class is in Session
Welcome back to class, everyone. Today’s topic is widespread, done in the flesh and online with reckless abandon.
Gaslighting is a repeated manipulation tactic that occurs in abusive relationships. These relationships can be between parents and children, siblings, friends, colleagues, and coworkers. However, the most spoken about relationship in which gaslighting occurs is in romantic relationships.
It is a covert form of manipulation. The abuser misleads their chosen target, creates a false narrative, and twists reality. It happens in the open without being obvious to others and their target. The process is so gradual that the gas-lit person feels disoriented, distressed, and confused.
Why do people gaslight? Let’s figure out why these people choose to do so (yes, it is a choice). Understanding underlying motives makes it easier to halt the behavior in its tracks before the gaslighter gains traction.
It all comes down to control. Suppose Person A’s reality is constantly questioned by Person B. In that case, it makes it a thousand times easier for Person B to influence Person A. It’ll keep Person A shackled to Person B at a lower level. At its worst, Person B could use the tactic to brainwash an unsuspecting individual, church, or country.
Gaslighters are students of social learning. They either experience or see the tactic used. They learn how to twist it to their advantage, and when they find out what works, they keep doing it.
It is also a roundabout way of commanding and demanding attention. They search for outside approval; this is how they know they can get it. They play mind games to receive attention, whether good or bad.
They’ll lie with a straight face and even deny proven concrete evidence. Anything said or done is used as ammunition. Gaslighters misdirect you with their words while their actions tell a different story. For example, they will tell you they will not physically hurt you while holding a knife to your side or nonconsensually restraining you. Not only will they manipulate you, but they also manipulate everyone around you to isolate you. Their end goal is to cage you with nothing but their words.
Be wary; gaslighting becomes a problem when it is repeated behavior. Everyone utters phrases like these occasionally, “I don’t have the time for this” or “You sure you’re not overreacting?” That isn’t a problem unless it becomes a habit or a continued behavior.
So, how can someone see the signs of gaslighting, stop it, or get out of the situation safely?
According to tips from Healthline, stepping back and getting space from the situation helps clear the air. It gives you a chance to process the situation and the strong emotions that arise from it. Gathering physical and digital evidence of said gaslighting behaviors helps you regain your sense of reality. It also debunks and makes the lies clearer to you. Speak up about the behavior and let the abuser know you will not tolerate it. Engaging and maintaining self-care helps boost confidence, and confiding in your support system will aid you in grounding with reality. Disengage from the abusive behavior. If you avoid making your responses fun or elating, there’s a good chance the abuser tones it down.
For further information about gaslighting and more ways to shut it down, Lia Mancao, a licensed therapist, wrote a recent article, and licensed psychoanalyst Robin Stern explains gaslighting along with its implications and repercussions in more detail. Here are the links for therapy.
Stand firm in your truth.