.I’m not what you think I am,
YOU are what you think I am.
I’ve come to realize how incredibly interesting this phenomenon is. Where a listener comes to believe something because it has been repeated so often that you begin to believe it, even if you know deep down that it isn’t true.
They wear you down over time.
This is one of the insidious things about gaslighting — it is done gradually, over time. A lie here, a lie there, a snide comment every so often…and then it starts ramping up. Even the brightest, most self-aware people can be sucked into gaslighting — it is that effective. It’s the “frog in the frying pan” analogy: The heat is turned up slowly, so the frog never realizes what’s happening to it.
The term “gaslighting” first originated in Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 play, Gas Light, where a manipulative husband drives his wife to the brink of insanity by causing her to question her own reality.
Gaslighting is a form of manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual, hoping to make you question your own memory, perception, and sanity in order to gain power. It’s to create a conflict in the victims mind and make you doubt your own being, making you feel like you’re going crazy. It works much better then you think. Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. As I said it is done slowly, so the victim doesn’t realize how much they’ve been brainwashed. It’s manipulative and highly damaging for the victim. Things you say and do can and most likely will be turned against you and whatever discussion or fight the predator is starting, it will be your fault. You are the issue. They want you to depened on them and not yourself. If you’re lucky you can sense early enough that this isn’t a normal behavior from your partner and hopefully you won’t start to actually believe in everything. Hopefully you walk away from it before it’s too late.
I know a lot of people who experienced a relationship with someone who emotionally abuses with gas lighting. And therefore I want to write a blog about some warning signs of this behavior to inform people about the issue and prevent this from damaging and breaking more people. As explained, it’s easily done, regardless who you are. Of course this type of emotional abuse often go together with coercive control, shift blame and of course many other types of manipulation and emotional abuse.
To remember is that this type of behavior is there for a reason. It’s a protection, a defense mechanism and it has nothing to do with you. So regardless what terrible things he might say, it’s not actually about you. But regardless “why” this behavior is there, there’s never any excuse! It’s never okey to treat anyone like this regardless. He tries to hurt you, minimalize you and put you down to make himself feel better. It’s all about control. He can’t be in control of himself and his inner insecurities so he has to control something else and that will unfortunately be you.
1. Withholding: Your partner pretends to not understand you or flat out refuses to listen to you. He or she might say things like “I don’t want to hear this again”, “I don’t want to talk about that”, “There’s nothing to discuss”, “Just believe me when I say it’s better we leave it.”
Remember, your opinions, feelings and perceptions matter. You have a voice and you have a right to be heard, without ridicule.
2. Countering: Your partner questions your memory, even if you’re sure you know what happened. He or she will most likely change what actually happened and/or use a situation when you actually forgot something to make you confused and start questioning if you also forgot this time. He or she say things like “You’re wrong, you never remember things correctly”, “You have selective memory”, “I don’t remember that”, “Get your info right before you speak”, “You’re lying” or “You’re imagining things, that never happened.”
Stand your ground, no matter what.
Don’t shrink back and doubt yourself or your ability to correctly remember what has occurred. If it helps, keep a journal of events, documenting helps when your partner tries to speak over you and twist what you say. And remember that we all can forget sometimes and that should never be a reason for someone to make you doubt yourself when you’re actually right. Also remember that how it made you feel matters! If it didn’t feel right and/or still doesn’t feel right then something is most likely wrong! If he was sain, he would try to make sure he never hurt you or made you feel bad like that again. He wouldn’t constantly deny your feelings and say that you are in the wrong by feeling the way you do.
3. Blocking/Diverting: Your partner changes the subject to silence you. Or questions how you’re feeling, saying things like “You’re not being yourself.” He moves on from issues like nothing happened and refuse to really speak about it.
This tactic is meant to shut you down, and fast.
Note how you feel when your partner says these things to you. You may feel deflated, your gut might tell you that this doesn’t feel okey. Or you may feel confused and end up second-guessing yourself.
4. Trivializing: Your partner makes your needs or feelings seem unimportant, constantly telling you that you’re too sensitive, “Something isn’t right with you”, “Are you going to cry now? Again?” Or that “You’re going to make a big deal out of something like that?”
Your feelings matter! It’s important to note that as adults, we often speak this way to children, too. If your partner repeatedly dismisses or trivializes your feelings, they are, in essence, treating you like a child. If your partner can’t accept the way you feel and ignores hurting you over and over again even though you repeatedly say how it makes you feel – that means he doesn’t respect you. Which also means he doesn’t respect himself.
5. Forgetting/Denying: Your partner pretends to have forgotten what really happened, or flat out denies promises he or she made to you. He/she will say things like, “I don’t know what you’re talking about”, “You’re just making things up” or again “You’re lying”.
Do NOT second-guess yourself. Recognize that the problem is with them, not with you.
While the above are the common signs of when your partner is gaslighting you, there are also clear signs that you’ll start to notice within yourself. It’s extremely important to pay attention to these signs. How you chronically feel can be a big red flag that something is off or wrong. And while you may not currently believe it, your feelings absolutely matter. According to author and psychoanalyst Robin Stern, Ph.D., the following are signs of being a victim of gaslighting.
If you identify with these 10 signs, you’re most likely being gaslighted.
For example, you:
- Are constantly second-guessing yourself.
- Start to question if you are too sensitive.
- Often feel confused and have a hard time making simple decisions.
- Find yourself constantly apologizing.
- Can’t understand why you’re so unhappy.
- Often make excuses for your partner’s behavior.
- Feel like you can’t do anything right.
- Often feel like you aren’t good enough.
- Have the sense that you used to be a more confident, relaxed and happy person.
- Withhold information from friends and family so you don’t have to explain things
Rather than taking responsibility for his actions, he will blame you for a multitude of infractions: you don’t want to have sex, you want too much sex, you’re bad in bed, you’re 99% of the reason to why we fight, you’re childish and immature, you’re too sensitive, you can’t hold a discussion, you’re insane, you’re unstable and something is wrong in your head. Now you’re giving up, how could you do such a thing, how could you do that to me, I deserve better, you are the most selfish person I’ve ever met. And because your sense of reality is so distorted at this point, you actually feel bad for him, so you stay.
And so the cycle continues.
A gaslighter gaslights in order to feel some sense of control in their own lives by making others depend on them. Gaslighting can also be part of an authoritarian personality. A person with an authoritarian personality tends to think in absolutes: Things are 100 percent right or 100 percent wrong.
When a gaslighter thinks that they are not the problem and everyone else is, this is called having an ego-syntonic personality. It can be very difficult to get ego-syntonic gaslighters into treatment; they believe nothing is wrong with them. A gaslighting spouse or partner may either refuse to go to therapy, or if they do attend with you, they may tell the therapist that you are the problem. If the therapist recommends that the gaslighter changes a behavior, the gaslighter will label the therapist as incompetent. Even in therapy, a gaslighter may not truly be aware of, or may refuse to acknowledge that their behavior is the problem.
Even if a person is practicing gaslighting behavior without being aware of it, they may get a “payoff” when their victim becomes more dependent on them. And then the cycle continues. The gaslighter also gets a “boost” when there are no checks and balances in place — no one holding them accountable for their behavior. Keep in mind that dependency is one of the goals of gaslighters. If a gaslighter is not aware of their manipulative behavior, that does not make it acceptable—it is still pathological, and it is still their responsibility. For gaslighters who have read up on this behavior or were taught it, of course, the same rule applies.
If you are victim of gaslighting, you must remember why your partner does this. Their distorted sense of self, and their fear of being exposed that they are no longer truly special, gives them the ammo to play ultimate mind games. You aren’t the problem – they are.
Do not succumb to his manipulation – you are worthy of love and safety, and gaslighting will only prevent you from realizing it. You must break free before your sanity is ultimately compromised.