While there are numerous forms of abuse and trauma that a person can go through, you often don’t hear about the different tactics; someone who uses gaslighting will use it to make their victim doubt their perception of reality. For example, someone may convince their victim that they are wrong. The abuser can manipulate things such as memories or create an overreaction to specific events. The abuser in this situation will often present their thoughts and feelings as what the victim should view as the “real truth.”
The term gaslighting originated from a 1930s play titled “Gas Light.” In the play’s plot, a young woman’s husband tries to convince her that she is mentally unstable. The husband makes small changes to the woman’s environment, such as dimming the lights in their gas lanterns. While continuing to make the small changes, the husband can convince his wife that she imagines these slight changes. Throughout the play, his ultimate goal is to have her committed to an asylum so he can steal her inheritance.
What is it?
The act of gaslighting is an abusive tactic that makes a victim doubt their thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. While the abuse is subtle at first, it can grow over time. If the victim starts to tell a story, their abuser may challenge a small detail or details about the events that occurred. The victim may concede that they were wrong and continue. In the future, the abuser could use this “win” to discredit the victim even further by calling into question the person’s memory.
Today gaslighting can take a lot of different forms. It can involve the manipulation of a person’s environment, verbal and even emotional tactics. Often the techniques can include things such as:
- When an abuser refuses to listen to the victim’s concerns or feelings, often pretending that they do not understand what the victim is saying or blatantly disregarding the victim.
- When the abuser questions the victim’s memory. For example, the abuser could deny the events how the victim recalls them and manipulate them to tell the story to what they say is accurate. They can also create details that did not happen at the time of the event.
- Forgetting or denial
- When the abuser pretends to forget about events that have taken place to discredit the victim, they can also deny promises to avoid responsibility.
When counseling victims who have undergone gaslighting tactics, it’s essential to understand how their abusers use their manipulation. Therapy is a safe place where you can talk through how you feel and your memories without fear of judgment. The therapist should be able to help you point out behaviors that are healthy and unhealthy in your relationships. They can also teach you how to resist psychological manipulation. From there, if you need further help, they can also help you determine the safest way to leave that relationship.