What is gaslighting
Gaslighting is a term used to describe emotional abuse by a partner, parents, sibling, friend or even a boss, to get the upper hand by using manipulative strategies making you question your reality, events and even memories.
Where did the term gaslighting originate from?
The term gaslighting originates from a 1944 movie ‘Gaslight’ starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer. The plot focuses on a young newlywed couple. The husband has a secret that he will do anything to protect, even if it means convincing his wife she is crazy.
In some cases, you may not even realise you’re a victim of gaslighting. It’s done over a period of time, making you feel like you’re the one at fault and losing your mind. It is considered a form of domestic violence and even children can become victims to gaslighting. It may occur when parents separate. The gaslighter is usually the parent who feels like they are losing control and will use manipulative tactics to get the child/children to side with them.
During times of crisis such as the COVID-19 outbreak, cases of domestic violence tend to rise. If you are living with a gaslighter during this time, social isolation may be a very stressful and anxious time for you and your family.
6 Traits of a Gaslighter
1. Prone to exaggerating and lies
Gaslighters frequently lie and exaggerate. They brag about their accomplishments and belittle your achievements to gain control. They will use sentences such as “You always…”, “You never…” in an attempt to make you feel inferior.
2. They don’t like to lose
When you’re arguing a gaslighter plays to win. There’s no such thing as second place. When their integrity comes into question instead of sulking or raging out the door, gaslighters may turn to using untrue allegations and intimidation techniques.
3. Inflated self-worth
Gaslighters see themselves as all-powerful and dominant, as nothing they ever do is ever wrong. They gain pleasure from pointing out others’ failings and disrespect others opinions, particularly those who may disagree with them.
4. Above the law
Many gaslighters believe they are exempt from rules and boundaries that apply to everyone else. They may engage in underhanded business dealings, helping themselves to things that aren’t theirs, even internet trolling or hate speeches. They tend to be risk takers.
5. Tendency to have mood swings
Living with a gaslighter can be like navigating a minefield—you’re never entirely sure where and when they’re going to explode. Showing independence or any self-worth is often a trigger. They may also switch from easy-going to irate when you fail to meet their expectations or don’t agree with their point of view.
Manipulation tactics are often used to ensure you do as you’re told or come around to the gaslighters way of thinking. Through continual exaggeration, the twisting of reality, bullying and/or abuse, gaslighters will have their victims believing they are the one at fault. They may even use positive reinforcement against you. For example; “Why are you acting this way when you know I love you?”
7 Red flags you are being targeted by a gaslighter
1. You feel like nothing you do is good enough
A gaslighter will undermine your confidence. Whether you’ve baked a cake or cleaned the house, your attempts won’t be good enough. For example; “I don’t know why you bother…just leave it to me!”
2. “I’m sorry…” is part of your daily vocabulary
You are constantly apologising for things to keep the peace, even if you’re pretty sure it wasn’t your fault.
3. You take the blame for the gaslighter’s behaviour
In addition to apologising, you also take responsibility for the reason your partner is in a bad mood and find yourself justifying their behaviour by telling yourself “If only I hadn’t done this or reacted this way, then…”
4. You struggle to make important decisions
Fear and lack of confidence can make even the most simple decisions like what to cook for dinner a struggle.
5. You feel like you’re losing your mind
Your abuser may make you paranoid that friends and family are concerned for your wellbeing and emotional stability, or talking behind your back. This is an effective way of isolating you from those close to you.
6. Your thoughts and feelings aren’t valid
If you express emotions, you may be told you’re overreacting or to settle down, can’t you take a joke. Over time this can wear away at your confidence levels and make you question whether you are too sensitive.
7. You’re constantly walking on eggshells
In a relationship you should be free to express your opinion, but when you’re dealing with a gaslighter, you always filter your thoughts and feelings to avoid arguments.
If you are a victim of domestic abuse you can call DVConnect 24/7 helpline 0800 811 811. Alternatively, if you want to discover what your legal rights are, please contact DA Family Lawyers on (07) 3238 5900.
Psychology Today, Stephanie A. Sarkis Ph.D. Gaslighting
Healthline: Recognising Gaslighting & getting help