Gaslighting: what is it and how do you deal with it?
Gaslighting: what is it and how do you deal with it?
Blogpost: gaslighting

Gaslighting, you have probably heard the term on social media, on the internet or on TV. But what exactly does gaslighting mean? Everyone is manipulative at times during fights. When we’re angry, we all make statements like, “You’re just insecure and jealous!”, “You’re oversensitive and you’re exaggerating”, “You’re crazy, I think you need help, or “Are you sure? I heard/saw something completely different”. Making a statement like that once doesn’t mean that you’re immediately a ‘gaslighter’. But when someone constantly makes such statements when someone else is expressing his/her feelings, it could be a case of gaslighting.

What is it? 

Gaslighting is a form of manipulation or deception where someone will (wrongly) give you the feeling that you’ve misunderstood or that it’s your fault. The term ‘gaslighting’ originates from the famous film Gaslight (1944). In his film, a man dims the lights in the house at random times. When his wife says something about it, he stubbornly insists that nothing is wrong. Gradually the woman gets the feeling that she is going mad and that her own perception is wrong. Gaslighting can therefore cause a lot of disorientation and uncertainty, which makes someone doubt themselves enormously.

The purpose of a gaslighter is to make you feel insecure, which makes you rely more and more on the gaslighter. The result is that you keep becoming more dependent on the gaslighter. Because if you can no longer rely on yourself, then you look for support from someone else. You increasingly get the feeling that the other person is right and that you cannot function properly without this person. This usually happens subtly and over a longer period of time; the gaslighter gains more and more power and control over you and your world.

Where does it occur?

Gaslighting often occurs in intimate partner relationships and parent-child relationships. You’re often more sensitive to the effects of gaslighting because you often crave the approval of your partner and/or your parents. Gaslighting also occurs within friend groups and work relationships. There’s also political gaslighting, where a political figure manipulates information in order to control people.

How can you recognise it? 

Gaslighters often turn things around which makes you doubt your own observations. Think about the film where the man kept telling his wife that there was nothing wrong with the lights, while he was manipulating them himself. Phrases like: ”Are you sure about this?” and ”Do you remember that well?” do not necessarily indicate gaslighting, but if you continuously hear this after you make something known, then often something’s not right. You can also recognise it by the derogatory tone in which someone speaks, which already implies that you’re probably wrong.

Denial 

In addition, a gaslighter will often go into denial. Typical statements are “’You’re making this up”’ and “’I never said that”’. That person denies certain statements that have been made and denies situations that have occurred. The result? You’re going to doubt yourself! There is a lot of turmoil because you ask yourself what exactly is going on. Maybe it’s really because of your forgetfulness… Before you know it, you’re questioning everything and this of course affects your self-confidence and self-esteem.

Trust

A gaslighter can also make you feel like you can only trust him/her. For example, your friends aren’t good for you and your family can’t be trusted. Friends and family are a threat to a gaslighter because these people often figure him/her out faster. Furthermore, it is good to know that gaslighting does not only take on negative forms. Manipulation and positive comments also go well together. Mean intentions can be easily camouflaged in this way with a nice touch. There’s often sarcasm involved so that you think it’s a sweet joke while there’s actually a lot more to it (‘Don’t start crying now, honey.’).

Confirmation

To substantiate his/her point of view, a gaslighter will sometimes involve others in the process (“’All your friends also realise that you forget a lot of things.”’). You can also ask for confirmation from your surroundings. When points of view are aligned, the uncertainty increases even further. The process of gaslighting is slow and this makes it extra dangerous. You often don’t realise it’s happening. Gradually more and more pieces of self-confidence are taken away and pieces of uncertainty and confusion return in their place.

Am I being gaslighted? Is there someone in your surrounding that is gaslighting you? The biggest red flag is that someone strongly gives you the feeling that you can no longer rely on your own observations. You may also find yourself apologising more often for all sorts of things (“I’m sorry, I misunderstood.”). Another red flag is that you find yourself repeatedly defending the gaslighter in front of other people (“He/she didn’t mean it that way.”). If this is the case, it of course does not necessarily mean that gaslighting is involved, but it doesn’t hurt to be extra aware and observant.

How do you deal with it?

If you suspect that you might be gaslighted by a loved one, take the following steps to take back control of the situation:

  • Take pictures where necessary and write down important points. You collect evidence in this way so that you don’t have to doubt your own observations later on. 
  • If possible, involve a confidant(e), this person can support you in the process and he/she can see what is happening between you.
  • Try to take good care of yourself as best as you can throughout this process. Get enough sleep, exercise moderately intensively daily, and eat a healthy/varied diet. When you maintain a healthy lifestyle, you can deal with stress and negativity better.

Are you or do you know someone who has been a victim of gaslighting? You don’t have to carry this around with you. Contact your doctor and be referred to a professional!

Share this post! If this post was insightful for you, share it with your loved ones so that they can better understand what you are going through.
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Britt Stoker

Hi! My name is Britt, psychologist coach at NiceDay. Through online coaching I can guide and help you with what’s on your mind. Loves animals, traveling, photography and delicious food.

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