Understanding Gaslighting: What is it and How Does it Work?

Understanding Gaslighting: What is it and How Does it Work?

Do you ever feel like you are going insane? Do you feel like your memory is failing and you can’t ever do the right thing?

Is there someone that you cling to in order to keep you from doing something crazy? You aren’t alone. You may be experiencing “gaslighting”. 

As you will read in this article, gaslighting can be one of the most disturbing forms of abuse. 

What Does Gaslighting Mean?

The term gaslighting describes abusive behavior that involves manipulating information to make the victim doubt their own sanity. The victim becomes unsure about their own memories and perception of reality.

The term gaslighting is derived from a 1944 move entitled Gaslight. A woman’s husband makes her believe that she is going insane. He lies, gives inconsistent positive and negative reinforcement, and makes her believe her reality is false.

She hears knocking on walls and sees a dim gaslight. He tells her that she is imagining everything. She becomes completely isolated and dependent on him.

This form of emotional abuse can be one of the most difficult types of abuse to recognize.

The abuser may repeatedly lie and set up abusive scenarios for their own personal gain. Much like in Stockholm Syndrome, the victim becomes so unsure of their perceptions and sanity that they cling to their abuser for guidance. The Gaslighter now gains complete control over their victim.

How Do You Know If You Are Being Gaslighted?

The gaslighting tactic can be easier to achieve than you may think. It has been used by abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It happens so slowly that the victim has no idea what’s going on.

Gaslighters use many tricks. They begin with small lies progressing to more blatant lies. Their goal is to keep the victim unsure of reality.

They will deny their actions even if the victim has evidence to the contrary. The abuser uses things most important to the victim, such as children, for manipulations. You can’t trust their words. 

Over time, their victim’s defenses wear down. To add to the confusion, the abuser will intersperse positive reinforcement. They understand that increasing their victim’s confusion weakens them further.

The abuser blames the victim for the abuser’s bad behaviors. The victim is told that they are crazy and that everyone else is lying. They tell other people that the victim is out of control.

Such abuse and manipulation isolate victims to the point that they don’t see any means of escape. They don’t even believe that they should try to escape.

Awareness is the best defense. Early identification of the situation helps increase the chance that the victim can escape.

How to Fight Back Against Gaslighting

If you worry that you may be a victim of gaslighting, look for help. Leave the situation.

The first step is to recognize that you are a victim of gaslighting. This allows you to retake control and fight against the manipulation.

Being financially dependent and/or have children, may make it hard to believe you have options. But, you do always have options. Consider moving to live with someone else or go to a shelter.

If you are unable to leave, here are tips for defending yourself:

  • Avoid accepting responsibility for the person’s actions
  • Don’t allow yourself to be hurt to save the person’s feelings
  • Repeat and remember the truth
  • Don’t argue with them about what is true
  • You are not alone, you can always call someone, even a hotline for help

When you realize that you are in an abusive situation, find a counselor to help you cope with the situation.

How Counseling Can Help

A therapeutic relationship with a counselor provides a safe place to talk about your feelings. The therapist can help you identify healthy and unhealthy behaviors. This leads to learning more effective coping strategies.

The following describes approaches your counselor may use to help you heal.

Talk about the problem

Do you feel like yourself? Do you feel that someone is manipulating you?

A counselor can help you explore these questions. He or she will also help you come to recognize that your abuser’s treatment is not okay.

Learn coping strategies

A counselor can help to identify specific manipulative and abusive behaviors in your relationships.

You can then work together to learn strategies to use when faced with abusive situations. You will also develop ways to prevent future abusive relationships.

Decide how to handle contact with your abuser

If you must have contact with your abuser, you and your counselor may role-play the situation. This allows you to practice your coping strategies. Some people may choose couple’s therapy.

Focus on the future

As a victim of gaslighting, you may feel defined by the manipulation. It’s important to learn how to redefine yourself as a strong individual.

Learn to share your feelings with others 

You may feel embarrassed that you fell into this abusive situation. You need to recognize that it doesn’t reflect on you as a person but on your abuser.

Consider a support group of others who have experienced abuse. Share your feelings.

Talk to friends and family members. Redevelop your support network.

Are You Ready to Feel Better About Yourself?

Are you tired of letting self-doubt stop you from doing things? Do you want to feel more satisfaction in your work, social, and relationship life? At Modern Era, we can help you move toward a happier lifestyle and shed those insecurities.

If you learned new information from this article about gaslighting, continue checking out our site. Contact us today to learn more.

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