Gaslighting in a relationship – be aware and know how to spot it

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse in which a person makes another person question their reality. Because gaslighting is a heightened form of manipulation, it can happen to absolutely anyone, no matter how strong they believe themselves to be. A gaslighter employs tactics to carefully destabilise the reality and identity of his or her victim. Here are four emotional weapons used by gaslighters:

1. Lying

The concept of lying is a useful tool for gaslighters. Not only do they lie expertly, but they also accuse you and those who support you of lying too.

Gaslighters lie, even when you have proof that they are lying. They will blatantly deny saying something, even if you have the screenshots to prove it. They bend the truth with precision and confidence, but they can also be astoundingly blatant in their dishonesty. This is because they want to set a precedent. They will tell a big lie to set the groundwork for little ones, a constant guessing game where the victim is always on edge about what is real and what is not.

Gaslighters will try and turn you against supportive friends and family members by accusing them of lying. They will also tell lies about what others think of you, making comments like ‘that person knows you’re not well/useless/crazy’.

It is common for gaslighters to try and isolate you by insuring you cannot trust those around you. They will tell you that everyone is a liar in an attempt to get rid of other sources of information in your life such as colleagues, friends, family, or the media. They do this to make sure that you rely on them for opinions and information.

2. Targeting your Identity

Think of the most important thing in your life. It could be your children; it could be your job or a passion that is central to your identity. A gaslighter will pray on this positive thing and make you feel like you do not deserve it. They will tell you that you are not fit to be a mother, that you are a bad daughter or not qualified enough for your job. They are often extremely specific about what makes you bad at doing the things that are central to your being, listing your negative qualities and positive qualities you lack.

This is not done all at once, rather it is a process that happens over a long period of time. The gaslighter will wear you down until you have nothing of your own to rely on, including your own opinions.

3. Confusion

A gaslighter knows what makes you happy. Every once in a while, they will use positive reinforcements to confuse you. They want you to question yourself and think ‘maybe he/she isn’t so bad’ and ‘maybe I’m being dramatic’. They might have spent weeks making you feel small, only to pull the rug and make a romantic or encouraging statement to suck you back in.

Gaslighters are also aware that people crave routine and normalcy. To suddenly throw you of kilter regularly, confuses you and interrupts this stability. You then end up relying on your closest emotional connection to gain this stability back: the gaslighter.

It is common for gaslighters to confuse their victim with words. They say one thing yet do the complete opposite. Promises and declarations are made, yet behaviour does not change.  It is as if their actions do not match what they are saying.

4. Projection

Gaslighters project their issues onto you. They accuse you of cheating when they are unfaithful. They accuse you of manipulation when they manipulate you. They accuse you of substance abuse when they abuse alcohol or drugs. They try to convince you that you are the one with the problem until you being to defend yourself. This distracts you from their own negative behaviours.

Familiarise yourself with these tactics. Arming yourself with this info can help you stop yourself or your loved ones falling into the trap of a gaslighter. 

Source: psychologytoday.com

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