Gaslighting: Is It Happening To You?

Gaslighting: Is It Happening To You?

man and woman arguing

With unique perceptions about life and experiences, each of us develops sensory capacities that are different than the next, with distinct responses, beliefs and convictions. These ideas define who we are as individuals, and while we are continuously exposed to views that are different than our own, many of us remain true to core values and insights. Even so, psychologists point out an unfortunate reality that is lurking among personal and professional relationships—gaslighting.

Though not always malicious or intentional, gaslighting is a form of sly manipulation and a way of exuding power over another. Victims might begin to question the ideas that they once felt sure about, including their judgment, reasoning and decision-making. Over time, individuals can lose touch with reality and slip into a cycle of not being able to navigate day-to-day life activities with confidence and a sense of clarity.

Robin Stern, Ph.D., and author of “The Gaslight Effect,” recently shared with NBC News that the danger of letting go of one’s reality is pretty extreme and that it (gaslighting) is always dangerous. Whether it’s happening in a marriage, between a manager and his or her employee or among parents and children, it’s important to gain an awareness of what gaslighting looks like and how to get out of it. After all, it is not always easy to identify and may begin with seemingly insignificant remarks.

Although the concept of gaslighting came from a 1938 play entitled “Gas Light,” in which a husband manipulates his wife to make her think that she is losing her mind so that he can commit her to a mental facility and take her inheritance, Dr. Stern explains that “not all real-life examples are so diabolical.” Perhaps a more relevant example would be a parent that is always showing disapproval of a child’s decisions, causing him or her to question the decisions he or she is making. Consequently, the child begins to change the way in which decisions are made based on what he or she suspects the mother would agree with.

In another instance, a “gaslighter” might say, “Give me a break. I never said that,” or “You’re making a big deal out of nothing.” These small offenses can ultimately upset the foundation of one’s well-being. As a rule, if it gets to this point, take notice. The National Domestic Hotline’s fact sheet lists specific manipulation techniques that might be used by a gaslighter:

  • Withholding (when one (the abuser) refuses to listen or claims that they do not understand the other person)
  • Countering (when one (the abuser) questions the other’s recollection of something)
  • Blocking or Diverting (when one (the abuser) changes the subject or questions the other’s views, ideas or thinking about something)
  • Trivializing (when one (the abuser) makes the other’s needs and feelings seem unimportant)
  • Forgetting or Denial (when one (the abuser) pretends to have forgotten what happened regarding something, or completely denies something that he or she once agreed to)

Keep in mind that a particular gaslighting technique is making a comment that contains some truth, or one that is particularly sensitive to a person. Doing so inherently causes the person to consider what the other is saying, simply because they know that there is some truth to it. Though subtle, the manipulation, in this case, can cause the victim to feel unsure about his or her thoughts. He or she might feel the need to apologize or make excuses for the other’s remarks, especially if in a committed relationship with the person. Meanwhile, the perpetual loss of identity can lead the victim to feel confused and unhappy.

Do you feel undermined in your reality? Are you caught up in a power struggle with someone that you love or look up to?

Founded on the principle that healthy relationships are key to living a happy, fulfilled life, Triune Therapy Group assumes a multi-faceted approach to help individuals identify and recover from unhealthy patterns in relationships. With professionals that empathize with your struggles, we provide the hope that you need and deserve with unique therapeutic treatments designed for you.

Contact our West Los Angeles clinic today to schedule a confidential consultation.

Posted on behalf of Triune Therapy Group