Today’s topic is Managing Interpersonal Relationships! On Sundays, we strive to provide information that you can use to better relationships with your friends, family, and significant others alike! Today’s subject is gaslighting. When someone questions the accuracy of your memory, it’s only natural to harbor doubts. After all, the human brain is perfectly-imperfect; always forgetting the right thing at the wrong time. So, you ask yourself, “did this happen?”, or, “am I remembering this correctly?”.
For most, these questions are relatively harmless; a simple lapse in memory with no consequence. Yet, for some, these questions are a product of something more sinister—a manipulation tactic—used to maintain power and control over an individual. Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse that involves manipulating someone into doubting their perceptions and memories. It is a subtle and insidious tactic that can be difficult to detect, but its effects can be devastating, causing long-term damage to a person’s mental health and overall well-being.
Gaslighting typically involves the abuser constantly denying the truth and manipulating facts to make the victim question their reality. It can be done through verbal means, such as denying something was said or done, or through nonverbal means, such as altering physical evidence or manipulating surroundings. The abuser may also use other tactics, such as lying, withholding information, or manipulating the victim’s emotions to keep them off balance and unsure of what is real.
This is a common occurrence in romantic relationships but can prevail in platonic and familial circumstances as well. For example, a so-called “friend” might try to convince you that your last trip to the club was uneventful. Meanwhile, they’ve deleted videos of you blacked out, dancing on the bar to “Sweet Caroline”. Deleting the video may spare you some well-deserved embarrassment.
In all seriousness, however, convincing you, who would otherwise have no recollection of these events, that they did not happen, is manipulation—that’s gaslighting.
Abusers use gaslighting as a way to manipulate and control their victims. By causing their victims to doubt their perceptions and memories, abusers can maintain power in the relationship. This allows the abuser to avoid accountability for their actions and to deflect blame onto the victim.
Abusers also use gaslighting as a form of entrapment. By causing their victims to doubt their judgment and sense of reality, abusers can make it more difficult for them to see the abuse for what it is and recognize that they have options for seeking help and support. It’s important to note that abusers may also gaslight as a way to protect their ego and self-esteem.
By manipulating their victims into doubting their perceptions and memories, abusers can maintain a favorable image of themselves and avoid having to confront their own harmful behavior.
The impacts of this practice can be severe, as it erodes a person’s confidence in their perceptions and can lead to feelings of confusion, anxiety, and even depression. It can also cause a person to feel isolated and disconnected from others, as they may begin to doubt their judgment and the reliability of those around them.
So, how does one detect and avoid gaslighting in their relationships? First and foremost, trust your instincts! If you are fully confident in your recounting of a disputed event or possess any feelings of unsureness towards the other party, it’s important to trust yourself and seek out additional information or support. It can also be helpful to seek out supportive relationships and surround yourself with honest, reliable, and trustworthy people.
Another way to detect and avoid gaslighting is to be aware of common tactics that abusers use, such as denying the truth, manipulating facts, and using emotional manipulation. It can be helpful to keep track of conversations and events and to seek out corroborating evidence when needed. Finally, it’s important to remember that gaslighting is a form of abuse and should be recognized as such.
If you or someone you know is being gaslighted, it’s important to seek out support from friends, family, or a mental health professional. Removing oneself from the situation may also be necessary to protect one’s well-being. Until next time…
- Gaslighting: How to Recognize and Respond to This Form of Emotional Abuse. HelpGuide.org. (n.d.). Retrieved December 18, 2022, from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/abuse/gaslighting.htm.
- Sarkis, S. (2021). Gaslighting: Recognize manipulative and emotionally abusive people – and break free. Amazon. Retrieved December 18, 2022, from https://www.amazon.com/Gaslighting-Recognize-Manipulative-Emotionally-People/dp/0738284661
- Sussex Publishers. (n.d.). Gaslighting. Psychology Today. Retrieved December 18, 2022, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/gaslighting
- Tracy, N. (n.d.). Gaslighting definition, techniques and being gaslighted. HealthyPlace. Retrieved December 18, 2022, from https://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/emotional-psychological-abuse/gaslighting-definition-techniques-and-being-gaslighted