To me, gaslighting sounds like it should refer to an early way of lighting streetlamps. Don’t you think?! But it’s really something very different!
Gaslighting is the disturbing act of manipulation. Manipulation used to gain power over others. It can be used almost imperceptibly – to great effect and advantage to the manipulator but to great detriment to the victim.
Victims of gaslighting usually will not even realise that they are being targeted as the techniques are usually not very obvious at all. And when certain acts are noticed, they are often dismissed for a variety of reasons.
Lies, lies and more lies
Gaslighters will often tell barefaced lies. They do this to confuse their prey. They like to ensure that the victim isn’t certain what to believe – consequently leaving them unable to differentiate between a truth and a lie. Already this practice puts the target on tenterhooks. The perpetrators also try to convince their unsuspecting parties that everyone else around them are liars. This leads to even more confusion regarding trust.
Sowing the seeds of doubt
The victim knows the perpetrator said something. Absolutely. Definitely. No question about it. It is totally engrained in their mind. Yet, the gaslighter denies it. This happens time and time again. Victims proceed to question themselves. And the more it happens, the more the victim starts to doubt their own integrity.
Time is a destroyer
Gaslighters work on their victims over time. The odd cutting comment here; a nasty little remark there. But it will be so gradual that the victim isn’t fully aware of how harmful the gaslighter is until the real damage has already started to take hold. But to cause even more confusion, the manipulator will throw in a compliment here and there, amongst all the negativity. It will leave the victim thoroughly baffled and bewildered.
Shovel the blame
Whatever their vice, they will tend to accuse their victim of doing that particular ‘crime’. Through continuous accusatory remarks, the victim then proceeds to try and defend themselves so much that they get distracted from the gaslighter’s own questionable behaviour.
Due to the nature of gaslighting and its gradual, understated effect, the victim can be affected quite considerably; no longer demonstrating the strength of character they previously possessed. Depression can then set in and quite easily a manipulator’s behaviour can cause damage to the mental health of the individual targeted.
The problem with gaslighting is that it is usually part of an otherwise great and stable relationship. Too many people put it down to their partner just being a bit ‘off’ or ‘weird’ but because everything else may be relatively good in the relationship, they are accepting of the bad behaviour.
If the above behaviour sounds familiar to yourself or anyone you may know, it’s really worth trying to see if any of these traits are being exhibited. Usually their actions will speak louder than their words. That is, they can often be identified more for what they are doing than what they are saying.
Be vigilant. Don’t doubt what you are seeing. And know when to stand up for yourself.