Gaslighting is an emotional manipulation technique that, when repeated multiple times, makes a person question and doubt their own sanity. It is very common in abusive relationships – in fact, emotional abuse is far more common than we would imagine.
But where did the name come from?
Gaslight is the name of a movie written by Patrick Hamilton. It tells a story about a marriage, where the husband tries to make his wife think that she is going crazy. He does this with many subtle tactics, for example, turning down the gas lights (thus the name of the movie). The wife mentions to her husband that the lights are dimmer, and he constantly denies it, making her start to question her sanity.
“I never said that”
“You’re being too sensitive”
“Is it PMS?”
A gaslighter discredits the feelings and/or memories of the victim. Clearly, nobody remembers absolutely everything that is said, but there is a big difference between not remembering and accusing someone of having problems with memory/emotions and trying to rewrite their memory. Gaslighting is a technique of disorientation.
These phrases, between other similarities, slowly break the self-confidence of the person suffering from gaslighting. Other symptoms are:
-You question your own memory or emotions
-You suffer from mental confusion, including “feeling crazy”
-You see yourself always making mistakes, and are always asking forgivness from someone, but never can understand how you reacted in that way
-You can never understand how, with so many good things happening in your life, you are unhappy
-You frequently create excuses to defend your partner/parent/friend
-You are unable to make simple decisions
-You feel like you can’t do anything right
-You ask yourself if you are a good enough person
Remember that gaslighting can be done by any person, including bosses, co-workers, family members, and partners. If you feel that you need to defend your sanity or your value from someone, it’s good to ask yourself if you are being manipulated by them.
Therapy can help you perceive the manipulation and deal with it, by changing the dynamic of the toxic relationship or cutting it out completely.
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