There are many forms of psychological manipulation. Today, we will talk about ‘Gaslighting’.
Gaslighting is a term used by psychologists to describe tactics employed by certain types of people when they try to manipulate their victims into thinking they are going mad.
Where did the term ‘gaslighting’ come from?
The term ‘gaslighting’ comes from the film Gaslight, produced in the 1940s, in which the husband tries to convince his wife that she is going insane as he wants to inherit her money. He manipulates small factors in their surroundings and when the wife points out these changes he denies them, stating instead that she is mistaken, in an attempt to make her think she is going mad. However, the wife starts to notice that the gaslights used to illuminate their home dim significantly when the husband is not around. It is this that finally shows the husband up for the manipulator that he really is. It is for this reason that gaslighting has now become a commonly used term for manipulating someone’s reality.
What does it actually mean to be ‘gaslighted’?
Gaslighting is where a person, usually someone who is close to you, tells you lies to make you question your own sanity or reality. They won’t just lie to you, however, to make you unsure of yourself. They will give you false information so that you blame yourself for the other person’s actions. These lies will start off fairly small and insignificant, to get you used to their deception tactics. Then these psychological manipulation tactics will progress to larger and larger untruths.
Who can be gaslighted?
Unfortunately, studies have shown that anyone can be gaslighted in the right circumstances. Human beings are incredibly trustworthy. It is in our nature to believe what other people say and do. Moreover, we have a natural tendency to want to believe in our loved ones. This can make us incredibly vulnerable to deception and ruthless tactics. Even highly educated and sensible people have been gaslighted. This is because rather than hold someone to account, we tend to blame ourselves.
How do you know if someone is gaslighting you?
Because this kind of psychological manipulation typically starts off so slowly, it can be hard to determine whether you are experiencing the effects of it. There are tell-tale signs, however, that you are being subject to this form of psychological manipulation.
See if any of the statements below ring true:
- You feel constantly on edge around your partner or loved one.
- You never know what mood your partner or loved one is going to be in the next time you see them, and that makes you anxious all the time.
- You feel like something is not right with your life but you don’t know what.
- You often feel confused and disorientated but don’t know why.
- You are always apologizing to your partner or loved one in an attempt to keep the peace.
- You think that you are always to blame for things and that you are just not ‘good enough’.
- You try to live up to other people’s demands of you, even though they may be unrealistically high.
- You think that you must be over-sensitive as you seem to be over-reacting all the time.
- You feel like you have lost your sparkle and confidence.
- You are becoming afraid of speaking up because of what it might trigger in your partner or loved one.
Why do psychopaths use gaslighting to manipulate?
Psychopaths have many tools at their disposal, but gaslighting is a common weapon in their arsenal. If you think about what a psychopath’s main goal is in life, it is easy to see why they prefer this method over others. Psychopaths want to completely dominate the other person and will use whatever tactics they can to achieve this. They need to have control and an advantage in order to have the upper hand, and what better way than using gaslighting?
Gaslighting undermines your confidence, it makes you question your sanity, it isolates you and leaves you feeling insecure and worthless. Ripe pickings for your average psychopath.
What to do if you think you are being gaslighted
If you think you are being gaslighted there are things you can do.
- Understand that the situation you are in is not your fault.
- Go and talk to a professional about what is happening in your life to get an objective opinion.
- Leave the situation with the help of close friends and relatives.
Moving forward, if you find that you are constantly attracting people that seek to use psychological manipulation on you in some way, it might be a good time to look at why this is.
In the film Gaslight, the younger woman is seduced by the older man who then marries her and goes on to try and make her go insane. But the woman is keen to be seduced and this is why she finds it so hard to believe that her husband is capable of such despicable acts. She is reliant on her husband’s approval throughout the film and only accepts the dimming of the gaslights when another man, a policeman, tells her he has also seen them dimmed.
Those of us who are secure in our own mental states are a tough audience for psychopaths and they typically move on to weaker prey.
Gaslighting takes two people, one to gaslight and the other to be taken in. Be mindful of your feelings and trust your gut instinct.
- Mind Body Green
- Loner Wolf
- Psychology Today
- Counselling Resource
- Dealing With Toxic People
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