Sonal ShenoyBSM at Tinystep, Tripple Major B.A in Media Studies, English and Psychology
This thing has been happening since times immemorial, but we only put a name to it 80 years ago, and we only started paying attention to it a few years ago. It’s called gaslighting, and fortunately, people have been talking about it in the last few years. It probably happens to a lot of us on a daily basis, or we may be doing it to people without realising it. But what’s important is to learn and unlearn, that’s what this article aims to do – although there’s no end to the number of things about it.
What Is Gaslighting?
So, have you ever been told that you’re making a mountain out of a molehill when confronting someone for something they did? These are ways people gaslight you.
Simply put, gaslighting is a form of emotional or psychological manipulation where someone sows doubt in the targeted individual’s mind, making them question their memory, perception, sanity. It’s what you can call a power play in most cases.
Did you know? The term originated from a mystery thriller titled “Gas Light” written in 1938 by Patrick Hamilton, which was later made into a movie.
Here’s a video that explains it well:
Spotting It: Here are Some Traits You Might Be All Too Familiar With
- Denying they ever said something, which you know you heard. Repeatedly doing this makes you question yourself. They may also tell you you’re “imagining” things.
- Personal attacks on your negative traits or things that mean a lot to you, like your kids, or work – these become ammunition to them.
- It’s gradual. It starts with a small lie, a smug comment once in a while. The smartest people get gaslighted because it happens over time, and is often done by someone you are likely to trust.
- Positive actions which confuse you. Just when you’re starting to think this person might be bad for you, they do or say something extremely “nice”, which makes you think they’re not too bad. Well, news flash, they are!
- They tell you you’re “crazy” or overreacting. And they tell other people too, so that you know no one’s going to believe you when you try talking about it.
- They tell you others are lying. They win by isolating you from your otherwise support systems. They play victim when caught in an act or ratted out, which makes you take their side and abandon the others.
- They project their problems onto you. Said problem could be as small as a lie, or as big as cheating, drug abuse etc.
How Do You Deal With It?
There are no hard and sure ways of handling being gaslighted, because it’s excruciatingly painful, but there are some strategies that may help you break the cycle.
- Defy – Refuse to accept your gaslighter’s denial of reality. Especially if you’re a woman, they may call you “a difficult woman” for doing so, but remember, it’s just defiant that you’re being.
- Accept – Accept that your gas-lighter will never tell you the truth. Stop expecting that they will be different. Take their words about you with a pinch, or in some cases, a heap, of salt.
- Distance – Give yourself permission to let go of a relationship when it becomes a power struggle, where your feelings are constantly being invalidated.
- Put yourself first – Get called “selfish” if you will, but remember, no one is truly selfless, and no one can put your first except you!
Here’s a TED Talk I found really helpful:
Being gaslighted can often impact you in deeper ways than you know. You may find it hard to stand up for yourself, because you think you’re “overreacting,” or maybe you’d just avoid confronting people about situations, because they’re likely to deny it and make you feel stupid. Of course, there’s no way to avoid someone else’s gaslighter tendencies, it’s important to tell yourself you are important, and that the so-called “your truth” is still “the truth.”
Here are some of the resources that give you a better sense of what it’s like to be gaslighted and how you can handle it!
Elman, 2018. YouTube. Gaslighting Explained.
Sarkis, 2017. Psychology Today. 11 Warning Signs of Gaslighting.
Stern, 2019. Vox. I’ve counseled hundreds of victims of gaslighting. Here’s how to spot if you’re being gaslighted (2019).
Ariel Leve, 2017. TED Archives. How to deal with gaslighting.
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