Gaslighting: how to manage handling behavior?
In Alfred Hitchcock’s 1944 thriller “Gas Light,” Charles Boyer plays a manipulative husband who torments and manipulates his wife to convince her that she is losing her mind.
Gregory Anton makes subtle changes to Paula’s surroundings, such as gradually and steadily sifting the flame of a gas lamp. He makes her question her sanity, mistreats her, controlling and cutting off her family and friends.
As a result, Paula always questions herself and questions her feelings, perceptions and memories. In addition, she feels neurotic, becomes incredibly hypersensitive, and gets out of control.
Even though the era of the movie is long gone, the title of the movie has evolved into a whole new concept in psychology. Given the film’s precision in describing the controlling and toxic actions that manipulative people use, psychology experts have begun to identify this type of emotionally abusive behavior as “gas lighting.”
So what is gas lighting in the context of psychology? What are the signs of gaslighting? Let’s see this and more.
Also find out how talking to a therapist can help. You can consider online platforms to find one and read therapy reviews online here before choosing.
What is gas lighting?
Gas lighting is a form of emotional abuse characterized by a specific type of manipulation where the manipulator tries to get someone else (or a group of people) to question their own reality, memory or his perceptions.
Psychologists around the world all agree that this is a serious problem, whether intentional or not.
This abuse can start with seemingly minor offenses. Even so, the problem is that even more or less trivial cases of questioning your own sanity can quickly make your problems worse. You will most likely enter a cycle of inability to go about your daily life with a clear mind, focus, and a sense of control.
Now that you know the meaning of gaslighting, where is it?
Gas lighting can be evident in all types of relationships. However, no matter where it is happening, you should always be on the lookout for red flags that you (or someone you know) might fall victim to. By doing this, you get a great ground for getting out of the abusive situation.
5 examples of gas lighting
Gas lighters are often good enough to push your buttons. After all, they are well aware of your vulnerabilities and sensitivities, and they use that information against you. They will make you question yourself and your judgment, your memory and even your sanity.
Here are some examples of what a gaslighter can do to perpetuate their abuse against you:
- Trivialization of your feelings.
- Hiding things from you and later denying their knowledge.
- Emphasizing that you were or were not in a specific place when this is in fact true.
- Tell you that others are talking behind your back.
- Say things they deny later.
What does gaslighting mean in a relationship? What there is to know
In the case of gaslighting in a relationship, an abusive partner will manipulate a person by forcing them to guess their thoughts, memories, and things going on around them.
The gaslight effect will be particularly prevalent when it involves someone with whom a person has a romantic relationship since they trust them, which gives them all the arsenal they need against their partner.
9 signs of gas lighting
Gas lighting can be very subtle, and sometimes you don’t even know you are a victim of gas lighting. The good thing is that if you know what to look for you can detect the manipulation and start the healing process and break away from it.
That said, here are 9 sure signs someone is enlightening you:
- You find that you do not trust your judgment or reality and that you can no longer make decisions on your own.
- You have a strong sense that something is wrong, but you can’t really tell what it is.
- You often find yourself apologizing, even when you’re not sure you’re the culprit.
- You make excuses to justify your behavior.
- You have isolated yourself or you feel distant from your loved ones
- You constantly feel like you’re doing nothing right and having to walk on eggshells with your partner, family member, or friend.
- You often wonder if your response to your partner is reasonable / fair / rational.
- You often wonder if you are being unreasonable or too sensitive to feel what you are feeling.
- You avoid sharing things with your friends or family to prevent them from confronting you with your partner’s behavior.
What should you do if you are the victim of gas lighting?
Have you seen all or most of these 9 red flags in your relationships? Do you think that you or a loved one is the victim of a manipulator? If you answered positively to both questions, you can start today with a few steps to deal with the situation:
Recognize the problem for what it is
The first step in regaining control of a gas lighter is to name the problem for what it is. Recognizing the gas lighting and when it happens can help you separate the truth from the distorted version of the manipulator. True gas lighting follows a pattern of repeated manipulation.
Acknowledge your feelings, thoughts and beliefs
The biggest challenge in overcoming gas lighting is that you don’t even trust your own thoughts, perceptions, judgment, and sometimes even your memory. So you want to reverse that by letting yourself feel what you are feeling. Gradually you will start to erode your mistrust.
Get away from the situation
It is normal to feel very strong emotions when going through gaslighting. However, you want to separate those emotions from your reaction in the heat of the moment, because showing a manipulator your distress can encourage their behavior even more.
Instead, take a moment to calm down and keep your mind focused on the truth. Excuse yourself from the conversation and get out if you need to. If you can’t get away from the environment you’re in, for example, if you’re at work, try:
- Grounding exercises
- Deep breathing or meditation
- Count slowing down from 10
- Recite self-affirmations
Document all your interactions
If someone is trying to enlighten you, start collecting evidence of your interactions with them. This way you have evidence to come back to when they try to deny or distort the truth. Write down the dates and times you talked about certain things, take screenshots of messages and emails, record phone conversations, and more. However, don’t forget to take care of yourself, as this process can make you more anxious.
Request a second opinion
If you are unsure of your thoughts or perceptions, it will help if you discuss them with someone you trust. So find a confidant, be it a friend or family member, and share your thoughts. Get their opinion on whether your feelings and thoughts are unreasonable, or if your potential manipulator is actually enlightening you.
Be true to your version of events
Everyone perceives the events around them differently, and this can affect the way they remember them. Even so, it does not make your version of events any less true than that of your manipulator. That said, resist the urge to question your own memories. Hold on to your truth.
Get help overcoming gas lighting from an online therapist
Overcoming gaslighting can be a long and painful process. So you want to surround yourself with a strong support system. A therapist can offer you a safety plan and professional support to walk you through the process.
Slowly but surely you can unbox your feelings and experiences and learn to trust yourself again. Online therapy is a great option because it ensures that you get help at all times.