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Gaslighting is a type of psychological abuse. This narcissistic form of psychological torment relies on presenting false or contradictory information to someone in order to make them doubt their own instincts and perceptions. The term is derived from the classic play Gas Light, in which a husband manipulates his wife into believing she is going insane.
Many of us have experienced gaslighting at some point in our lives. Despite the prevalence of this abuse tactic, its successful execution often ensures that we cannot easily identify it when it's happening to us.
Do you often feel sensitive, doubtful, hyper-vigilant, and defensive in certain relationships? If so, you may be a victim of gaslighting.
Gaslighting: Signs & Symptoms
You're often accused of being too emotionally sensitive.
Gaslighters love accusing others of being overly emotional. Often, this technique is used to shut down reasonable conversations or shift blame away from the manipulator. By convincing you that you're unable to be rational and level-headed, the gaslighter is able to invalidate any arguments that you may have made. Ultimately, you may begin to believe these things about yourself, leading to shame and self-doubt.
They question your thoughts and words.
Some narcissists will argue that they know your mind even better than you do. When you express your thoughts or opinions, they may question you, casting doubt on the veracity of your claims. A sly manipulator might even try to convince you that you're lying to them or to yourself. If this tactic is utilized on a regular basis, you may begin to second-guess yourself and question your own thoughts. You may begin to shut down, becoming less willing to share your thoughts and opinions, too.
You're constantly apologizing for everything.
Gaslighters will make you feel as though you're constantly in the wrong. After prolonged exposure to this kind of manipulation, you may begin to believe this message. You may apologize to the gaslighter out of the belief that you're wrong or simply to end the argument. Either way, the narcissist ultimately comes out on top. Though the manipulator may accept your apology, your supposed transgressions are unlikely to be forgotten. You will likely be reminded of your mistakes and failings on a regular basis. This will continue to erode your self-esteem and may trigger subsequent apologies, feeding into the ugly cycle of abuse.
You begin lying and making excuses in self-defense.
As a coping mechanism, victims of gaslighting often find themselves lying to their abusers. If you know, for instance, that your partner will be angry that you went shopping with your friends, you might lie to him, claiming that you went out alone. If you find yourself lying to avoid the verbal tirades that may result from your alleged misdeeds, it is likely that you are being gaslighted and abused.
You've become painfully insecure and lost your sense of self.
Gaslighters and their victims tend to suffer from deep-seated insecurities. In this dynamic, however, the victim of gaslighting ultimately relinquishes more power than the abuser does. The gaslighter gains control by manipulating your perception of yourself. As a result, you may begin to lose your sense of self, gradually accepting the false identity that has been crafted for you. If you struggle to make day-to-day decisions and have lost your sense of inner grounding, it is possible that you are being gaslighted.
Your mental health is beginning to deteriorate.
After experiencing gaslighting for a prolonged period of time, you may discover that your mental health has taken a turn for the worst. You may feel trapped, hopeless, empty, anxious, edgy, and depressed as a result of your constant exposure to bullying and manipulation. On the other hand, you may only believe that your mental health is deteriorating because your gaslighter told you so. Narcissists often portray those they know as unstable and mentally unwell so as to further invalidate them. They may convince their friends and family that you're the "crazy one." Whether you've acquired depression as a result of abuse or have been accused of mental illness by a gaslighting partner, the perception of these psychiatric ailments is often a key component of gaslighting.
If you are in a relationship that involves gaslighting, you will have to accept the fact that this behavior is unlikely to change. Unless they actively seek out help for their behaviors, these master manipulators will likely continue to treat you in these ways. Gaslighting is a form of abuse and shouldn't be tolerated. If someone you are dating is gaslighting you, it is best to end the relationship. Consider limiting your contact with colleagues, friends, and family members who are prone to this behavior, too.
By avoiding those who gaslight you, you can live with greater freedom, happiness, and health.
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