Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse that’s seen in abusive relationships. It’s the act of manipulating a person by forcing them to question their thoughts, memories, and the events occurring around them. A victim of gaslighting can be pushed so far that they question their own sanity.
The term “gaslighting” comes from a play and subsequent movie called “Gaslight.” In the movie, the devious husband, played by Charles Boyer, manipulates and torments his wife, played by Ingrid Bergman, to convince her she’s going mad.
Gaslighting, whether intentional or not, is a form of manipulation. Gaslighting can happen in many types of relationships, including those with bosses, friends, and parents. But one of the most devastating forms of gaslighting is when it occurs in a relationship between a couple.
According to Robin Stern, PhD, author of the book “The Gaslight Effect: How to Spot and Survive the Hidden Manipulation Others Use to Control Your Life,” signs that you are a victim of gaslighting include:
no longer feeling like the person you used to be
being more anxious and less confident than you used to be
often wondering if you’re being too sensitive
feeling like everything you do is wrong
always thinking it’s your fault when things go wrong
having a sense that something’s wrong, but being unable to identify what it is
often questioning whether your response to your partner is appropriate (e.g., wondering if you were too unreasonable or not loving enough)
making excuses for your partner’s behavior
avoiding giving information to friends or family members to avoid confrontation about your partner
feeling isolated from friends and family
finding it increasingly hard to make decisions
feeling hopeless and taking little or no pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
People who gaslight become expert at pushing your buttons, and they know your sensitivities and vulnerabilities and use that knowledge against you. They make you doubt yourself, your judgment, your memory, and even your sanity. Examples include:
Trivializing how you feel: “Oh yeah, now you’re going to feel really sorry for yourself.”
Telling you that people are talking behind your back: “Don’t you know? The whole family talks about you. They think you’re losing it.”
Saying things to you that they later deny having said: “I didn’t say I’d take the deposit to the bank. What are you talking about? Thanks a lot for the insufficient funds fee we’re going to get.”
Hiding objects from you, and then deny knowing anything about it: “You seriously can’t find your sunglasses again? That’s alarming.”
Insisting you were or were not at a certain place, even though it’s not true: “You’re crazy. You never went to that show with me. I should know.”
People with narcissistic personality disorder believe they’re extremely important and that the world revolves around them. They’re self-absorbed and don’t have time or interest in others unless it serves a purpose for them. They aren’t empathetic and don’t have the ability, or the interest, to understand what another person is feeling or experiencing.
Narcissists crave attention and praise and can be demanding. They have grandiose views of themselves, their lives, and their futures, and they often use manipulation as a way of achieving their personal goals.
A person with narcissistic personality disorder may:
project an inflated sense of self-importance
exaggerate their achievements
respond to criticism with anger
use others for personal gain
expect special consideration or special treatment
be highly critical of others
become envious and jealous easily
Recognizing that you’re a victim in your relationship is the important first step toward getting help. The next step involves consulting a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist. They can help you sift through your doubts and fears and understand the realities of what you experienced. You’ll learn how to manage doubts and anxiety and develop coping skills.
I am a 32-year-old female who received a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder in late September 2019. After being wrongfully diagnosed most of my existence as many other borderline patients have, it was almost a relief. Shortly after, it felt more like another bomb of worthlessness went off. I felt cursed until I decided it was time to speak up. I am one of many created borderlines. The trauma from my history created inside of me a blessing or a curse. I am choosing to make use out of my BPD instead of letting it overpower my will to survive it. When the professional compared it to third-degree burn victims all over there, body physicians nailed it. This pain we feel our emotions are not exaggerated, and most of us would give anything to not ever to shed another tear. I want to help others and connect with those alike. I am here to share my story as my voice deserves to be heard and give courage for others to speak.
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