by Daisy Luther, The Organic Prepper:
A woman, for the sake of my story, is in a marriage with a partner who does not respect her. He insults her regularly, belittles her efforts to improve herself or her situation, and minimizes her feelings.
In fact, when she tries to stand up for herself, things get even worse. The partner calls into question her memories of the event. He dismisses the way things made her feel, calling the emotions “ridiculous” or “stupid.” He convinces her she’s overreacting and that he was only trying to do what was best for her. When she brings something up, he completely rewrites the event, causing her to doubt what actually happened because she’s in a vulnerable state due to the constant abuse.
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In a situation like this, the abused partner often feels powerless, confused, and unable to leave the situation. They are at a disadvantage because they’ve been influenced to doubt their own reality. This leaves them trapped deeper and deeper in the abusive scenario. They feel unable to escape because they’re really not sure what actually happened. Were they blowing things out of proportion? Are they, in fact, stupid, forgetful, and inept?
Abusive relationships follow a pattern. There’s a period of breaking the victim down, isolating them from their support systems, and making them dependent on the abuser. Then, the abused partner is maneuvered into the belief that she can’t get by on her own.
This master manipulation is how people become trapped in abusive relationships.
And, as I’m about to show, not all abusive relationships are one-on-one romantic relationships.
What is gaslighting?
Medical News Today defines gaslighting.
Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse in which a person or group causes someone to question their own sanity, memories, or perception of reality. People who experience gaslighting may feel confused, anxious, or as though they cannot trust themselves.
The term “gaslighting” comes from the 1944 classic film (and before that, the play), Gaslight. In the story, a husband tries to make his wife believe she is suffering from a mental illness. Starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer, it’s well worth a watch.
Gaslighting is a form of narcissistic abuse. For a quick refresher on the definition of a narcissist and the techniques they use, go here.
Forbes offers the following signs you are being gaslit:
Signs to watch for include:
The “Twilight Zone” effect. Victims of gaslighting often report feeling like a situation is surreal—like it’s happening on a different plane from the rest of their life.
Language describing you or your behavior as crazy, irrational or overemotional. “When I asked women about their partners’ abusive tactics, they often described being called a ‘crazy bitch,’” Sweet writes in “The Sociology of Gaslighting” in American Sociological Review. “This phrase came up so frequently, I began to think of it as the literal discourse of gaslighting.”
Being told you’re exaggerating.
Feeling confused and powerless after leaving an interaction.
Isolation. Many gaslighters make efforts to isolate victims from friends, family and other support networks.
Tone policing. A gaslighter may criticize your tone of voice if you challenge them on something. This is a tactic used to flip the script and make you feel that you’re the one to blame, rather than your abuser.
A cycle of warm-cold behavior. To throw a victim off balance, a gaslighter may alternate between verbal abuse and praise, often even in the same conversation.
Gaslighting is a deliberate attempt to provoke self-doubt, confusion, and dependence.
How does someone gaslight another person?
Again, let’s look to the experts. Medical News Today provides these examples of how gaslighting might take place:
- Countering: This is when someone questions a person’s memory. They may say things such as, “Are you sure about that? You have a bad memory,” or “I think you are forgetting what really happened.”
- Withholding: This involves someone pretending they do not understand the conversation, or refusing to listen, to make a person doubt themselves. For example, they might say, “Now you are just confusing me,” or “I do not know what you are talking about.”
- Trivializing: This occurs when a person belittles or disregards how someone else feels. They may accuse them of being “too sensitive” or overreacting in response to valid and reasonable concerns.
- Denial: Denial involves a person refusing to take responsibility for their actions. They may do this by pretending to forget what happened, saying they did not do it, or blaming their behavior on someone else.
- Diverting: With this technique, a person changes the focus of a discussion by questioning the other person’s credibility. For example, they might say, “That is just nonsense you read on the internet. It is not real.”
- Stereotyping: An article in the American Sociological Review says that a person may intentionally use negative stereotypes about someone’s gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, nationality, or age to gaslight them. For example, they may say that no one will believe a woman if she reports abuse.
After a period of time, this emotional barrage results in the target of the gaslighting suffering from confusion, doubt, and self-blame.
- feeling uncertain of their perceptions
- frequently questioning if they are remembering things correctly
- believing they are irrational or “crazy”
- feeling incompetent, unconfident, or worthless
- constantly apologizing to the abusive person
- defending the abusive person’s behavior to others
- becoming withdrawn or isolated from others
The Forbes article offered these specific examples of gaslighting in romantic relationships.
“Ebony’s partner would steal her money and then tell her she was ‘careless’ about finances and had lost it herself.”
“Adriana’s boyfriend hid her phone and then told her she had lost it, in a dual effort to confuse her and prevent her from communicating with others.”
“Jenn described her ex-boyfriend as a ‘chameleon’ who made up small stories to confuse her, like lying about what color shirt he had worn the day before to make her feel disoriented.”
“Emily described her ex-husband stealing her keys so she could not leave the house and then insisting she had lost them ‘again.’”
But if you think this phenomenon is limited to women being abused by their husbands or boyfriends, you’d be wrong.
Gaslighting doesn’t just happen in romantic relationships.
Gaslighting is a complicated thing. While it’s common in abusive romantic relationships, it can also occur in unhealthy parent-child relationships, sibling relationships, or even workplaces. But that’s not all. It can also occur on a much broader scale.
According to an article in Politics, Group, and Identities, racial gaslighting is when people apply gaslighting techniques to an entire racial or ethnic group in order to discredit them. For example, a person or institution may say that an activist campaigning for change is irrational or “crazy.”
Political gaslighting occurs when a political group or figure lies or manipulates information to control people, according to an article in the Buffalo Law Review.
For example, the person or political party may downplay things their administration has done, discredit their opponents, imply that critics are mentally unstable, or use controversy to deflect attention away from their mistakes.
Institutional gaslighting occurs within a company, organization, or institution, such as a hospital. For example, they may portray whistleblowers who report problems as irrational or incompetent, or deceive employees about their rights.
This often occurs to cover up a mistake that could result in the person who erred facing punitive consequences or to keep people “in their place.” It’s a control mechanism, pure and simple.
Have we been gaslit by our own government?
I don’t think it’s farfetched to say that we, the people of the United States of America, have been gaslit.
Does this sound familiar? Lockdowns that keep you away from friends and loved ones? Losing your income and becoming dependent on handouts doled out by the government? Being censored and mocked when you say anything that is not in line with the official narrative? Being treated like a crazy conspiracy theorist who should be punished because of the harm you’re causing to others if you refuse to go along?