Gaslighting is a social phenomena and a psychiatric term that stems from a stage play during the 1930s called “Gas Light.” It was also later made into a movie starring Ingrid Bergman. In the story, a wife is made by her husband to think she is crazy, when in reality she is not. The husband goes to great lengths to mislead her and others into thinking she has gone insane. More specifically, the term gaslighting refers to a particular scene in the story after the husband has turned down a gas light, then when the wife asks about the low level of light, he says she is imagining it. In Practice Gaslighting is most common in couples, not just married ones. But it is also common in other types of relationships, including work and family relationships. The person doing the manipulating can be anyone in any type of relationship. And regardless of the people involved and the type of relationship, it can have detrimental effects in a relationship, eroding a loving and supportive foundation. Most notably, gaslighting is common in romantic relationships where physical abuse is present. The person performing the abuse will often use gaslighting as a form of mental abuse and manipulation to disguise any wrongdoing, physical or otherwise. Similarly, when there is infidelity in a relationship, the person doing the cheating will use gaslighting to manipulate their partner into thinking they are paranoid about even the possibility. How To Recognize Gaslighting For both those performing and falling victim to gaslighting, it can be very difficult to identify. The person doing the gaslighting does not always consciously know they are doing it, and the victim of the manipulation may be trusting enough of their partner to believe them over what others say, or even their own instincts. Regardless, there are definitive signs to look for with gaslighting. For instance, here are some common examples of gas lighting:
- If your partner directly calls you paranoid, overly sensitive, or nagging. While this may not always be a manipulation tactic, when they come on strong with language like this it is a definite possibility.
- Trust your instinct. If someone is saying that you are imagining things or that something is normal when you strongly feel otherwise, don’t suppress those feelings, you may be being gaslighted.
- Another sign that someone may be gaslighting is when you start to question your actions in a similar way that they do. In this respect, it can be easy for someone to trick you into thinking that your memory is bad, or you are negligent, even though you are not.
Gaslighting can be a seemingly never ending and vicious cycle. In many ways, it is the ultimate passive aggressive manipulation technique in a relationship. In such a situation it is important to have open communication about it with the other person. Even if they continue to deny it, you should stay strong and stick to your instinct. In talking about it, you will open up dialogue, giving them the chance to realize what they are doing and the influence it has on you. Conversely, they may continue to insist that they are not gaslighting, leaving you with additional decisions to make, but regardless the ball is always in your court.