Gaslighting is a very common form of manipulation, but few have heard of the term or can identify it. The information presented here is to inform about and help recognize this type of relational abuse, and then help combat it.
What is “gaslighting”?
Gaslighting is a manipulation tactic that makes the victim start to believe that they are crazy, that what they are sure of is false. It is gradual, and isn’t always recognizable until you’re in deep. Victims of gaslighting are outright lied to, and the manipulator willfully leads them into confusion so that they can gain power in the relationship.
The abuser will typically be very blatant and audacious in their lies and actions. What they say and do doesn’t add up. They will do something, then sincerely deny it. This throws the victim off, and keeps them off balance. Confusion and doubt are the breeding grounds for the gaslighter’s actions and methods to thrive.
This behavior is common among physically and psychologically abusive people, in a relationship or just in society. Gaslighting is also found in narcissistic people, dictators, and cult leaders. It comes from a place within a person that craves power so deeply that they will go to great lengths at the expense of someone’s sanity to get it.
How can you avoid and stop gaslighting?
When you recognize any of these traits in someone you are in relationship with, it can be unsettling. It can make you feel vulnerable and unsafe. Some things that could help might be:
- Keep a log or a journal. This can help you keep track of your reality, written in your own words. It can ground you and allow you to look back and claim the truth.
- Talk to people outside of your relationship. Talking to others who can look at a situation objectively can be extremely helpful, especially when you are in a romantic relationship. When there are romantic feelings involved, judgment can be easily clouded. It helps to bring things to light with someone who can analyze the situation.
- Set boundaries. Say no! Stand up to the gaslighter. That is easier said than done, but small victories lead to bigger ones. Start challenging them in small ways. Look back on your journal, and when they attempt to deceive you, present your evidence. If they persist in their lies, cease communication. Take back the power.
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Author: Mayeling Angelastro, MA is an Orlando Winter Park Bilingual Licensed Mental Health Counselor providing help to couples, families, couples, children and teenagers with offices in Winter Park and East Orlando. (407) 248-0030
Co-Author: Madelyn Bodi (UCF Intern)