Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse, in which the abusive partner leads the victim to question their feelings, instincts and sanity. Through this process, the abusive partner breaks down the victim’s ability to trust their own perceptions. Consequently, the victim’s probability of staying in the abusive relationship increases.
The term ‘gaslighting’ comes from a 1938 play, Gaslight, in which the lead character tries to drive his wife crazy by making her question her sanity- this is accomplished by the husband dimming the (gas) lights at home, but denying that they have dimmed to his wife. The distinguishing feature of gaslighting is that the abuser not only controls the victim but also has
them agree with the abuser’s point of view (Abramson, 2014).
Gaslighting is typically persistent and long term, and the abusers characteristically have trouble identifying and expressing emotions and tend to have low self-worth. It is a gradual process, and may initially seem like a misunderstanding of the perpetrator’s actions. However, these behaviours usually escalate over time, and the abusive behaviours cause the victim to feel anxious, depressed and isolated.
Most alarmingly, over time as the victim becomes more distrustful of their perceptions, they start relying on the abusive partner to help define reality, making an escape from the relationship more complicated. Gaslighting is especially common among victims of domestic abuse.
Gaslighters use a variety of techniques. These include:
Some of the signs of gaslighting are:
It is extremely important for victims of gaslighting to learn about these signs to reach out and seek help and relearn how to trust themselves.