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Are You Being Gaslighted? There Are Red Flags To Look Out For

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Namita Bhura, New Delhi

The only way you feel is crushed & berated. If you are constantly in the process of second-guessing your own decisions, your actions & feelings, even your memories. If you are feeling suffocated inside your body, if you are unable to distinguish right – wrong, perception-reality and you are in a constant urge to prove yourselves to that one person, which is making you lose your mind. Understand that’s the time to Break free from this Gaslighting.

What Is Gaslighting?

The term gaslight was derived from a movie called ‘Gaslight’ wherein a husband makes his wife eventually go insane by tricking her with a gaslight. We use that term because it’s very similar to when someone tricks us and uses gaslighting as a method.

Gaslighting is intentionally twisting the perception of reality for the gain of another person. It is a form of psychological abuse where one person tries to convince another not to trust oneself. So what does it look like, someone acting and portraying that something you see and know to be true is actually wrong.

Representational Image

Intentionally, they tell you what you saw was exactly what you did not see or what you hear was what you did not hear. They actually make you second guess yourself, and this is just the beginning of the process. It is very manipulative as a practice but yes it is also very disruptive in your own esteem. It’s like telling your own mind that your eyes or ears cant be trusted, you ultimately start to wonder if you are responsible for basic things you do.

How Do ‘Gaslighters’ Make It Work?

Usually, ‘Gaslighters’ as individual people are really good givers and high-end emotional manipulators. They have very high self-esteem, they feel like they are above anyone else and those around them are beneath them, making us in awe of these people. They look for acquiescent people to who they can tend up to and achieve the bizarre. If you are submissive and you meet these people, they tend to move at a very accelerated stage of initial love bonding.

Essentially when you meet such a  person they objectively look at you not as a person but as an object, who can provide a resource. They actually make you question your sanity not just in front of the gaslighter but also others.  Certain traits of a Gaslighter as stated in the book “Gaslighting: Recognize Manipulative and Emotionally Abusive People — and Break Free’” are :

1.They tell lies outright, yet have the ability to defend those to make sure you feel unsteady.
2.They can outrightly deny they ever said something, even though you have proof thus making your reality further questionable.
3.They tend to emotionally warry you and use your loved ones and things to attack the foundation of your being like if you are a mother then “you should not have had those children” or a boss tells “you should not have taken such an important project”.
4.They wear you down over time. It’s how in Solomon Island, the villagers curse the tree for 30 days, which the tree cant withstand, and dies eventually. The narcissist continually buries you with negativity and wears you down eventually.
5.Their actions do not match their words.
6.They throw in positive reinforcement to confuse you. The Hindi  Drama series “Criminal justice: Behind the closed-door” clearly depicts how well the husband gaslights his wife, making her believe that he is always complimenting her to achieve better while she is dreadfully bad at things herself.
7.They know confusion weakens people and then they try to align people against you.
8.At the later stages, they tell you or others that you are crazy. Constant reinforcement of the statement “you are crazy” makes you believe you are turning insane.
9.Any success they get at the process is by making you believe everyone is a liar.

Image Credit: Introvert Doodles

The more you are aware of these techniques, the faster you can identify them and avoid them from happening

Who Can Be A Victim Of Gaslighting?

Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique used by narcissists, dictators, or even cult leaders. Evidently, it is a slow procedure that endures a lot of love and bonding in the process to help the victim be brainwashed. The bone-shelling situations that gaslighting victims have to go through are very heartbreaking. Those who are empathetic are used to giving love and narcissists prey on that love. It’s most common in romantic partners but it can happen in other areas as well. Employers can do it, politicians can do it and even a parent can do it, but the most vulnerable is when your partner or parent does it since it leads to you being isolated.

The behaviors of a gaslighter can be similar to those of a narcissist or a sociopath but it is slightly different. Both the personality disordered narcissist or sociopath use gaslighting as a means to gain something that they want. Moreover, a narcissist  also uses it to make the victim depend on them to the extent that  t any decision making power in the relationship lies with the narcissist

How To Know If You Are A Victim Of Gaslighting?

If you are a victim you might feel some or all of the following symptoms:

1.You are not going to feel like yourself, you are going to feel like something changed in you since you have met this person
2.You will start feeling less confident in front of this person and eventually in front of others also.
3.You might experience anxiety, feeling like you are unsure of everything. You are always wrong and are always apologizing for everything you do. No matter who did something you are the one ultimately apologizing and trying to mend the cracks in the relationship.
4.If you start questioning how you communicate with your partner, you find your partner abusive or toxic in answering more adamant questions and you fear being reprimanded when you try that situational communication.
5.If you don’t want your friends and family the truth of what’s going on in your relationship, with the fear of them having a negative opinion of your partner.
6.You feel you are turning insane and unstable.
7.You are constantly second-guessing yourself.
8.You feel hopeless in situations, and experience trouble making simple decisions.

If you are experiencing any of these clubbed with the feeling of some sort of abuse in the relationship may be emotional, verbal, or physical, it’s time to realize you are being gaslighted.

Is It Possible To Be Aware Of All That Is To Know About Gaslighting And Yet Be Gaslit?

Yes, being a victim of this type of emotional abuse is very common. Even if you are aware of the signs you still experience them because you love the other person. And even if you can read the signs, there is a strong possibility you cant read only a few and cant read all of them. Thus would continue to be manipulated by the loved one.

Here is something that can help you overcome these hurdles, all you need to know is that you can talk. As and when even the slightest of the signs of this emotional abuse develop in a relationship please stand away from the guilt and talk to someone. It can be a friend, a parent, a counselor, or even your therapist. The only way to stop this abuse to grow inside you parasitically is by talking to people about it.

I understand that abuse is life-changing but what I understand better is my speaking out can be a life-changer too. It might or might not end the relationship but it definitely gives us a new perspective to find a resolution. Not every dispute is resolved by breaking the relationship therapy and speaking about it helps find alternate solutions. That is why in all my sessions I end with a charismatic echo of all the women& girls saying  “Main bolongi muh Kholongi tabhi zamaana Badlega (I can change society by speaking up)”. This web line is a life changer.

Feature image is for representational purposes only.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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