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