In a world where we look for constant acceptance, it’s easy to embody the perception of how others think you are to be. If you aren’t grounded in the person you are, or who you want to be, it’s definitely easy to succumb to comments like “you wouldn’t be able to do that”, or “that doesn’t sound like something you would do.” You may not know it, but if you have agreed to these ideas, you have been gaslighted. It is worse when you actually have been gaslighted as people tend to use these words and their actions to manipulate you into thinking something you are not.
So… What is Gaslighting?
To gaslight is a term that comes from 1938 play, Gaslight. In the play, the main character uses psychological manipulation to convince his wife and others relative to his wife that she is insane so that he can claim her inheritance. He does this by manipulating the small things around her and then essentially calls her crazy every time she notices the change. The literal meaning comes from when the husband dims the gaslights, the wife notices, and the husband denies it. As a connotation, the term gaslight is emotional abuse that attempts destroy one’s reality. This is something that’s pretty prevalent in long term relationships.
“If you alter your behaviour because you are frightened of how your partner will react, you are being abused.”― Sandra Horley
The abuse in this definition comes because this slow manipulation starts to eat away at one’s self confidence, self worth, beauty, and anything that becomes worthy of shame. Once you realize that you have been gaslighted, it may be too late because the diminished self confidence starts the control of believing the put downs your significant other is telling you. You may then be too afraid of asking for help, or trying to change your situation. Two things typically happen. You don’t believe the truth that you’re being gaslighted, or you’re too ashamed to tell others about your pain.
The problem with being gaslighted is that it’s very subtle and hard to detect, maybe until it’s too late. It could come in when suspect your significant other of cheating, but he rebuttal is “why would you think I would do something like this?” Then he/she tells you that you are paranoid, insecure, and you shouldn’t worry about something like that happening. Yet, the idea of an affair is always in the back of your mind. From there you begin to doubt yourself, and question whether you’re the bad guy/girl. It’s a terrible feeling when you feel no certainty.
How to Avoid Gaslighting
To avoid being gaslighted, there’s one thing you need to do. Increase the knowledge of self. When you start believing in yourself, you stop relying on what others say about you. Never blame another person for making you feel inept. If you feel the victim, don’t be afraid to rise above it by gaining the courage to know who you are, confront the perpetrator, and change your situation.