Are You Going Crazy or Is It All Just Mind Games?
When gaslighting has you feeling crazy, know that it's NOT you and you're not going crazy. Recognize the signs and learn how you can get recover.
The dictionary states gaslighting as ‘to manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity’. First of all, I’m surprised and delighted that the dictionary has included this word into their vocabulary and secondly, I’m amazed by how much information is on the web in regards to gaslighting and the abuse behind it. Gaslighting is a technique used (often by someone with a mental health disorder) to undermine (reword) anothers sense of reality. The abuser does this to achieve power over their victim, either because they enjoy seeing them squirm or, more commonly, they want to physically, emotionally, or financially control their victim. For those interested, google Alfred Hitchcocks film ‘Gas Light’ and read about where this term came from.
Sadly, the victim of gaslighting feels confused, questions their judgement, self worth, memory of situations, and mental health in general. This is the abuser’s goal and how they slowly gain control over you. Quite often, gaslighters are narcassistic, pathological liars, and extremely covert, slipping under the public eye. Even when proof is given to them, the gaslighter will never back down and still insist that you’re making things up, you’re crazy, or misremembering a situation. Any issue is twisted so you’re at fault and need to apologize to the abuser. They often go into a tailspin when caught up in a lie, yell at you (how dare you question me when clearly it’s your fault?!), then storm off leaving you feeling deflated and again, questioning your sanity. You’ll be told to ‘calm down,’ ’you’re overreacting,’ and ‘too sensitive.’ On the flip side, a gaslighter may soothe you with words of affection such as “You know I love you so much. I would never intentionally hurt you.”
Gaslighters often will spread lies about you to others, making you seem mentally unstable and fragile. Worse yet is if you break up, separate or divorce the gaslighter. Then things really heat up. False stories are spread to make the abuser the victim and unfortunately, they are so charming and sincere that often, people believe them without hearing both sides of the story. Sadly, stories get retold in ways that are in their favor. Ex: they hurt you physically in some way or a family member but, retelling the story, they insist that you tripped and fell or the family member was overexaggerating the fall. Until you understand you are being gaslit, you fall under the thought that you’re losing your memory of the situation and second guess what actually happened.
Gaslighting isn’t reserved for their partner. Family members often fall into the category of being gaslit and if kids are involved, their immature, impressionable brains believe every word cited and their self worth goes down the toilet. Coming back from this is possible with education around the situation and exercises in retraining their brain to believe they weren’t at fault. Interestingly, clients I’ve spoken with about their situations have relayed to me that their children view the situation differently than how it actually happened. When questioned, they couldn’t recall exact instances of what they were told.
What can you do? I’m sure you’re feeling completely defeated but there is a way out. Learning to set boundaries, regaining trust in yourself and humanity, identifying and accepting you are being gaslit, educating yourself, and getting out of the relationship are imperative. Being given options and allowing me to guide and support you are a first step. It does take time to recover from this mind f*ck but it CAN be done and once you’re out the other side, it’ll NEVER happen again because you’ll be stronger, wiser, and finally have the confidence to kick them to the curb.