Are You Gaslighting? Here's What You Need to Know
When you hear the term ‘gaslighting', it most likely doesn't mean what you think it does. Gaslighting has nothing to do with gas lit candles but it does with the movie Gaslight (1944), a film based around a couple where one partner manipulates the other to complete insanity. By definition, the word gaslighting is actually a form of physiological abuse, used by one person to manipulate the other. Gaslighting is common in relationships, especially young adults who are still learning the ropes of relationships.
How Gaslighting Happens
Gaslighting can and will happen in various ways. It is not just black and white. The tactic is often used by abusers, narcissists, and cult leaders to obtain more power and feel superior of the others. Some tactics gas-lighters use are: lying, denying things even though the partner has proof, telling others their partner is crazy, tossing in positive reinforcements, and using things their partner cares about as ammunition.
Because gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse, it can be hard to determine if your partner is gaslighting you. Some tell tale signs that you are being gaslight include: feeling as though you are “too sensitive,” you are always apologizing, you make excuses for your partner's behavior, you feel confused about your relationship, and you struggle making simple decisions.
As you know already, a gaslighter usually uses this tactic to manipulate, confuse, and control the partner's emotion; but being a gaslighter can happen without you actually being aware of it. It isn't something you either are or aren’t. Someone can possess qualities of a gaslighter or occasionally say things a gaslighter would. Psychologists view gaslighting as a form of cognitive strategy aimed at self relegation, and it works. In this instance, the gaslighter might not even be aware what they are saying is manipulative.
Are You Gaslighting?
It is important to recognize if you are occasionally or frequently gaslighting. Many of us are guilty of the occasional gaslight, saying things such as, “Don’t get so worked up,” or “Stop acting crazy.” Simple phrases like that are an example of gaslighting you are likely not aware of, and don’t have any malicious intentions. On the other hand, phrases like, “You don’t remember how it happened,” or, “You’re making things up,” is most likely used to undermine your partner's emotions and thoughts.
What To Do
Gaslighting is very different from a disagreement or sensitivity, which are common and healthy for relationships, and do not cause physiological manipulation. If you feel like you are being gaslighted, consider talking to your partner if you feel comfortable. If you find yourself gaslighting your partner frequently, the first step is to talk it out with them. Explain your intentions to them and be more aware of how you phrase things. If none of these methods work, seek help from a counselor or therapist, and remember that your feelings are valid and matter!