When an abusive partner succeeds in destroying the victim’s trust in their perceptions, the victim is more likely to remain in an unhealthy relationship. (Image: Shutterstock)
It is crucial to note that gaslighting typically happens very gradually in a relationship, so look out for the signs and be sure to recognise them in time
Gaslighting is a type of psychological mistreatment where an individual or a group deliberately causes someone to doubt their own mental state, recollections, or understanding of reality. Individuals who are subjected to gaslighting often feel bewildered, anxious, and incapable of relying on their own judgment. The term “gaslighting” originated from the play Gas Light, first performed in 1938, in which a husband strives to drive his wife insane by altering the gas-fueled lights in their home and then refuting any changes when his wife points them out.
Gaslighting is a highly potent form of emotional abuse that leaves the victim feeling unsure of their feelings, intuitions, and sanity, giving the abusive partner a considerable amount of influence (as abuse is primarily about power and control). When an abusive partner succeeds in destroying the victim’s trust in their perceptions, the victim is more likely to remain in an unhealthy relationship.
These are some of the different techniques used by an abusive partner:
Withholding: A partner feigns ignorance or declines to pay attention to the victim’s concerns.
Countering: The victim’s recollection of events, even if it is correct is contested.
Blocking/Diverting: The abusive partner switches the topic and/or questions the victim’s thoughts.
Trivialising: The victim’s requirements or emotions are belittled, making them seem insignificant.
Forgetting/Denial: The partner acts like they have forgotten the incident or denies making promises to the victim.
What It Feels Like
The following are some of the experiences that a person may have when they are being gaslit by someone:
- Continuously feeling bewildered or as if they are losing their mind.
- Frequently questioning oneself (e.g. “Am I being too sensitive?” “Did that really happen?”).
- Finding it difficult to trust oneself and others.
- Frequently assuming responsibility for things going wrong (thinking everything is their fault).
- Feeling the urge to apologise excessively.
- Making excuses or rationalising the hurtful actions of others.
- Feeling like they need to substantiate everything.
- Having to justify their perspectives with a multitude of facts.
- Sensing that something is wrong but being unable to identify it.
- Regularly feeling isolated and misunderstood.
At first, everything might seem completely harmless. It is only over time that the abusive patterns continue to pile up. The partner may then start making the victim feel confused, anxious, isolated, and depressed. Eventually, they can lose all sense of the reality of the situation and start relying on their partner more.