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Health and Wellbeing

06 Oct 2020

Gaslighting in relationships

By Rajna Bogdanovic - clinical psychologist 

Gaslighting can be defined as a form of emotional and psychological manipulation involving the distortion of reality in an effort to confuse another individual to the point where they question their sanity and reality.

Gaslighting can occur in a number of relationships, both personal and professional, however it is most commonly seen in romantic relationships. Gaslighting can make people question their own memory, thoughts or factual events that have taken place. Experiencing this over time can cause a victim of gaslighting to self-doubt, and lose their sense of identity and self-worth. Gaslighting can be hard to detect as the self-doubt victims experience can make it take longer for them to realise what is going on and to seek help.

Some common methods a gas lighter may use against their victim could be:

  • Denying and forgetting: Telling the victim that something never happened or was never said or pretending to forget something ever happened.
  • Countering and diverting: Telling the victim that they are remembering events incorrectly or questioning the validity of their thoughts.
  • Blocking: Changing the subject or refusing to engage in a conversation with the victim.
  • Discrediting and trivialising: Convincing others that the victim is unstable or insane and making the victim feel that they do not matter.
  • Projecting: Accusing someone else (usually the victim) for their own faults to take the attention away from themselves.

Are you a victim of gaslighting?

It is often hard to understand or accept if you are a victim of gaslighting, however there are some significant signs that will give a victim the indication that they are being gas-lit.

Victims might question if they are worthy enough for their partner, they might no longer trust themselves with decisions, even the most basic ones, and might be scared to tell their partner the truth for fear of being put down for it. Further, victims may find themselves apologising for things without understanding why, feeling lost, crazy, confused and especially unhappy. Alongside this, there might be a feeling that something isn’t quite right in the relationship. All of these thoughts and feelings revolve around questioning your reality, sanity and feelings - key factors in the manipulation of gaslighting.

How to combat gaslighting in a relationship

The best way to combat gaslighting is to maintain a sense of reality and the truth. Victims can do this in a number of ways. First, identify the gaslighting, understand there is a problem in the relationship, and understand the situation you as a victim are in. Then, separate the truth and the lies: gaslighters create a world of lies and inconsistencies, so try and figure out what is true and what isn’t. You can do this by keeping a journal of things that happened and are factual, write down thoughts and feelings of different situations down, or record voice memos of how you felt at the time. Confide in and seek help from a close friend, family member or a professional if possible, they may be able to help you find clarity as well as help you find a safe way out of the relationship.

It is important to remember that gaslighting can be detrimental to a victim’s mental health and being able to talk with people who have experienced the same thing, or having a safe space to talk about your emotions and experiences will help the healing process •

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