You may have heard the term ‘Gaslighting”. Our Registered Psychologist (Provisional) Murray Heintz explains what it is, and what to do about it.
Gaslighting: What Is It And How To Manage It
You may have heard the term gaslighting but not know what it all entails. Sarah Winnig, has comprehensively explained what gaslighting is and how to defend against it.
Gaslighting is a manipulation that causes a person to doubt their beliefs, sanity, or memory. This was the premise for the 1944 film Gaslight.
Gaslighters undermine the trust a person has in their reality. They create a world in which the victim’s point of view is untrustworthy, dysfunctional, or wrong.
Rather than a single event, gaslighting tends to occur over weeks or years. As a result, the gaslighter steadily chips away at the victim’s self-confidence and well-being. Over time, the victim’s self-doubt can make them feel confused, scared, and unhappy. Gaslighting can occur in romantic relationships, friendships, families, and the workplace.
Brenda’s husband has been spending more time away from home and keeping his phone hidden. As a result, Brenda is suspicious that he is having an affair. When she confronts him, he gets angry, denies an affair, and accuses Brenda of being “insane.” Even though Brenda is worried, she begins to doubt her suspicions. This dynamic continues for months until her husband finally admits to an affair.
Why Do People Gaslight?
Gaslighting is often used as a method of control over another person. For example, when someone begins to doubt their memory or sanity, they may depend on the gaslighter to make sense of things. In this way, the gaslighter is elevated to a position of power or authority.
Additionally, gaslighting invalidates the victim’s point of view. The victim is made out to be wrong or not to be trusted, so the gaslighter always has the upper hand in the relationship. The gaslighter becomes the only one in the relationship that can be trusted.
How Does Gaslighting Work?
The gaslighter convinces the victim they are wrong, misremembering, or are mentally unwell. They might say things such as “that never happened” or “you’re crazy.” Initially, the victim may not be convinced. However, the gaslighter is persistent, and over time the victim comes to believe the gaslighter’s point of view.
Common Gaslight Tactics
Denial: The gaslighter tells the victim an event or conversation didn’t happen or didn’t happen the way the victim saw it.
“I never said that.”
“That’s not how it happened at all!”
Distraction: The gaslighter interrupts the victim or tries to change the subject.
“Can we talk about something else instead?”
“Hey, let’s go get something to eat first.”
Ignoring or avoidance: The gaslighter refuses to engage in conversation with the victim or address their concerns.
The gaslighter turns up the volume on the TV to drown out the victim.
The gaslighter leaves the house and doesn’t return for hours.
Minimization or trivializing: The gaslighter makes light of a serious situation or accusation.
“Whatever, it was nothing.”
“It’s not a big deal anyway.”
Projection: The gaslighter accuses the victim of the very behavior in which they are engaging.
“I’m not having an affair. Maybe you’re the one with something to hide!”
“Sounds like you might be lying about something.”
Put-downs: The gaslighter insults and degrades the victim so they come to doubt themselves.
“You’re an idiot; you have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“You sound crazy when you talk like that.”
Sabotage: The gaslighter undermines the victim in order to make them seem incompetent.
Throwing away the victim’s mail so they can’t pay a bill on time.
Damaging the victim’s car so they cannot leave the house.
Threats: The gaslighter threatens a negative outcome for not trusting them or their perspective.
“If you can’t see things my way, this relationship is over.”
“You’ll get the kids taken away if you keep saying that!”
Gaslighters often enlist others—friends, children, or other family members—to bolster support for their tactics. For example, they may tell others that the victim is “crazy” and is not to be trusted.
How to Defend Against Gaslighting
1. Keep a journal to record your reality. Document events and conversations from your own perspective while they are still fresh in your mind.
2. Review the situations in which you were gaslit. Recall events from your own perspective, not the gaslighter’s.
3. Trust yourself, again and again. Your memories, thoughts, and beliefs are valid. Learn to overcome doubt and trust yourself once again.
4. Talk to people you trust. Share your situation with others who understand and support you.
5. End your relationship with the gaslighter. Healthy relationships involve honesty and safety. If you feel unsafe in your relationship, separate yourself from the gaslighter.
6. Where needed and necessary, seek professional support. A trained mental health professional can help you navigate through these relationships and provide the necessary tools to cope, manage, or terminate the relationship.
Thanks, Murray! This is really important information.
Murray works with adults. He’d love to work with you.
Murray does excellent work with:
– Anxiety (Generalized & Social Anxiety)
– Panic Attacks & Disorders
– Depression (Major Depressive Disorder current/past/recurrent and Persistent Depressive Disorder)
– Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
– Substance Use Disorder
– Stress / Coping Skills
– Mental Health Issues
– Manic disorders including Bi-Polar Disorder 1 and 2;
– Psychotic Disorders – Schizophrenia
– Grief & Loss
– Anger Management
– Emotional Regulation
– Managing Change
– Behavior Management
– Problem solving
– Crisis Management
– as well as many other issues
Murray works with adults offering individual sessions Monday – Friday.
Cheers to overcoming doubt and trusting ourselves 🙂