Not all toxic relationships are easily identified. Some are so manipulative that people do not recognize the toxicity in the relationships till it already takes a toll on your mental and physical health, and sometimes even your life. You may not know but you may be a victim of gaslighting.
Have you ever heard any of these phrases –
” Your emotions are your responsibility “
“Don’t be so dramatic”
“I never agreed to do this task. It’s all in your mind.”
“You don’t remember this? There is something wrong with you.”
” It was just a joke. Have a sense of humor. ”
“You are overreacting “
“You are imagining things.”
“Are you sure? You have a bad memory.”
These are a few very commonly heard gaslighting phrases.
What is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse where the victim is manipulated to question their reality. It generally develops very gradually and thus is very hard to identify. It is now known as a narcissist’s favorite tool to manipulate people.
Gaslighting can happen in personal or professional relationships. It is a tactical manipulative tool used by people who want to control you such that you start doubting yourself and questioning your own sanity. Hence you may start believing that there is something wrong with you.
This term originated from a play named ‘Gas Light’ where a husband tries to convince his wife that she has lost her sanity to take over her property. Somehow the Gas Lights play a big role in his plan and hence the term Gaslighting. ( Criminal Justice: Behind Closed Doors is an Indian web series that gives a classic example of gaslighting).
How does Gaslighting affect you?
In a situation where you are a victim of gaslighting, you are surrounded by brain fog, where nothing is clear to you anymore. You feel confused about your thoughts, emotions, and circumstances. Since the person who is gaslighting, you is such a good manipulator, they would keep you in this state of confusion to have total control over you and make sure you keep questioning your own thoughts and sanity. As a side effect, you would reach a stage of cognitive dissonance.
For those who are not acquainted with the term Cognitive Dissonance here is a brief in a simple form. Cognitive Dissonance is the mental discomfort that you feel when there is a gap between your beliefs and your behavior or when you have contradictory thoughts going on in your mind.
It starts in such a way that identifying it becomes really tough. Gaslighting is tough to identify and most of the victims do not even realize that they are being gaslighted. This kind of manipulation comes hidden with a coat of love and care and that is what makes it so tough to identify.
Example Of Gaslighting
Let me explain to you a situation through a story. Miss X is a beautiful young lady who has just met Mr.Y. Within a short span of time Mr.Y declares that she is the love of his life and showers her with gifts, care, concern, and love. So much that Miss X has never experienced. Everything starts moving really fast and they move in together. When they start living together, Mr.Y now starts to become his usual controlling self who wants things as perfect. He starts blaming Miss X whenever something goes wrong even when it is his fault. But at the same time, he would keep doing things to make her feel loved and cared about.
Eventually, he would put the idea of insufficiency into her mind. He would reinforce that she doesn’t know what is good for her and that he does everything in order to make her life better. Then he would start to feed her incidences that never happened or deny incidences that happened to signify there is something wrong with her. He would also separate her from her loved ones through misunderstandings. The situations would be so much under his control that he would monitor each and every step of Miss X and make her life as per his wishes.
Miss X was manipulated so slowly into this situation that she never realizes she is the victim here. She believes that Mr. Y loves her the most and does everything for her best. She starts to believe that she is insufficient and that something is wrong with her and she needs Mr.Y to take care of her. But there is a constant contradiction going on in her mind and she never feels the same person she used to be. She falls into depression but she doesn’t have a way to break free.
Here listed are a few effects of gaslighting on your life:
- It leads to confusion as what a victim is told and what they believe are two different things.
- Since there is so much contradiction in what you perceive and believe, there is always 2 thoughts running into your mind which slowly make you lose your confidence.
- Another effect of gaslighting is that the victim starts to question everything and the decision-making skills deteriorate tremendously. They become so indecisive that they are unable to make even the smallest day-to-day decisions for themselves.
- As they think there is something wrong with them, even when their family and friends notice changes, they do not accept it and withdraw.
- It takes a toll on the victim’s happiness and they have a constant feeling that they are a different person. Nothing they do resonates with their beliefs but they still cannot break free.
It is extremely important to look out for the sign and take back control of one’s emotions to avoid the extremely manipulative techniques of gaslighting.