A 1938 stage play involved a husband who tried to drive his wife to insanity. His method? Make her think reality wasn’t real by telling her the dimming lights in their home were not dimming at all. Now, during the 1930s, lights were powered by gas. So, when the husband turned down the gas lamps but told her the lamps had not changed, he was “gaslighting” her. This was a form of manipulation used to make her question her reality. Over time, his manipulations made her think she was going insane.
The term “gaslighting” comes from that stage play and refers to a form of emotional abuse. When someone is a victim of gaslighting, they are manipulated into questioning reality. False information is presented to make the victim doubt their memory, perception or reality. The result is confusion and disorientation. Then, the gaslighter can manipulate the person for his or her own power and control-the hallmarks of abuse.
Have you ever been in a relationship and had this happen? You constantly question if you are the crazy one because the person is telling you that you are! Pay attention to this because it is a sign of gaslighting.
Here are 6 signs to look for in a relationship:
- Like the wife in the stage play, you feel confused and even crazy when you are around a certain person. When you question things in the relationship or disagree, the gaslighter tells you that you are crazy and makes you think you are losing it.
- You doubt your behavior and sense of reality. You can’t trust your own judgment because it is constantly questioned. The more you are with the person, the more you second guess your instincts. For example, “Maybe I didn’t notice how he was trying to help me.” Or, “He seems to be so sure of himself, I must be wrong.”
- You begin to wonder if you are overly sensitive or emotional. Gaslighters love to throw this at their victims. And because they tell you this time and again, you feel more insecure and dependent on them. For example, you think, ” I must be overreacting. He seems to think so. I do get emotional so it must be my fault.”
- You find yourself making excuses for this person when you are with friends or family. Others may notice how controlling the person is and question you. But instead of listening to their concerns, you defend and make excuses for the gaslighter. But why do you need to defend him or her? What do others see that you do not?
- The person doesn’t respect your boundaries. When you try to say no or maintain a position, the person tries to convince you how messed up you are. They insist you are wrong and need to accept their view of the problem. Then, more doubt seeps in!
- You lose your voice. Not literally, but you no longer know what you think or feel. You allow the person to define your reality and are convinced, he or she knows better. You have lost a sense of who you are, not trusting your gut or decision making. This makes you highly dependent and you surrender to their control.
If you recognize these signs in a relationship, get out if you are not already committed. If committed, you will need help from a trusted friend or therapist to check your reality against what is being told to you. The person is emotionally abusing you and you need to recover who you are.6 Signs of gaslighting in a relationship