Gaslighting is a complicated form of manipulation that an individual may use to alter the perception or thoughts of another. However, it can also be tough to identify. Identifying gaslighting tactics and understanding their intended effects are crucial in ensuring that one’s opinions, will, or identity are not compromised at the behest of others.
Gaslighting is used as a tactic to increase one’s control over another and does not lend itself to healthy relationships. The feelings of self-doubt that arise can compromise many different aspects of one’s life. Identifying standard gaslighting techniques or recognizing a change in one’s thoughts can all be vital in overcoming these attempts and moving towards a confident, self-assured mentality.
What is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting is the effort of an individual to gain control over the way that another thinks by introducing doubt or attempting to alter another’s perception of events or memories. It is a kind of psychological abuse intended to have an individual question their sense of reality or sanity. Those being gaslit may then turn to the gaslighter to get the “real” version of events or perception, which gives them a great deal of mental control over their target.
The psychological control gained from gaslighting can be used to continue manipulating a relationship and introduce doubt into another’s life. This can change one’s opinions of their other friends or social circles or cause an individual to doubt their self-confidence. These aspects allow gaslighters to center themselves as the only pillar of support in one’s life and can use this position to manipulate the relationship. The feelings of self-doubt or lack of faith in one’s senses can also cause many other effects, such as low self-confidence, distancing oneself from their interests, relinquishing personal goals, and increasing anxiety and depression.
Identifying Gaslighting Techniques
Being able to spot gaslighting tactics is essential in reforming many of one’s opinions and affirming one’s feelings. The doubt introduced through gaslighting can permeate throughout one’s life, and it can be easy to begin to doubt oneself in any circumstance. However, being able to identify the potential for gaslighting can be a powerful weapon. It can affirm that an individual has been right or has been manipulated, returning a great deal of agency to the person being affected. Some of the techniques used by gaslighters may include:
- Lying: Lying is a common and direct form of gaslighting. Those who are gaslighting others may introduce fictitious elements to stories or recollections. This can be paired with unwavering confidence in their lie, even when presented with directly contradictory information. This confidence and dedication to a lie can begin to make one question themselves, and their perception of events and is the basis of many gaslighter’s manipulative behaviors.
- Shifting Blame: Shifting blame is a deflection technique to avoid compromising any power in the relationship. For some, this can be another form of lying, even when faced with evidence. For others, this can manifest as an effort to simply muddy the dialogue by bringing up irrelevant information. For example, when confronted about lying, a gaslighter could respond with “well, what about the time you lied to me?” or “what about when you were late?” Even if the examples are fictitious, bringing these things up diverts attention away from their wrongdoings, places blame on others, and diminishes one’s ability to converse.
- Gossip: Gossip can be used to make a person doubt their relationships and their judgment when it comes to decisions. Gaslighters may start gossiping about another to portray them as overly emotional or mentally unstable. It is also possible that this gossip manifests as a gaslighter telling an individual that everyone else thinks they are acting unnaturally. Thus again, it introduces a great deal of self-consciousness and self-doubt, lowering self-esteem and embedding negative thoughts in one’s head.
- Minimizing Your Input: Gaslighters may use their techniques to minimize one’s input in a situation. By causing an individual to doubt their thoughts, gaslighters can then say that one is “too emotional,” “acting crazy,” or just needs to “calm down.” All of these are an effort to minimize one’s feelings and are used to avoid any kind of confrontation or input, otherwise mitigating the feelings and opinions of others to retain control.
- Compassion: Compassionate language is intended to make others feel better, and thus it can be challenging to spot as a manipulative technique. However, gaslighters may end confrontations or discussions with reaffirmations of compassion, such as “I’d never do anything to hurt you,” or “you know I’m just trying to help you.” While unfortunate, this can be a form of lying. If an individual is acting in a way that is not reflective of what they are saying, this compassion can be used with manipulative intent.
- Framing of Language: The words that a gaslighter uses can be very telling. Even when questions are poised, they may already have a gaslit slant to them. For example, after watching a movie, it may be common to ask, “what did you think of the film?” However, these questions can become complicated when asked as “That film was pretty bad, don’t you think?” Framing questions in this way can immediately present conflict, as an individual is either expected to agree or feel antagonistic, continuing to reframe how one forms their own opinions.
Gaslighting can be incredibly difficult to identify, but the psychological impact that it can carry is intense. If you or a loved one is suffering from a manipulative relationship and coping with the effects of gaslighting or any other traumatic experiences, Avalon Malibu can help you today. Our individualized, holistic approach to recovery allows you to personalize your time with us with many proven, effective programs. Writing therapy, art, music, yoga, a seasonal ropes course, and more are all available, backed by our extensive individual and group therapy sessions and supportive community and atmosphere. The first step towards overcoming the effects of gaslighting is recognizing that it’s happening. Our professionals are ready to help you explore your relationship and help you take the next appropriate step. For more information on how we can help you, or speak to a caring, trained staff member about your unique situation, call us today at (844) 857-5992.