Gaslighting is a manipulation technique that is so subtle and unnoticeable that we don’t see it as manipulation. This makes everyone vulnerable to it, and its effects can totally change your personality for the worse.
It’s not that the phrases and techniques are subliminal, but the context in which they’re used and the effect they’re meant to achieve don’t allow us to analyze these things, as they are primarily used when our rational thinking is shut off.
When under stress, the brain turns the center for rational thinking off in favor or the full use of our fight or flight mechanism. And this is when the manipulator uses gaslighting as a technique that comes to them naturally.
Which is worse, it’s not only psychopaths that use this type of manipulation. Every person has resorted to this technique at least once because it’s one that allows you to reach a desirable outcome without considering the freedom of choice of the other person.
So, you can find gaslighting directed from parents to their children, one among friends and couples, and even at your workplace. Its effects can be devastating if one uses it constantly.
Are you a victim of gaslighting? According to Dr. Robin Stern, the associate director for the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and a licensed psychoanalyst, educator, and author, these are some of the telltale signs that you’re being gaslighted.
1. You constantly second-guess yourself.
Gaslighting comes with the power to lower one’s self-confidence and self-esteem. It’s through constant denial and manipulation in favor of a false reality that the victim starts feeling like they can’t be sure about anything they think of.
2. You wonder, “Am I being too sensitive?” a dozen times a day.
For the manipulator to get out of the responsibility for their actions, they will label your reactions as the result of “being too sensitive/emotional.” This way, they manage to turn your focus from outward to inward and make you think that they may be right.
3. You wonder frequently if you are a “good enough” girlfriend/wife/employee/friend/daughter.
Same goes for men and the appropriate expressions. The fact is that this type of manipulation is one that will compel you to do your best (while the manipulator never shows satisfaction and approval). The reason is that the manipulator will implement a thought in your head that their mediocre behavior is a result of your ‘inability to be good enough.’
4. You think twice before bringing up innocent topics of conversation.
If the manipulator is in the mood for challenging your perceptions, even the simplest phrase will be something they will use against you. Whatever you think of starts to sound too dangerous to talk about, and you start feeling so insecure about what’s normal and whether you’re normal at all.
5. You frequently make excuses for your partner’s behavior to friends and family.
Being aware that your partner’s behavior is not normal, you start to think of a reason why this may be so, and your mind starts filling up the cognitive dissonance with possible reasons and excuses. You especially lay out these excuses in front of your close ones who are worried that you’re dealing with something you don’t deserve.
6. Before your partner comes home from work, you run through a checklist in your head to anticipate anything you might have done wrong that day.
It’s true that nobody’s perfect, but the gaslighter will abuse these imperfections to their advantage, making you feel responsible for not living up to their unrealistic expectations. Because of this, they will criticize you for anything they find to be out of place from what they imagine to be acceptable – and you will accept the blame and feel responsible.
7. You actually start to enjoy the constant criticism, because you think, “What doesn’t kill me will make me stronger.”
That’s just another of your mind’s efforts to fix the cognitive dissonance when you don’t even deserve so much criticism in the first place. In truth, gaslighting may not have the power to kill you instantly, but it will make a martyr out of you and you will start hating your life. You don’t want that, do you?
8. You start lying to avoid the put-downs and reality twists.
Even for the simplest of things and the most normal of actions, you know that somehow everything will turn out wrong. So, you choose to lie and present a reality they’re satisfied with while you live in a total chaos, feeling torn by the reality you like to believe in and the one that is being poured down your throat on a daily basis.
9. You feel as though you can’t do anything right.
And for a good reason. The point of gaslighting is to make you feel incapable of making your own decisions or doing anything without the approving nod from your abuser. And even when you try your best, you get the most negative feedback over the most trivial of things related to whatever you do.
10. You have trouble making simple decisions.
Even the simplest of decisions can turn into a big deal when dealing with a gaslighter. It’s not the decision itself, though. That’s only a tool for their manipulation where you will be made to think that you’re so incapable that they need to decide everything for you.
11. Your kids start trying to protect you from being humiliated by your partner.
Even a child can see what you’re going through and know that you’re not doing well at all. And this should be a very important warning sign for you. The fact that even your children are affected by your constant ruining means that it’s not in your head.
12. You feel hopeless and joyless.
The process of self-alienation is one that will ultimately lead you away from your hopes, dreams, desires, and joys. Gaslighting is a technique the purpose of which is to make you a puppet to one’s desires and goals, with little consideration of what you will become in the process. In the end, the manipulator is doing everything to disassociate you from yourself so that you become their ultimate pawn.
If you’re experiencing this reality, it’s your job to do something about it. You need to either stand for yourself and disregard the ‘consequences’ of ‘disappointing’ your predator, or you can just leave that person and do everything in your might to get back to yourself. If you don’t feel powerful enough, ask for help from those you can trust, and know that you can’t trust a gaslighter.
STERN, R. (2008). THE GASLIGHT EFFECT: HOW TO SPOT AND SURVIVE THE HIDDEN MANIPULATION OTHERS USE TO CONTROL YOUR LIFE. FUSION.