“No, I have never said that.” “You are imagining things.” “You are too emotional.” “You do this to yourself, why do you do this to yourself?”
There is the term “gaslighting” that psychologists use to describe these kinds of manipulation where the manipulator wants to make their victims feel as if they are losing their mind, memory, and sanity.
It usually starts innocently. The offenses are small and the victim doesn’t even realize them. However, the problem arises when they start questioning their own perception of things and their reality. Ultimately, they end up in a toxic cycle where they are fighting for their life on a daily basis, not being able to make decisions and feel as if they are the crazy ones.
Gaslighting can happen in any environment – from workplaces to personal relationships – and that’s why being able to recognize the signs of it is so important.
There often is a power dynamic for gaslighting to happen. The gaslighter is the one holding all the power to manipulate and abuse their target who is too scared to speak up because they are afraid that if they do, the power dynamic will change and they will lose the relationship with the gaslighter.
Plus, if the gaslighter happens to be someone you dearly love and are attached to, like your parent or your spouse, then you will want to believe anything the gaslighter tells you or excuse their behavior because deep down you want them to be the person you thought they were. The gaslighter knows this and uses it to their advantage.
Here are some other popular tactics that the manipulator uses to gaslight their victims.
Blocking/diverting – When the gaslighter stops responding to the victim’s accusations altogether by changing the subject or making them feel as if though what they are saying is wrong.
Withholding – The gaslighter stops listening and says they don’t understand what their target is saying.
Forgetting/denial– When the gaslighter pretends that they have forgotten what had happened or denies every proof of it happening.
Countering – When the gaslighter questions the victim’s memory.
Trivializing – When the gaslighter makes the victim feel as if though their feelings and words are not important.
If you or someone else you know feels confused, fuzzy, unclear, constantly apologizing and second-guessing themselves, confused about the relationship, constantly making excuses for someone’s behavior, unhappiness, and a deep feeling of knowing that something is wrong but not knowing what, you or someone you know are a victim of gaslighting.
The relationship you are in is toxic and you need to get out. Stop giving the gaslighter what he wants. Don’t be a puppet in their hands. Walk away and save yourself.