Gaslighting is a form of abusive behavior that can systematically leave people feeling confused, insecure, and dependent. Most people who experience gaslighting can rarely identify the problem. Understanding the signs of gaslighting not only raises your awareness about an abusive situation, but can give you strength you need to find help.
The Confidence Roller Coaster
Many of the tactics seen in gaslighting ultimately chips away at your self-confidence. Your abuser may have been your biggest ally or in the beginning, showered you with compliments. Now, they may be hypercritical and find new ways to make you feel bad or inadequate. Eventually, you may sculpt your looks and behavior to be more appealing to them, and they may even reward you with another compliment, only to criticize you again. This tactic often has several underlying motives. Initially, the abuser wants you to place high value on their approval. The more you value what they think, the easier you are to manipulate. Additionally, this roller coaster ride can often lead people to feel like they are walking on eggshells, constantly wondering if they are good enough or doing things right.
Other tactics seen in gaslighting can have a dramatic effect on your reality and often cause you to question your own sanity. Your abuser likely lies pathologically and denies everything. Even the vile words that came from them only moments ago are met with denial. This can lead you to question whether you heard them correctly or even if the incident happened at all. The biggest bombshell used in gaslighting is the accusation that you are crazy or otherwise unstable. People who gaslight can take things a step further and do a good job convincing other people that you are insane or mentally ill. Unfortunately, the perception that you are making things up or have a vivid imagination significantly undermines your ability to find supportive people.
Projection is also seen in gaslighting. Your abuser will make accusations they know are untrue and project their negative behaviors on to you. For example, the most common accusation will be cheating. Even if you have not suspected or accused your partner of cheating, they may accuse you of cheating because it is what they are doing. The most normal behaviors eventually become confirmation that you are up to something. You suddenly changed your perfume, wore nicer clothes, or stayed at work a little later than normal, and these become confirmation that you are cheating. Part of the reason for projection is to keep you on edge and always defending even the most benign actions. Additionally, you will likely make changes in an attempt to disprove their suspicions, which only gives them more control over you.
Gaslighting is a serious abusive and manipulation strategy that only becomes worse over time. Talking with a mental health professional about your situation can help you make better decisions on how to deal with gaslighting. Click here for more info about the signs of gaslighting.
After developing a chronic physical illness, I soon began realizing that the disease plagued my mind almost more than it did my body. While my illness is not life-threatening, it was very difficult accepting that I would have to take medication for the rest of my life and eat a strict diet. After a year of depression, I finally overcame my fear of "exposing" my feelings to others and made an appointment with a mental health counselor. With her help, I was able to see the "silver linings" in life that I had greatly taken for granted before I became ill. I now encourage anyone who is battling an illness of any type to seek the psychological help they need. I plan to post lots of little mental health tips and tricks on my new blog along with advice for choosing a good counselor. Please come back soon!