Before I start, I should probably state a disclaimer that I am not a medical professional. I just find this concept really interesting. It’s something that’s not commonly discussed in the Philippines. In fact, it might even be the subject of science fiction. More often than not, victims do not even know they’re being abused. I want to make this tactic widely known. Also, I am writing from the female POV, as they are more likely to be victimized by this than men.
You may think that you’re going crazy. You feel that there’s something wrong, but you can’t quite put your finger on it. You feel like you’re in a happy relationship, but you feel so miserable. So what’s going on?
Gaslighting is defined as a means to manipulate someone by psychological means into doubting their own sanity.
It destroys one person’s perception of reality.
The term comes from the 1938 stage play Gas Light where the husband constantly makes small changes in their home environment. It first starts by the dimming of their gas lights, which the wife notices. However, it is denied by the husband making her question her perception.
Q: Who uses gaslighting?
A: Sociopaths and narcissists often use gaslighting to manipulate their victims. These persons tend to be manipulative and often charming; and show no remorse nor empathy to others.
Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of ultraconfidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.
Q: What’s the purpose of gaslighting?
A: Gaslighting is committed to make the other person doubt their own sanity and perception of reality. It often comes with physical, emotional, and mental abuse. It is also used to make the victim more dependent on her abuser, thus continuing the cycle of abuse.
Q: How is gaslighting done?
A: It usually comes with manipulation. An abuser, for example, physically abuses his victim–which may be his wife or child–and then denies that it ever happened.
An abuser’s ultimate goal is to make their victim second guess their every choice and question their sanity, making them more dependent on the abuser. A tactic which further degrades a target’s self-esteem is for the abuser to ignore, then attend to, then ignore the victim again, so the victim lowers their personal bar for what constitutes affection and perceives themselves as less worthy of affection. (7 Signs You’re a Victim of Gaslighting)
He may degrade you constantly, then praise you. He may make you feel loved, then ignore you again. He will constantly criticize your choices, your friends, and your family. He will always make you second-guess yourself, make you feel guilty, and constantly apologize. He will make you feel that the reason he acts or reacts is because of you. If he lies or cheats, for instance, he will make you feel that it was your fault that he lied or cheated.
I encountered this term in the novel and movie The Girl On the Train. Rachel, the protagonist, fell into depression after her miscarriage, taking to drink. During her blackouts, Tom, the husband, tells her that she often becomes violent, trying to hurt or kill him. Even after he cheats and leaves her for another woman, she constantly pines for and chases after him and apologizes for her behavior. All throughout the novel, we are made to believe that Tom had been the longsuffering husband during their marriage and the most patient and understanding ex-husband after their divorce.
I’ll just put the Wikipedia synopsis:
“Rachel Watson is a 32-year-old alcoholic reeling from the dissolution of her marriage to Tom, who left her for another woman, Anna Watson. Rachel’s drinking has caused her to lose her job; she frequently binges and has blackouts. While drunk, she often harasses Tom by phone and sometimes even in person, though she has little or no memory of these acts once she sobers up.
Rachel trusts her own memories more, and she realises that many of the crazy things Tom told her she did while drunk, but that she doesn’t remember doing, never really happened. He had been gaslighting her for years, which affected her belief in herself and made her question her sanity.”
Q: Am I being gaslighted?
- tell blatant lies
- deny they said something, even if you have proof (such as text messages or e-mails)
- they confuse you
- they use positive reinforcement after all the negativity
- they criticize you and make you question your self-worth
Are you a victim of abuse? Speak up. Seek help. It’s always available. ❤ AYA
Next: Abuse in connection with the Anti-Violence Against Women Act (R.A. No. 9262)