Gaslighting is a word we hear more often, especially on social media platforms. You might have come across phrases like “You’re gaslighting me!” But what does it truly mean, and why is it so concerning? How do we use the word correctly?
What is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a form of emotional manipulation that aims to control and confuse the victim, leading them to doubt their own feelings, thoughts, and memories. The term originates from the 1944 film “Gaslight,” where a husband manipulates his wife into questioning her reality.
At its core, gaslighting is a destructive tactic that inflicts profound harm on the victim’s mental and emotional well-being. It falls under the umbrella of emotional abuse, wherein the perpetrator seeks to dominate and disempower the victim using psychological means. The gaslighter distorts facts, denies experiences, and creates an alternate reality to serve their own agenda. By fostering doubt and confusion, they gain power over the victim, making them doubt their own judgments and perceptions.
The gaslighting process is insidious, as it unfolds gradually over time. The manipulator might initially use subtle tactics, like crafting a false narrative or providing selective information to mislead the victim. As the abuse intensifies, more overt strategies come into play, such as outright denial of the victim’s experiences, belittling their emotions, and even questioning their sanity.
A key objective of gaslighting is to make the victim reliant on the manipulator’s version of reality. By eroding their self-confidence, the gaslighter gains control and authority within the relationship. This creates a cycle of self-doubt, with the victim seeking validation and guidance from the abuser, even when their narrative contradicts reality.
Common Gaslighting tactics
Common gaslighting tactics include blatant lies, selective memory, denial and contradiction, belittling the victim’s emotions, isolation from support systems, and projection of the manipulator’s flaws onto the victim.
The consequences of gaslighting can be severe and long-lasting. The victim’s self-esteem and self-worth may plummet, leading to anxiety, depression, and a sense of hopelessness. They may become increasingly isolated, losing trust in their own judgment and fearing that any action they take will be wrong. Breaking free from the gaslighter’s control becomes incredibly challenging due to the power imbalance created.
Gaslighting is a serious issue that we must be aware of, especially in the digital age where manipulation can easily occur on social media. Recognising the signs of gaslighting and providing support to those experiencing it is crucial to combat this harmful behaviour and protect the well-being of individuals in our society.