What is Gaslighting? Definition of Gaslighting, Gaslighting Meaning and Concept

A form of manipulation used to make the victim doubt their own judgment.

Have you ever been told these phrases in response to a complaint: "you are crazy", "that never happened", "you are very sensitive", etc.

If so, they may be using the "Gaslighting" technique to confuse you.

What is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting is called a type of psychological abuse in which the perception of reality that another person has is manipulated and modified.

That is, whoever carries out the gaslighting makes the other individual believe that what they remember and their perceptions are the product of their imagination and not what really happened.

This term comes from the play Gaslighting (1938) by Patrick Hamilton, which tells the story of a man who tried to convince his wife that he was crazy. To do this, he disappeared certain belongings and dimmed the gas lights, making her believe that they shone with the same intensity as before.

This type of psychological abuse constantly questioned the wife, for which she believed that she had problems with sanity and memory.

The work was so successful that in 1940 it was adapted for film in England and then, in 1944 in the United States, entitled Angel Street.

However, nowadays gaslighting or making gas light, are part of the clinical terms that refer to different types of psychological abuse, such as brainwashing and bullying.

Specialists have determined that the main purpose of gaslighting is to severely affect the belief system of individuals with different purposes. These cases are very common among romantic relationships, between friends or partners, and family.

Those who practice gaslighting are usually narcissistic and psychopathic people who tend to manipulate the feelings of others.

The characteristics of this type of deception

Although this film presents us with an extreme case, this manipulation technique is used consciously or unconsciously in relationships.

Let's look at some scenarios. For example, you can say:

"When you said that you hurt me" and the abuser says "I never said that, you are imagining it" and there he plants the seed of doubt.

It could also happen this way:

"When you did that I felt very bad", to which the abuser replied "you are very sensitive, it was only a joke". He tries to persuade us to believe that it was a matter of self-perception error.

Similarly, you might fight and defend yourself but still get the same words: "You are exaggerated", "You are making a storm in a glass of water" or "You are delirious" etc. So instead of continuing to confront or walk away, you allow the doubt to arise within you in an attempt to favor the relationship and seek the approval of your partner or family member.

This type of manipulation is very subtle but dangerous, since it leads us to continue toxic relationships, to believe that there really is something wrong with us, to be insecure and to depend on the opinion of others. It can also take us away from loved ones for fear of being confronted about your relationship.

Possible effects

These are the main psychological effects of gaslighting in the medium and long term, and they lead the victim to assume that they lack the criteria to make decisions for themselves.

1. Doubts about the ability to remember well

Gaslighting makes the victim doubt about the functioning of his memory, since the manipulative person convinces him that he remembers things that did not happen.

2. Doubts about one's reasoning

This leads the victim to not trust their ability to reason and make decisions, so they seek help from the criteria of others, and especially from the manipulative person, who makes them see their supposed mistakes.

3. Doubts related to one's own mental health

In extreme cases, the victim assumes that they have a psychological disorder that would explain their inappropriate emotional reactions, or their ways of thinking that are far from reality.

4. Low level of self-esteem

All of the above is reflected in a low level of self-esteem in general.

How to realize Gaslighting

These are 10 signs to know if we are being "Gaslighteado" (information collected from psychologist Robin Stern, author of the book The gaslighting effect ).

  1. You constantly question your ideas or actions.
  2. You wonder if you are overly sensitive many times a day.
  3. You are always apologizing: to your parents, to your partner, to the boss.
  4. You wonder why you are not happy, if so much good things are apparently happening in your life.
  5. You constantly make excuses to your family or friends for your partner's behavior.
  6. You see yourself withholding or hiding information so you don't have to explain or make excuses to partners or friends.
  7. You start to lie to avoid being changed from reality.
  8. You have a hard time making decisions, even simple ones.
  9. You feel like you can't do anything right.
  10. You wonder if you're constantly being good enough daughter / friend / employee / boyfriend / girlfriend.

What can you do?

As subtle as this type of manipulation is, we are not helpless in the face of it. There are ways to deal with these types of attacks, unless there is already a strong precedent for abuse and we cannot deal with the situation with a modicum of composure.

To act in cases of Gaslighting, you can follow these guidelines :

1. Trust your intuition

If you feel that something is not right, pay attention to it and examine what parts do not add up. When it comes to analyzing our own experiences, our experience counts more than the rest.

Furthermore, communication is not a game in which you have to make an effort to understand everything that others are saying. In a couple, if a message has not been understood, the responsibility is often shared (as long as we have paid attention to it).

2. Don't seek approval

Resist the temptation to convince the other to get approval, instead you can say "We disagree" or "I thought about what you told me but it doesn't feel true to me" or "I listen to what you say, but my reality is very different from yours. " You are perfectly free to end a conversation.

This is only recommended in cases of Gaslighting, since in any other context, such as in a discussion in which the other person's arguments are solid, it can become an excuse not to admit that you are not right and, ultimately, in a tool of cognitive dissonance.

3. Remember your sovereignty over your own thoughts

Remember that emotions are neither good nor bad, and no one can tell you if what you feel is true or not. If you say "that made me feel criticized" or "I felt sad about what you did" you are not subjecting it to debate. After all, if you feel that you are humiliated or psychologically damaged, only you feel that; what you experience is not up for discussion.

Do not apologize for feeling, what you should avoid is attacking, manipulating or acting in a harmful way.

4. Be aware of your values

What values ​​do you want to be remembered for? Create a list of personal values. For example, "spending quality time with loved ones", "keeping promises", "being generous / compassionate", "telling the truth", "traveling", "keeping an open mind", "staying spiritual". This will help you stay focused and also know what you value in others.

In a way, values ​​act as the backbone of our behavior. Whatever happens, what others say or do or not should force us to go against them. The moment someone pressures us to violate these basic principles, we will know that we are being manipulated.

5. Keep your personal limits

If someone trespasses, let them know and pose a consequence. For example, if you are yelled at or verbally abused, you can say "I don't feel comfortable with what you said, it seems disrespectful to me and I'm not going to let it go." Keep firm.

If it repeats, let it be known again and depending on the relationship, seek a sincere dialogue where both of you agree not to do it again or walk away.

If the person is not responsible for their faults and continues "gaslighteƔndote" ask yourself if you want to continue the relationship or the frequency of visits in the case of family or friends. Working on your own assertiveness is essential to assert your own interests with dignity.