"Gaslighting" is a form of emotional abuse that can happen between friends

Xin Xin

It was disturbing. I have no words for my feelings. Am I overly sensitive? I had sleepless nights. I can’t put a word to my feeling until I realized I was gaslighted.

This year, I lost my Mom, and grief never ends. While life continues, I am very attuned to my feelings. Without my Mom, I need to take care of myself. I choose myself, and I will not make excuses about it.

While I care a lot about other people, being a natural empath.

If I don’t watch how others treat me, I am prone to abuse. I have been there before.

Lovers have gaslighted me.

In the vernacular, the phrase “to gaslight” refers to the act of undermining another person’s reality by denying facts, the environment around them, or their feelings. Targets of gaslighting are manipulated into turning against their cognition, their emotions, and who they fundamentally are as people.

I have enough of it, and I will not permit anyone to manipulate me. The little time I have left will not be wasted on people, no matter how much I love them.

It was a conversation that continues to haunt me.

The levels of gaslighting came from different ends, from people I care about and trusted with my deepest pain and my struggle to live with depression.

Only to be told that I should know better and understand someone because, like that person, I have mental issues. That I should be the one who should work on my triggers.

This is something they told someone who is still grieving the loss of his mother.

The more I think about it, I blamed myself, and that is how I know how deep I was gaslighted.

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse used by narcissists, sociopaths, and emotionally manipulative others to gain power and control over another person.

The term comes from the 1944 film “Gaslight,” in which a husband played by Charles Boyer tries to convince his wife, Ingrid Bergman, that she is insane by making subtle changes in their home and then denying he did it. The term is also used to describe efforts by organizations or governments to manipulate public opinion through the systematic dissemination of false information.

From the movie Gaslight, we saw firsthand what is gaslighting someone does to the abused who left without physical scars and yet leaves the victim mental scars that are hard to heal.

In one pivotal scene, Gregory causes the gaslights in the house to flicker by turning them on in the house’s attic. Yet when Paula asks why the gaslights are flickering, he insists that it’s not really happening and that it’s all in her mind, causing her to doubt her self-perception. Hence the term “gaslighting” was born.

1. What is gaslighting?

In cases of gaslighting, the gaslight effect is subtle; it is complicated for an average person to determine that they’ve been gaslighted.

While the gaslighter is manipulatively lying and denying what they did, the gaslighter often fails to notice the gaslights go out after telling the person they’ve been “in a totally different circumstance.” People are left to wonder if they are being set up for a rough ride — all they need is for the gaslighter to come clean and admit what they did.

As Matthew Zawadzki, Ph.D., noted in his 2014 article on the topic, gaslighting techniques “radically undermine another person that she has nowhere left to stand from which to disagree, no standpoint from which her words might constitute genuine disagreement.”

2. How to tell if you’re a victim of gaslighting

We can attempt to influence the minds of others purposefully or unintentionally — because we believe this will make us look more authoritative, intelligent, or trustworthy.

Gaslighting rationalizes the manipulative act due to an inflated sense of self-importance.

If we convince people exactly how we believe they think we feel, others will act as expected. The logical fallacy of the known known-to-be-false argument is called the principle of appeal to ignorance.

This fallacy shows the following: If I know what you think and understand what I believe, then the argument is obviously irrational.

In reality, omitting essential information rarely changes the outlook someone has about the subject in dispute. People are highly opinionated, even stubborn, and are hard to convince.

We do not all agree on every issue, and those strongly opposed to our point of view almost always believe the argument as well.

People do not give up their agendas easily — we might have to suggest that they might be experiencing intense mental strain.

To avoid a painful disagreement, an ally might try to convince the opponent of their viewpoint through subtle shifts in wording, tone, or even suggestion.

An appeasement tactic — a subtle change to the words or actions that we claim the other person will find offensive or unacceptable. In an attempt to show our dedication to the protection of our privacy, we use obliviousness as a deceitful tactic intended to gain a vulnerable individual’s trust.

Direct manipulation through knowing the scale of an attack and not devising a counter-measure immediately can backfire. We might not be able to anticipate, or we might develop complacency or misinterpret the provocation.

3. How to spot a gaslighter

Gaslighters are manipulative people who seek to control and dominate the people around them.

It’s a way for someone to deflect responsibility and to tear down someone else,all the while keeping the other person hooked, especially if what they are hooked on is the desperate need to please another person — or prove that person wrong.

They do this by making the people around them feel small and insecure and thus dependent upon the gaslighter to build their confidence back up. Gaslighters often do this in an underhanded or sneaky way and may not always be consciously aware of it.

Being told that you’re overreacting, irritating them, or failing to live up to some ideal of perfection describes the way that gaslighters operate.

The difference between manipulative gaslighting and “honest” gaslighting is: manipulative gaslighting thrives on the sense of threat, while honest gaslighting may center around the need for control and validation.

The effects of long-term gaslighting on victims and how to recover from the harm inflicted by the abusive tactics used in this type of manipulation

Gaslighting manipulates someone’s mind and emotions to create a false reality and gives the illusion that reality is consistent with a person’s own desires and fantasies.

Psychology Today states that “narcissists and sociopaths forge relationships with vulnerable people because they are not ready to become partners — they haven’t matured, and they need something to control and exploit.”

It has been weeks since this all happened. Now that I know what it was, this is textbook, what is gaslighting someone means, and that someone happens to be me.

Am I too sensitive?

That I am willing to cut my gaslighters out of my life is what gaslighting is all about. Your abusers will make you doubt yourself. It is time to reclaim yourself.

I don’t need to deal with gaslighting when my heart is still bleeding from grief.

Now that this episode of my life is painful, I am ready to let go. Forgiveness doesn’t mean to continue relationships. It can also mean walking away from abuse.

When left unexamined, gaslighting can have a devastating and long-term impact on our emotional, psychological, and sometimes physical well-being. — Robin Stern, PhD.

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