I’m sure each one of us have experienced the phenom known as Gaslighting, at least once in our lives. It’s a twisted concept, that I didn’t know had a name, until fairly recently.
I once casually dated a man, and both of us understood that it was just for fun. Nevertheless, months down the line, it was quite a surprise to learn that he had a fiancée. I confronted him about, and was shocked when he turned the tables, and insisted that he had told me about his fiancée, and even went on to cite a specific bar, as the place he allegedly told me. He said all this with such an unwavering sense of conviction, at one point, I silently asked myself if in fact he did tell me and it simply escaped me. But then I remembered who I am. The girl who is so meticulous, that she gages and stores the tiniest bit of information, in her memory. There is no way a revelation such as ‘I have a girlfriend’, could have escaped this iron clad mind. Needless to say, I snapped right out of that fabrication of reality, and responded to him with full fledged anger.
This man was so desperate to absolve himself of responsibility – for having falsely represented himself as a single man – that he was willing to distort my recollection of facts, thus frustrating what I knew to be reality. And he was so convincing, so much so, I almost fell into the trap of denying my reality. So, not only had this man treated me with such incivility, by unilaterally positioning me as ‘the other woman’, he treated me with even more disdain, by using such a ruthless and psychologically abusive tactic, to absolve himself of responsibility. It was at that point, that I expressed to him how sorry I felt for his wife to be.
Good Therapy defines gaslighting as “a type of psychological abuse in which the abuser denies the victim’s reality, causing him/her to question him/herself, his/her memory, or his/her perceptions”. It also goes on to state that gaslighting is used as “abusive tactic by those with narcissistic and psychopathic personalities, and it can happen without actual environmental manipulation”. It often occurs in romantic relationships, but can also occur in friendships and relationships within the family. It’s important that we underline the abusive nature of gaslighting. So many of us have experienced this phenom, but not many of us understand that what it is, is a form of abuse. In fact, it is such a severe form of psychological abuse, which can lead to total submission to the abuser.
My experience of gaslighting highlighted above, was not the first. I’ve experienced it on multiple occasions. Unfortunately, I fell prey to the manipulation and fed into the narrative I was being provided with. I did not know that I was being abused, often by those closest to me. After appreciating that gaslighting is abuse, I started to evaluate all the instances where I felt I was being gaslighted, and this forced me to reevaluate a number of people in my life. Anyone who can hurt you, then refuse responsibility by making you question reality, is not anyone worthy of being in your life. Now I approach gaslighting ever so ruthlessly. I can spot it from a mile a way, and I confront it without ever doubting my reality.
Abuse is abuse. Whether it be physical, mental, emotional or psychological. We should treat abuse severely and we should be aware of the signs. Check out the video below to see if you or someone you know has been or is being subjected to gaslighting.