Gaslighting is making someone question their reality and imposing a worldview on them. This is done by the gaslighter, usually for their merit and to gain power and control over you. A study by Paige L. Sweet examines and proposes the social causes and how they relate to the signs of gaslighting. It points at the social weaknesses of a person in an unequal relationship and how the same leads to gaslighting.
The gaslighter exploits this vulnerability to control the victim and make them feel out of touch with reality. However, gaslighting has milder and more widespread versions too. It can be anything from a white lie to a belief that spreads across society. Chances are you’ve been gaslighted more times than you think. The majority of gaslighting goes unnoticed, and that is what makes it scary. It distorts our perception and influences our decision-making, often negatively.
Can someone be gaslighting and not know it?
Gaslighting isn’t always done consciously, and someone may not realize they are doing it to you. Chances are you’ve gaslighted someone yourself. A white lie that, on the surface of it, many times causes people to question their worldviews and adjust them according to public opinion. One way to avoid this tendency or to keep it to a minimum is to be more honest or avoid lying whenever possible.
For conscious gaslighting, psychopaths and people uncaring for morality often use the process to manipulate others. While both gaslighting forms are lethal, unconscious gaslighting is the more prevalent. Following are some signs and symptoms to help you identify gaslighting in your relationships, workplace, and society.
Signs and Symptoms of Gaslighting
These signs will help you identify “What does a gaslighter do and how?”. The first thing to notice is people’s motive in an interaction – The perpetrator is likely to use gaslighting when their motive is to gain something or come out on top through interaction with you. The methods they may employ to gaslight someone, especially in relationships, can include:-
1. Shifting blame and responsibility
Not taking responsibility for your actions, words and beliefs lie at the heart of gaslighting. It lets the perpetrator off for free and makes the situation advantageous for them.
2. Denying reality
The perpetrator may outright deny what you claim. This can happen in matters of importance and slowly diminishes your ability to speak out in the relationship. They can do this by saying you don’t remember something correctly, are making a big deal out of something that isn’t, or trying to invalidate your opinion.
3. Changing the subject
This is also called deflecting. One of the traits of gaslighting is some level of secrecy or avoidance by the perpetrator, either because they aren’t conscious of it or don’t want the victim to find out. The perpetrator can easily change the subject mid-conversation when you bring up something uncomfortable. They will dodge it by focusing on another topic.
4. Lying or reframing the situation
The perpetrator can use a different perspective and emphasize some things to justify gaslighting. For example, the perpetrator may tell you you’re looking at the situation incorrectly. They can also use statements like telling you to calm down or that you’re overreacting or exaggerating how serious the problem really is.
5. Using words of affirmation and love to manipulate
Words of affirmation are a type of love language, a preferred way people like to be cared for by their loved ones. These words are used as weapons of manipulation and control by the gaslighter. They may question whether you care for them if you try to go against what they desire or try to correct them.
While these signs can help you identify if someone is gaslighting you, they can also teach you how to know if you’re gaslighting someone. If you think you are doing the same, you can seek help and improve. It is not shameful but a sign of strength to admit your mistakes, as doing this can help you grow and improve the quality of your relationships.
How can you tell if someone is gaslighting you?
You can know when you are being gaslighted by taking note of the signs of gaslighting and trying to see if any apply to you. The major obstacle you will face in identifying the signs of gaslighting is yourself. You may not want to admit that you’re being taken advantage of by someone close. Some reasons for this can include:-
-Confronting the perpetrator will always be difficult. Usually, someone in a position to gaslight you has some sort of power over you, either physically or mentally. It takes courage to stand up to them or remove them from your life, but it is well worth it.
–You may also have an emotional attachment to the perpetrator. Those closest to us often have the most power to hurt us. It will be no surprise that more gaslighting happens in our homes than anywhere else. You can improve the environment by being more honest with your loved ones and encouraging authentic behavior.
However, you may need to terminate the relationship if the situation is beyond redemption. Depending on the gaslighter can make you feel isolated and backed into a corner. That’s why this decision may seem painful or not worth considering in the present, but it is the best course of action for your future self.
What To Do If You Can’t Terminate The Relationship Immediately?
You are under trauma, in an unsafe environment, or do not have a support system to get out. Not admitting that you’re in a dangerous situation might be your mind’s way of protecting itself from constant stress, a feeling of dread, and allowing you to function normally.
You can start by detaching yourself from the perpetrator emotionally and aim toward working your way to safety. Another method for feeling more secure is physically distancing from them. If you can avoid your perpetrator, they will have fewer chances to abuse you through gaslighting.
Keeping these things in mind can help you be safer till you have the resources to improve your situation. However, in this case, it is best to consult a licensed professional or seek support from hotlines and organizations that work to provide the same as soon as possible.
You should also not be haste in determining whether you’re being gaslighted or not. We can often come to the wrong conclusions and blame ourselves for the devastating results later. If you are unsure whether you’re being gaslighted, you can take this quiz or read on to learn about the effects of the same.
What are the effects of gaslighting?
You have Low self-esteem
Imagine a situation where your view is often questioned, and your opinions go unheard and invalidated by someone precious to you. There’s no doubt that you will eventually lose confidence in yourself, and your self-esteem will lower.
You constantly apologize
You lose confidence in yourself through gaslighting, and your mind goes into “defense mode.” You care about surviving and often accept the opinions and irrational demands forced on you.
You are always blaming yourself
As we discussed, gaslighting is a way of shifting responsibility from the perpetrator to the victim. If you are being gaslighted, you likely blame yourself for things you are told are your fault.
Symptoms of gaslighting at work include manipulation of facts about:
-credit for a project or task
-submission of work
-efforts put in by the employees
-or the timing of your projects.
Rather than trying outwardly selfish things, it usually involves the perpetrator subtly denying facts or changing perception. This is something to be wary of as it can produce a toxic workplace where people don’t feel comfortable working. Eventually, distrust can diminish effective teamwork and peer performance.
People also use it in negotiations and other areas of business at large. The term medical or patient gaslighting has also been popularized. It means dismissing the patient’s concerns or worries as trivial. Unexamined problems in the body and mind can lead to complications later, making this dismissal a form of medical malpractice.
It is also important to note the physical symptoms of gaslighting. In homes, gaslighting may involve or escalate to domestic violence. But the mental effects of gaslighting can also manifest in physical form if they are allowed to continue for long. Stress, anxiety, and even depression are symptoms of long-term gaslighting, which may display if you stay in a toxic environment.
These effects can be devastating and feel like a significant obstacle blocking your return to everyday life. Following are some tips to help you recover and overcome gaslighting.
How to recover?
Develop healthy habits
Making solid and healthy habits will help your physical and mental health and give you the confidence and resilience you need to recover from gaslighting. These habits may include:
A. Regular exercise
B. Presence or mindfulness
C. Deep breathing exercises or Meditation
D. Various self-care activities & many more
Not only do these practices help you to a quick recovery, but they also have proven benefits to amplify life satisfaction and happiness.
Get in a support group
Joining a support group or a mental health community can help you meet and network with tons of people who are going through and have recovered from the same things you are dealing with in your life. The people can provide you with insights and helpful feedback and may also get you some lifelong friendships. These groups are usually free from any stigma against mental health, making you feel freer to speak out.
Opt For Therapy
Some form of therapy is necessary to recover entirely from the effects of gaslighting. As we stated earlier, it is an insidious practice that may damage your relationships and cause you to distrust people or develop mental illness. Fortunately, therapy these days is available from the comfort of your home. Here are a few platforms where you can seek a healthy recovery and better mental health.
Gaslighting is a subtle manipulation that permeates our homes, workplace, and society. Understanding the signs and symptoms of gaslighting is necessary to know how we are gaslighting or being gaslighted. But we can overcome gaslighting through honesty, authenticity in relationships, better mental health, and supporting each other.
One way to support each other and make your day brighter is through gratitude. Gratitude is a superpower that improves the quality of life across all areas if you practice it regularly. On that note, here are some of the best gratitude apps you can start using now to lead a healthier lifestyle.
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