Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse that attempts to undermine a person’s perception of reality. If you are in a situation where you are beginning to doubt yourself because of what someone is telling you, the key is to start to keep a record so that you can remember what was said and done and confirm your recollection. Remember, gaslighting can sometimes even amount to criminal behaviour. See another blog on gaslighting here.
5 abusive ways a gaslighter can undermine a victim:
1. Lying and denial.
Lying in gaslighting is intended to make the victim not believe their senses and to doubt themselves. Gaslighters are pathological liars who never back down or change their stories. Even when challenged with proof of their lying, they still plough on and their denials can be very convincing. One trick they use to put the victim off is to ask a question when challenged instead of answering the question. Another trick is to turn the tables on the victim by accusing them of making things up or by asserting vehemently that what happened didn’t happen.
Lying and denial are central to gaslighting because it makes the victim question their reality and even start to believe the lies despite knowing their untruthfulness. The victim must keep a record of what is said and what happens to help them confirm the truth.
2. Ignoring/Undermining how the victim thinks and feels.
A gaslighter ignores and makes light of their victim’s thoughts and emotions to gain authority and power. They may tell the victim to calm down, not overreact, or to stop being sensitive, all of which undermine the victim’s reality and have the effect of making it seem that it is the victim who is in the wrong.
This tactic of not acknowledging someone’s thoughts, feelings or beliefs, often leads to victims questioning themselves and feeling completely at sea. If you keep records, you can check through them to see whether what you are feeling is justified.
3. Discrediting the victim.
As well as communicating to others that the victim is wrong and overreacting, a gaslighter also makes up stories about the victim to gossip about with others. The gaslighter will pretend to be concerned and say they have the victim’s best interests at heart whilst subtly conveying the message that the victim is unstable, even crazy or in need of mental health support.
Sadly this sadistic tactic can be very effective in sidelining the victim from compassionate family and friends. Sometimes a gaslighter can take this tactic one step further by lying to the victim saying that family and friends do indeed think they are crazy, can’t be believed and need help.
4. The blame game.
Gaslighters blame the victim for anything bad that happens even when it’s their own fault or when they’ve deliberately created the problem to cause things to go wrong. Every discussion is twisted to make the victim feel at fault and that they are the cause of any problems. They assert that if only the victim behaved differently, they would not have to treat them as they do.
5. Twisting and reframing what’s happened.
Familiar stories and memories are constantly retold in a different and untruthful way and always in the gaslighter’s favour, leading to the victim doubting their memory of what happened. This is exactly the goal they seek to achieve of course. Keeping records is the way to prove you are being deceived.
5 ways a victim can react to the abuse:
1. They doubt their thoughts and feelings.
Victims start to believe the gaslighter’s propaganda. They try to convince themselves that the gaslighter is right and that the behaviour of the gaslighter is not unreasonable. They think that they are over sensitive or over reacting. They doubt their own judgment and perceptions.
2. Going silent and becoming frightened to speak up
Victims doubt their reality and their understanding of their life stories and experiences. They believe that they are in the wrong and may even need help. They become frightened of speaking up and saying what they know and have experienced. and become afraid of speaking up or expressing emotions. They learn that sharing their opinion usually makes them feel worse, so staying silent is what’s required. They remain silent to avoid upsetting the gaslighter.
3. Becoming isolated from friends and family
Victims report feeling alone and powerless, convinced that everyone around them thinks they are unstable or crazy. They buy into the gaslighter’s deception that family and friends think they are mad. This results in the victim feeling they can turn to no one for help and that they’re trapped and isolated.
4. They find it hard to make decisions.
Victims struggle to make decisions, because they believe they can’t trust their own judgement. They think they can’t manage without the gaslighter’s input and rely on them to an unreasonable extent. The outcome is that they allow the gaslighter to make decisions for them, avoiding their own decision-making altogether.
5. They feel inadequate.
Victims feel they aren’t good enough. Consequently they try to live up to the expectations and demands of others, even if they are unreasonable. They spend a lot of time apologising for what they do or who they are. They assume others are disappointed in them. They are disappointed in themselves. For example, they feel weak and passive whereas they used to be strong and assertive.
Gaslighting top tip
If you think you may be a victim of gaslighting, pay close attention to their actions, not their words. Start keeping a record of what happens, what you are told and how the gaslighter reacts. Your records will help you keep your sanity. They will also be key evidence if you need to explain what is happening to friends, family or professional help. ONRECORD is designed specifically to be the best way to keep records so sign up now and get the help you need.