Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse that occurs when a person or organization attempts to change the perception, sense of reality or memory of another person or group of people. The term comes from the 1938 play, “Gas Light,” which was later adapted into a movie starring Ingrid Bergman.
In the film, Bergman’s character, Paula, is isolated and manipulated by her husband Gregory (played by Charles Boyer). One of Gregory’s manipulative tactics is to brighten and dim the gaslights in their home while insisting Paula is imagining the changing light.
It may seem insignificant, but gaslighting is a serious form of emotional abuse that can cause lasting trauma. Gaslighting can happen within organizations, the workplace and interpersonal relationships.
How to Recognize Gaslighting
Because gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation, it can be hard to recognize. Emotional manipulators are attempting to exert power or maintain control. Women and other who lack cultural, economic or political power are more likely to be gaslit. It is typically men who gaslight their female partners or powerful organizations that gaslight employees or minorities.
Here are some common signs of gaslighting:
- Acting in a way that doesn’t match what they say and doing things that contradict what they’ve said.
- Aligning themselves with others who agree with them or reinforce their version of events.
- Attacking what’s important to you or your organization, such as family, identity or reputation.
- Denying something they said or did, even if there’s proof showing otherwise.
- Expressing apparent kindness or positive reinforcement to distract from destructive behavior.
- Projecting their own behavior or shortcomings onto you.
- Telling lies, even if you or your organization know the information is false.
Wearing a victim down is a gaslighter’s goal. Over time, their behavior causes physical and emotional exhaustion, making them harder to resist.
Healing From Emotional Abuse
If you or someone you know is experiencing gaslighting or emotional abuse, there is hope. Rising against this form of emotional abuse is difficult, but it is possible.
Gaslighting in relationships often results in being emotionally or physically isolated. Healing from emotional abuse involves gathering a support system.
- Call 911 if you or someone you know is in immediate danger.
- A therapist or mental health professional can offer emotional support to improve your quality of life.
- Domestic abuse hotlines can help identify emotional abuse and make a safety plan as necessary.
Talk with a Professional
You’re not alone. Behavioral health services from St. Elizabeth can provide the compassionate care you need.