Gaslighting: The most subtle emotional abuse

Have you ever been told these sentences in response to a complaint: “you’re crazy”, “this has never happened”, “you are very sensitive”, etc.

If applicable they may be using the “Gaslighting” technique to confuse you.

    What is Gaslighting?

    Gaslighting is a model of psychological violence in which the victim is manipulated to question their own perception, judgment or memory. It makes the person anxious, confused or even depressed.

    This term, which does not really have a Spanish translation, comes from the classic Hollywood movie called “Gaslight”, In which a man manipulates his wife into believing that she is crazy and thus steals her hidden fortune. He hides objects (paintings, jewelry) by making his wife believe that she was responsible, even if he does not remember them. It also dims the gas light (there was no electricity) and makes you think the fire is still glowing at the same intensity as before.

    Of course, this makes the protagonist feel like she’s going crazy, she doesn’t want to leave the house, she is anxious and cries constantly. Her husband warns her that she will leave the relationship and threatens to send her to a doctor for treatment or to move her. Of course, the abuser knows very well what he is doing and almost does his job without an investigator who deciphers the situation and unmasks the thief.

      The characteristics of this type of deception

      Although this film presents an extreme case, this manipulation technique is used consciously or unconsciously in relationships.

      Let’s look at some scenarios. For example, you can say:

      “When you said that you hurt me” and the aggressor says “I never said that, you imagine it” and there sows doubt.

      It could also be this way:

      “When you did that, I felt really bad”, to which the abuser replies “you are very sensitive, it was just a joke”. He tries to persuade us to believe that this is his own misperception.

      In the same way, you can fight and defend yourself but still get the same words: “you are exaggerating”, “you are making a storm in a glass of water” or “you are delusional” etc. therefore instead of continuing to confront or distance yourself, let doubt arise in you for the purpose of fostering the relationship and gaining the approval of your partner or family member.

      This type of manipulation is very subtle but dangerous because it leads to persistent toxic relationships, believing that there is really something wrong with us, not being safe and depending on the opinions of others. other. It can also drive us away from loved ones for fear of being confronted with your relationship.

        possible effects

        These are the main psychological effects of gas lighting in the medium to long term, and they lead the victim to assume that she has no criteria for making decisions for herself.

        1. Doubts about the ability to remember well

        Gaslighting makes the victim doubt the functioning of his memory, Since the manipulator convinces her that she remembers things that did not happen.

        2. Doubts about his own reasoning

        This leads the victim to not trusting their ability to reason and make decisions, so seek help in judging others, And especially in the manipulative person, who shows him his supposed mistakes.

        3. Doubts about one’s own mental health

        In extreme cases, the victim he assumes he has a psychological disorder which would explain their inadequate emotional reactions, or their ways of thinking far from reality.

        4. Lower the level of self-esteem

        All of the above results in low self-esteem in general.

        How to achieve gas lighting

        Here are 10 signs to know if we are “Gaslighted” (Information gathered from psychologist Robin Stern, author of the book The gaslighting effect).

        1. You are constantly questioning your ideas or actions.
        2. You wonder if you are too sensitive several times a day.
        3. You always apologize: to your parents, to your partner, to your boss.
        4. You wonder why you are not happy, if so many good things are apparently going on in your life.
        5. You constantly apologize to your family or friends for your partner’s behavior.
        6. You see yourself withholding or hiding information so you don’t have to explain or make excuses to couples or friends.
        7. You start to lie to keep them from changing your reality.
        8. You struggle to make even the simplest decisions.
        9. You feel like you can’t do anything right.
        10. You wonder if you are still a good enough girl / friend / employee / boyfriend / girlfriend.

        What can you do?

        As subtle as this kind of manipulation may be, we are not helpless in the face of it. There are ways to deal with such attacks, unless there is already a strong precedent for abuse and we can deal with the situation with a minimum of peace of mind.

        through act in the face of Gaslighting cases, you can follow these guidelines:

        1. Trust your intuition

        If you think something is wrong, pay attention and examine the parts that are not squared. When we analyze our own experiences, our experience counts more than the rest.

        Also, communication is not a game where you have to struggle to understand everything others are saying. In a couple, if a message has not been understood, the responsibility is often shared (provided it has been paid attention).

        2. Don’t ask for approval

        He resists the temptation to convince the other to seek approvalInstead, you can say “We don’t agree” or “I thought about what you said to me but I don’t feel true to myself” or “I hear what you are saying. , but my reality is very different from yours “. You are perfectly free to end a conversation.

        This is only recommended in cases of Gaslighting, as in any other context, such as in a discussion where the other person’s arguments are strong, it can become an excuse not to admit you are wrong and ultimately , in a cognitive dissonance tool.

        3. Remember your sovereignty over your own thoughts

        Remember that emotions are neither good nor bad, and no one can tell you whether what you are feeling is true or not. If you say “it made me feel criticized” or “I felt sad about what you did”, you are not putting it up for debate. After all, if you feel humiliated or hurt psychologically, only you feel it; what you are going through is not open to discussion.

        Don’t apologize for feelingWhat you should avoid is assaulting, manipulating or acting in a harmful manner.

        4. Be aware of your values

        What values ​​do you want us to remind you of? Create a list of personal values. For example, “spending quality time with my loved ones”, “keeping promises”, “being generous / compassionate”, “telling the truth”, “traveling”, “having an open mind”, “keeping spirituality” . It will help you stay focused and know what you value in other people..

        One way or another, values ​​act as the backbone of our behavior. Whatever happens, what others say or do or shouldn’t force us to go against them. The moment someone pushes us to violate these basic principles, we will know that we are being tried to manipulate.

        5. Maintain your personal limits

        If anyone passes them on, let them know and raise a consequence. For example, if they call you verbally or mistreat you, you can say “I don’t feel comfortable with what you said, I feel disrespectful and I have no intention of letting it go. . ” Is closed.

        If it happens again, let it be known again and depending on the relationship, look for a genuine dialogue where you both agree not to do it again or walk away.

        If the person is not responsible for his faults and continues to “gaslighteándote”, ask yourself if you want to continue the relationship or the frequency of visits in case of family or friends. Working on your own assertion is essential to asserting your own interests with dignity.

        Bibliographical references:

        • Adkins, KC (2019). Gas lighting for the crowd. Social philosophy today. 35: pages 75 – 87.
        • Rei-Anacona, California (2009). Physical, psychological, emotional, sexual and economic abuse in court: an exploratory study. Colombian Psychology Law 12 (2): p. 27-36.
        • Rodríguez-Carballeira, A. (2005). A comparative study of psychological abuse strategies: in pairs, in the workplace and in a manipulative group. Psychology yearbook.
        • Lance, AD (2019). Epistemic dimensions of gastronomic lighting: peer disagreement, self-confidence and epistemic injustice. Consultation: an interdisciplinary journal of philosophy: pages 1 to 24.
        • Sweet, PL (2019). The sociology of gas lighting. American sociological journal. 84 (5): pages 851 to 875.

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