Gaslighting is a highly destructive form of abuse. Essentially it involves psychological manipulation which, over time, leaves its victims confused, isolated and trapped in a state of mental warfare. It's deliberate, covert and toxic to a person's mental health.
Gaslighting comes from the power and control 'toolbox' and is used to destabilise someone in an intimate relationship, a workplace or even in a family context. An extreme form of brainwashing, prolonged exposure to gaslighting results in the victim questioning their own thoughts, feelings, lived experience, identity and mental health 'status', for want of a better word. It regularly appears as statements like "It didn't happen like that!", "You're imagining it!", "That never happened", "I didn't say that!" and "You must be mentally unstable!"
Anyone can use gaslighting to deliberately destabilise someone but generally it is a tactic favoured by narcissists, sociopaths and psychopaths who operate with malevolent intent. These people consistently use denial, misrepresentation, lies and contradiction to slowly trap their victim in a distorted 'reality' in order to maintain control over them.
By making them feel crazy, the victim is less likely to ask for help, reach out to friends and family for support or, leave the relationship or workplace. Thus the abuse continues.
Gaslighting can include:
- Constantly having your recollection of events challenged, invalidated or completely downplayed
- Excessive repetition of lies and falsehoods
- Extreme denial, even when confronted with unquestionable evidence
- Blame shifting used to avoid accountability
- Ever moving goal posts causing a person to question everything
- 'Topsy-turvy' circular conversations which go nowhere
- A never-ending feeling that you are indeed going crazy
If you feel like you are living this story you may find it useful to speak with a professional who can help you process what it is you are experiencing.
Erica is a Women's Health Counsellor in private practice in the Southern Highlands. You can read more about her work at www.shecounselling.com.au. She can be contacted at email@example.com, on 0412 707 242 or via socials @shecounselling.