Gaslighting form of manipulation and abuse and is a dating trend where one person lies to the victim and convinces them to start doubting their own reality.
From pizzabottle.com, “Gaslighting can also be as simple as someone denying they have done or said something, even though you have proof. In turn, you start to feel as though you’re crazy or they’re crazy for denying things that are concrete.”
I had not heard this term before, but certainly something to know if you see or hear this in your kid’s relationship discussions.
Even if you don’t hear this term, psychologytoday.com also has listed “10 signs you are being Gaslighted” on their site. Know the signs and talk to your kids if you suspect they are a victim of gaslighting.
Signs of Being Gaslighted
1. You second guess yourself all the time. You wonder if it is your fault for going on a business trip and leaving your family even though the trip is good for your career and something you needed for your sanity.
2. You wonder if you’re too sensitive or jealous. When my husband said, “If you accuse me…” it was time to realize how ridiculous he was and recognize that I had caught him, not try to tamp down my suspicious nature.
3. You feel confused a lot of the time. Your ability to think critically or play devil’s advocate is gone. You don’t wonder, “If I was home and she was in the apartment maybe he would have broken in and harmed her.”
4. You start lying or covering up when there is no reason to do so. Many times people who wind up in gaslighting situations are adult children of alcoholics or grew up in a similar dysfunctional situation. In dysfunctional homes, children get used to lying to keep the terror from raining down on their heads. Very often this kind of upbringing makes you very ripe for winding up in a gaslight situation.
5. You are constantly on “high alert” or hypervigilant. Hypervigilance is another state that people who grow up in dysfunctional homes tend to be in. This is when you are always scanning the horizon for the first sign of trouble.
In her groundbreaking book, Adult Children of Alcoholics, Janet Woititz said that living in an alcoholic home is akin to living with an air raid a day. You never know when the siren is about to go off. Being in a gaslighting situation is very similar. You almost never know when you’re going to be hit with the latest accusation or version of reality that veers far from what you believe it to be.
6. Like being hypervigilant, you try to predict what is going to happen. Being hypervigilant is being on alert that “something” is going to happen. Predicting the future is when you try to be so very careful about every word and action and try to think hard about how it could possibly be interpreted wrongly. Prediction is totally futile because the idea is to keep you off your pins so even when you think you’ve done well or you’ve fool proofed everything to avoid criticism or ridicule, it will happen. The gaslighter will reach far down into the gaslighting bag of tricks to make sure you absolutely cannot predict the outcome. Ever.
7. You cover up and hide from family and friends what is really going on. A few months after the key incident I was out with a friend and my husband. He accused me of things I wasn’t doing in front of her. She was perplexed as I had never told her that he behaved like this on a regular basis. When she tried to ask me about it, I downplayed it. In this same timeframe, his brother imitated him one day in a blistering attack on me. At first I was confused, wondering why his brother was coming after me, but then he tried to laugh about it saying, “I just didn’t want you to miss him.” His portrayal of my husband and how he treated me was so damaging and he only saw a glimpse of it. I wondered what everyone else knew.
8. You apologize a lot even when it’s not your fault. In Getting Past Your Breakup (GPYB) I relay the story of a client I once had who would bump into furniture and apologize TO THE FURNITURE. You become used to saying “I’m sorry…” all the time.
9. You defend yourself against ridiculous accusations. I used to defend myself against what my ex said I was thinking. We had hours, YES HOURS, long arguments where his accusations were almost entirely what he said I was thinking or intentions he assigned to my behaviors that weren’t there. Things like “You want to make me look stupid.” Or “You think that if you don’t do something right I’ll never ask you to do it again.” I was constantly defending things I wasn’t saying or doing or thinking or feeling. It’s ridiculous.
Similarly I would have to prove if I was sick or injured even if I had a note from the doctor. I threw my back out one day and he put me through a series of tests when he got home even though I had been to the hospital and they had diagnosed me with a pulled muscle. According to the doctor, I was injured. According to my husband who had no medical training, I was not. In a normal world, these kinds of things do not go on. So not only was I pronounced not injured but also attacked as lazy and irresponsible. You get used to hearing, “You’re lying…” or “You’re faking…” or “It doesn’t hurt that much…” or “You’re not cold…” or something else…the list goes on and on.
10. You sometimes do wonder if you really are going crazy. You don’t quite believe reality or yourself any more. Gaslighting takes a long time but it erodes your confidence and your ability to believe your own interpretation of events.