We’ve all seen the classic scenario, especially in horror movies, where the wife or girlfriend slowly starts questioning her own sanity because she seems to be the only one seeing the signs of supernatural activity taking place. Sometimes right under the husband’s nose. Driven to insanity, she has to go to extreme lengths to prove that she is not crazy. Sound a little familiar? Well, this might not just be confined to the cinematic experience because this horror movie is a little too close to reality.
Gaslighting is a term that originates from a sinister play with the same storyline; an unsuspecting wife who is at the mercy of the psychological manipulations of her husband but what’s really interesting is that like most real life examples, the woman in the original play is called crazy for pointing out something that is very tangible and very very real. Simply put, it is a form of psychological exploitation and torture at the hands of a loved one or significant other who uses their twisted tactics to make the victim question and doubt themselves.
The thing about this form of abuse, and let’s be real, it is a form of abuse, is that it is usually done so subtly and mostly with the best intentions that it might be too late before the victim actually realizes that they are being manipulated and are trapped in a disturbing situation. There are many reasons why someone so close to you would engage in such exploitation and like most abusers, it usually has more to do with the power they like to have over you. This is a trait that many dictators and cult leaders have wielded in the past to sway their unsuspecting followers and is unfortunately quite common in relationships.
Well, how does one identify if they’re caught up in this exploitative cycle? The signs might be more evident than you’d think. Do you feel like you both make mistakes but somehow you’re the only one who ends up apologizing each time? Have you been noticing that no matter what you say, the other person denies it, even if you have proof? Is there this constant thought in your head that your opinions and ideas are undervalued and ignored? Well, these feelings of insecurities and doubts are precisely what gaslighters thrive off of. The idea is that they’re being overly critical because they love you yet somehow within the entire process, you start feeling like you’re the one overreacting and automatically assume the secondary role within the relationship.
Gaslighting is definitely not just restricted to romantic relationships and in our part of the world, parents can often put us in a position where we’re caught between accepting their reality out of respect and accepting straight up exploitative emotional black mail. Although pop culture would like us to believe that women are usually the gullible victims, men are just as susceptible to this emotional trauma. Some of the most common signs of this pattern of behavior include the constant lying, the use of your deepest insecurities against you and they will always deny they said something negative in order to make you feel insane.
However, it’s not always as clear cut as that since the trick with gaslighting is that it’s done over time, sometimes so slowly that you don’t know what hit you. Your abuser is usually someone quite close to you and they make you believe their actions are purely out of their love for you, which is what throws you off the scent. In extreme cases, they might even try to isolate you from others around you or alter the way in which others see you. However, there is no shame in accepting that you are the victim of such an ordeal and although it is harder to identify, it is never too late to get yourself out.