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Gaslighting. Is It Happening to You?

Gaslighting. Is It Happening to You?

Gaslighting. Is It Happening to You?


The term “gaslighting” originated from a 1938 play called “Gaslight” by Patrick Hamilton. It was turned into a movie (Gaslight) in 1944, starring Ingrid Bergman.

The storyline is of a conniving and murderous husband who tries to make his wife think she’s losing her mind. He does many things to make her doubt her own sanity and reality – including turning down the gas lights in their home!  He was after her inheritance.

In the 1960s, the term gaslighting became popular. It’s now used to describe the manipulation of another person’s perception of reality.

So, gaslighting is a form of “sustained psychological manipulation” that causes the victim to question or doubt their own sanity, judgment, and memories.

Jeremy Bergen, a Chicago-based psychotherapist, specializing in individual, family, and couples counseling, says, “It’s a tactic one partner uses in an effort to exert power over, gain control over, and inflict emotional damage on the other.”  He adds, “Gaslighting is a malicious form of emotional abuse because it causes you to question your own experiences, so it can be difficult to identify the warning signs.”

Here are 10 phrases a “gaslighter” may use to make you question your own common sense and reality:

    1. “Stop being so insecure!”
      Gaslighters are great at shifting the blame onto the victim. They don’t believe they need to improve themselves!
    2. “You’re just misconstruing my intentions.”
      The abuser says the situation was a “misunderstanding.” The goal is to deflect responsibility from themselves onto the victim.
    3. “You’re way too emotional.”
      Gaslighters lack empathy. They may divert the attention to you and comment on how emotional you are.
    4. “Stop exaggerating the situation!”
      Here, the gaslighter’s goal is to convince the victim that the victim’s concerns are blown out of proportion to the situation.
    5. “That never happened.”
      If you’ve been repeatedly subjected to this phrase, it may lead you to question your sanity and lose touch with reality.
    6. “Can’t you take a joke?”
      Your abuser says hurtful things on purpose and then accuses you of not having a sense of humor!
    7. “The problem isn’t with me, it’s in you.”
      The gaslighter uses projection to destroy the victim’s self-esteem by saying this phrase – “the problem is in you.”
    8. “Your friends are idiots.”
      The goal here is to make you feel bad about your choices of those who are close to you; and to isolate you from family and friends.
    9. “If you loved me, you would….”
      The goal is to make the victim feel obligated to forgive or excuse their unacceptable behavior.
    10. “It’s your fault I cheated.”
      The goal is to make you question whether or not you drove them to commit this act.
    11. “See, that’s why no one likes you!”
      The gaslighter continues to destroy your self-esteem and makes you feel they’re the only ones who care for you! You become totally dependent on them!

In summary, if you spend a great deal of time feeling anxious or depressed, afraid to speak up or to express your emotions, because your spouse, family member or significant other makes you feel like it’s “all in your head,” get help! It may be subtle signs of gaslighting. Your doctor can recommend a counselor who is equipped to help you process and deal with what’s happening to you.

Also, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for confidential assistance from trained advocates.

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