Whether it is happening to you or to someone you know, gaslighting can be incredibly hard to recognize.
Gaslighting is a form of mental abuse in which false information is presented to a victim, causing them to doubt their memory, perception, or sanity. Gaslighting can occur in romantic or platonic relationships, a professional environment, or between family members.
As a person’s ability to make judgments diminishes and the relationship progresses, they may feel more and more helpless to a situation. Gaslighting causes a person to second guess their own actions constantly, making it all the more difficult to break away from the manipulator.
1. Gaslighting Doesn’t Happen Overnight
The Boiling Frog Anecdote discusses the idea that a frog placed in boiling water will immediately jump out of the pot, aware and alarmed by the intense heat. If you place a frog in water and turn up the temperature slowly every few minutes, the frog will not recognize the change in temperature, even when the water is boiling.
A person does not fall victim to gaslighting overnight. At first the victim will not think to question the small instances of unusual behavior. They will make excuses for their partners actions because the outburst are so infrequent. However the more time that passes, the more the manipulation intensifies.
For instance, a woman enters a new relationship that starts off with only small road bumps. The couple attends their first social gathering together and the boyfriend angrily walks off when she hugs a co-worker in greeting. She finds the action it a little abnormal but overlooks it in hopes he is having a bad day. Over the course of the next few months, he becomes increasingly upset every time she talks to another male, regardless of the setting.
2. The Manipulator Will Ignore The Victim’s Perspective
If the women try to confront her partner to discuss his possessiveness, he immediately shuts down. Rather than being willing to hear her perspective, he turns the problem on her. He may claim that he wouldn’t be upset if she actually paid attention to him and stopped flirting with other men. He will insist that she has done something wrong.
People who use gaslighting to gain control of someone are incapable of acknowledging another’s perspective. Oftentimes the manipulator may fall into the categories of a narcissist, sociopath, or even psychopath, for their inability to empathize with anyone but themselves.
When an argument ensues, the conversation will always end with the manipulator turning the problem on the victim. The victim’s perspective will be degraded or devalued in some way, causing the victim to apologize.
3. The Victim’s Confidence Plummets
As time passes, the woman’s boyfriend begins insulting her character or appearance on a regular basis, for no observable reason. If she gets upset he will insist she is being too sensitive or can’t take a joke. He berates her character to the point she is constantly walking on eggshells, unsure what will set her partner off.
As a result of the woman’s confidence plummets, feelings of helplessness and sadness taking over. She may find herself performing worse in a work environment due to stress and nervousness. The victim will constantly be second guessing her decisions, wondering if the manipulator’s words are true.
4. The Victim Remains Silent
The woman’s family may notice her boyfriend acting rude and moody at a party so they ask if everything is okay. Rather than opening up about the issue, the woman will likely say that everything is fine and make an excuse for her boyfriend’s behavior.
Whether it is happening to you or to someone you know, gaslighting can be incredibly hard to recognize. Once the victim’s confidence has been diminished they will remain silent, unaware of the relationship’s unhealthy nature.
The person is so familiarized with being told they are wrong or overreacting, they start to believe it’s true. In order to recognize gaslighting you need to reach out to others, explain your sadness, and ask for help. You should never feel guilty for reaching out to others to help spot the mental abuse.