May 19, 2024

What Is Gaslighting? How To Identify And Stop It

Gaslighting has been drawn on as an important form of abuse to look out for in numerous fictional and reality TV shows from Bling Empire to Love Island. But it’s worth getting back to basics and simply asking the question: what exactly is it?

It’s easy for words like this to get lost in the zeitgeist and bogged down in our daily conversations, losing the meaning it really deserves. But it’s never been more important to not only be aware of this form of emotional abuse, but how to recognise and navigate it, as well as its long term impact.

Couples and relationship expert Dr Kalanit Ben-Ari has given GLAMOUR the full lowdown on gaslighting.

What is gaslighting?

“Gaslighting is a specific form of repeated, psychologically-manipulative behaviours in which the recipient starts to question their own reality, feelings, memory, perceptions, and at worst their sanity,” Ben-Ari explains.

“The manipulator uses misleading behaviours such as labelling the recipient as ‘overreacting’ or ‘ too sensitive’, and questioning the recipient’s memory. When confronted by the recipient about their behaviour, the gaslighter might pretend not to understand, to forget, deny what happened, refuse to listen, lie, shift blame, avoid the recipient’s questions, spread rumours, all with the purpose of creating a false narrative that dismantle’s the recipient’s self-belief.

“This behaviour happens at the same time as they express love for the recipient, and say how much they care for them. ”

The term “gaslighting” is thought to have originated from the storyline of a 1938 play called Gaslight where  a husband, guilty of a murder, tries to hide this fact from his wife by slowly making her believe she is going insane.

It’s quite eerie to relate the rather scary, horror-like behaviour with the everyday actions of a manipulator, but it’s undeniable. The protagonist hears strange noises in the attic – which are tell-tale signs of her husband’s duplicity – but it is made like these are signs of her losing her mind, instead of a darker truth.

The reason for the name Gaslight is quite chilling – this manipulative husband incrementally lowers the gaslights in their home, trying to convince her that she is the only one who sees this.

It’s really quite disgusting and disturbing to see that a story such as this plays out in modern relationships to this day.

If you think someone is gaslighting you, what behaviour and feelings should you look out for?

Dr Ben-Ari has a few situations for you to watch out for: «If you start to doubt your own reality, if you feel something is wrong but cannot put your finger on what it is, if you find yourself repeatedly making excuses about your partner’s behaviour, and often apologising to your partner.

“If you are unclear about your thoughts and feelings, and you feel unsafe to express your thoughts and feelings around your partner, knowing they’ll respond in anger. If you start to avoid conflict out of fear, and you feel confused about your relationship. If you start to identify yourself with blame, and you cannot express your thoughts and feelings freely, and you feel insecure and powerless. ”

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