Gaslighting is a form of abuse that involves a person deliberately causing someone to doubt their sanity. This may cause feelings of confusion or powerlessness. The long-term effects of gaslighting include trauma, anxiety, and depression.
In this article, we look at examples of gaslighting, the long-term effects of gaslighting, and what to do if it is happening.
The term “gaslighting” comes from the 1944 movie Gaslight. In the movie, an abusive husband brightens and dims gas powered lights, then insists that his wife is hallucinating. This causes her to doubt her sanity.
Today, gaslighting describes any interaction where a person or entity manipulates someone into feeling they cannot trust their own memories, feelings, or senses.
A person on the receiving end of gaslighting may truly believe that they are not mentally well, that their memories are not accurate, or that their mind is playing tricks on them. This makes them feel dependent on the abusive person.
Some examples of common gaslighting tactics include:
- Countering: This tactic involves an abusive person questioning someone’s memory of events, even though they have remembered them correctly.
- Withholding: This describes someone who pretends not to understand something, or who refuses to listen.
- Forgetting: This involves an abusive person pretending they have forgotten something, or denying that something happened.
- Trivializing: This refers to an abusive person making someone’s concerns or feelings seem unimportant or irrational.
- Diverting: This technique occurs when an abusive person changes the subject, or focuses on the credibility of what someone is saying rather than the content. Some people also call it “blocking.”
In abusive relationships, gaslighting often occurs gradually. Initially, a person may not seem abusive. But, over time, they may use statements, such as:
- “You are wrong, you never remember things correctly.”
- “You are imagining things.”
- “Stop overreacting,” or “you are too sensitive.”
- “I do not know what you are talking about.”
- “I do not understand, you are just trying to confuse me.”
Gaslighting also occurs outside of intimate relationships.
A 2017 article in Politics, Groups, and Identities states that racial gaslighting occurs when a person or entity portrays people who speak out against racial oppression as irrational, crazy, or deluded.
Examples of racial gaslighting include:
- criticizing how a person expresses themselves to divert attention away from their message
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