Understanding Gaslighting: Definition and Examples
Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic used to undermine someone’s perception of reality, making them question their own thoughts, feelings, and experiences. This psychological manipulation can have devastating effects on a person’s mental well-being and sense of self. In this blog post, we will delve into the definition of gaslighting, its techniques, and provide real-life examples to help you understand this destructive behaviour.
Definition of Gaslighting:
Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse where the perpetrator distorts the truth, denies or minimises their actions, and ultimately convinces the victim that their perception of reality is incorrect. This deliberate manipulation aims to gain power and control over the victim by destabilising their sense of self and creating doubt and confusion.
Techniques of Gaslighting:
Gaslighters employ various techniques to achieve their manipulative goals. These techniques include:
Denial and False Information:
Gaslighters often deny their actions or provide false information to make the victim doubt their own memories or observations. They might claim events never happened, distort facts, or completely rewrite the narrative to suit their agenda.
Blaming and Shifting Responsibility:
Gaslighters skillfully shift blame onto the victim, making them believe they are responsible for the abusive behaviour or the problems in the relationship. They may say things like, “You’re overreacting” or “You’re too sensitive,” subtly shifting the blame away from themselves.
Creating Doubt and Confusion: Gaslighters manipulate the victim’s perception of reality by consistently contradicting them or presenting conflicting information. They create a sense of confusion and doubt, making the victim question their own memory, judgment, and sanity.
Invalidating Feelings and Experiences:
Gaslighters dismiss the victim’s emotions and experiences, downplaying their significance or labelling them as irrational or exaggerated. By invalidating the victim’s feelings, they undermine their self-confidence and sense of validity.
Examples of Gaslighting:
Gaslighting can occur in various contexts, including personal relationships, workplaces, and even within larger societal structures. Here are a few examples to illustrate the dynamics of gaslighting:
In an intimate relationship, a gaslighter may consistently deny or downplay instances of emotional or physical abuse, making the victim question whether the abuse is even happening. They might say, “You’re imagining things” or “You’re making a big deal out of nothing.”
In a professional setting, a gaslighting colleague or superior may undermine the victim’s achievements or abilities, sowing seeds of self-doubt. They might say things like, “You’re not as good as you think you are” or “You’re lucky to have this job, so don’t question anything.”
Gaslighting can also occur on a broader societal level. For instance, marginalised communities may experience gaslighting when their experiences of discrimination and oppression are dismissed or denied by those in positions of power.
Consequences and Recovery:
Gaslighting can have severe consequences on a person’s mental health, leading to feelings of confusion, anxiety, depression, and a loss of self-esteem. Recovering from gaslighting involves recognising the manipulation, seeking support from trusted individuals or professionals, and rebuilding one’s sense of self-worth and reality.
Gaslighting is a destructive form of psychological manipulation that undermines an individual’s perception of reality. By distorting the truth, denying their actions, and creating doubt and confusion, gaslighters gain control and power over their victims. Recognising gaslighting is crucial for protecting our mental well-being and maintaining healthy relationships.
If you suspect you are experiencing gaslighting, seek support from trusted individuals or professionals to regain your sense of self and work towards healing and recovery. If you would like to learn more or are ready to speak with a psychologist, we are here to help. To book, click here or call our friendly reception team on 1800 327 477 (AU) / 0800 327 477 (NZ).