‘Gaslighting’ is a term which refers to a type of emotional abuse. Gaslighting is when someone makes you second-guess yourself and question whether what you’re feeling is real and okay. Abusers sometimes even try to convince you that your recollection of an incident is real or make you wonder if it ever even happened!
The 1938 play ‘Gas Light’ is where the word comes from, in which a woman is gaslit by her husband who turns down the lights but insists to her that they’re the same. He denies that he changed the lights when she confronts him. The play is a perfect example of what gaslighting is (obviously), because even when the lights have changed, the wife is led to believe that they’re the same and it’s ‘all in her head’.
Emotional abuse comes in many forms, but gaslighting is extremely harmful as it forces a victim to question their versions of events and even their own feelings and sanity. An abusive partner holds a lot of power when this happens as they’ve destroyed a victim’s ability to trust their own feelings and perception and they’re more likely to stay in an abusive relationship.
Gaslighting does not have to be done on purpose by the abuser to be damaging, but that doesn’t make it any less painful or damaging for the victim.
So, how do you know if you’re being gaslighted? Here’s a few indicators:
- You question your feelings
- You wonder if you have properly remembered things that have happened
- You think you’re too touchy or sensitive
- You make up excuses for the person
- You think there’s something wrong with you
- You trust the judgement of others
- You think something’s off
- You start lying to them to avoid confrontation
What can you do about it if you find yourself in an emotionally abusive relationship?
- Don’t engage with the person if you know they’re going to gaslight you, use silence to avoid right-wrong fights
- Get help if you’re not making any progress
Know that this stuff can happen in all relationships. It can happen with older people. It can happen with younger people. It can happen with straight people. It can happen with gay people. It can happen with anyone. If you need help, you can call 1800RESPECT or head here.