What is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting in relationships can be hard to see. Yet, it is one of the most dangerous forms of emotional abuse, if not the most dangerous.
It’s one of the favorite tactics that narcissists use from their toolbox in their everyday lives. Those close to them, their partners, however, may end up with the most psychological damage.
Gaslighting is designed to convince you of three things:
- The difference between the truth and the lie is harmless.
- There is something wrong with you if you fight for the truth and bad things will happen to you if you do.
- You are wrong and they are right.
Over time, it will begin to threaten your own ability to hang on to reality.
Definition of Gaslighting:
The Narcissist Abuse Dictionary defines gaslighting as:
“A form of manipulation where the narcissist denies and provides conflicting information or outright lies over and over again in direct contradiction to what another person can blatantly perceive using his or her own five senses. The other person begins to doubt his or her perception of reality.”
The term comes from a 1944 movie called Gaslighting in which a man purposely tries to drive his wife over the edge by making the gaslights flicker then tells her that she is imagining it when she points it out.
Gaslighting can be used by a narcissist in many different ways:
- insist that you didn’t say what you know you said
- tell you that you didn’t hear or see what you thought you did
- get you to distrust your intuition
- confuse you about their intentions
- claim your emotions and reactions are inappropriate for a circumstance
- encourage you to believe unreasonable explanations for their outrageous behavior by claiming that behavior wasn’t what you thought it would be or never happened
- cause a big fuss and then blame it on you
Making Sense of Gaslighting
Gaslighting is a concept that seems straightforward but isn’t.
Here are some things that happen that are highly illogical in relationships with narcissists.
Why do we accept the narcissist’s version of reality, even when we know it isn’t true?
Why would we deny our own experience and accept something we know didn’t happen?
How do narcissists get us to go along with a version of events that isn’t real?
Also, why do narcissists gaslight in situations where there seems to be no benefit for them to doing it, even when telling the truth would seem to be easier or more convenient?
Why would a narcissist go to all that trouble and what’s the point? The point is they take satisfaction in making their partner feel like they are going out of their minds and they want to control them which makes them feel powerful.
In the case of a malignant narcissist, they have a narcissistic personality disorder and an anti-social personality disorder ( which was my ex-partner) and they enjoy the confusion and pain that their partner experiences because of the gaslighting they have inflicted on them.
Gaslighting in Relationships
My ex used gaslighting all the time with me. It took years to figure this out. Gaslighting can make you feel like you are losing your mind. We would have a conversation about whatever it might be and later when I brought up something that we had discussed a few days or even hours later he would say “what are you talking about we never discussed that.” or ” I have no idea what you talking about”.
It was strange that I could remember exact details of conversations with everyone else but not with him, I could not get it right. I began to see this clearer and clearer but it wasn’t until I started reading about the tactics narcissists use that I really caught on.
The thing is we believe what they are saying because we trust them and because we are nothing like them. The gaslighting tactic used by narcissists is used over a period of time which is another reason we do not see what they are doing. It is such a gradual process they use on us.
We say to ourselves that we must have been tired or perhaps we did not hear part of the conversation. We might start to think that we are the problem, but when this happens over and over again with him we see that it does not happen with anyone else.
There will come a time when you start to question what is going on and you start wondering if the problem is you, especially when he has told you there are many things wrong with you.
What gaslighting does is erode your self-esteem and confidence in yourself.
How to Deal with Gaslighting in Relationships
Even though you may not be able to stop it, there are a few things you can do to try to defend yourself. Here’s how to deal with gaslighting.
1. Continue to collect “data” that it’s happening.
If you see texts that contradict what happened then keep them. You might not be able to say anything as it may lead to arguing. This is what happened to me if I said anything, but it does reaffirm to us what actually happened.
2. Trust your intuition.
Communication can be difficult at times in every relationship but gaslighting is a whole new level of miscommunication. Gaslighting can be so unclear that you are not sure it happened, if this is the case then go with your intuition.
Try your best not to give in to your fear. Start listening to your intuition and it will help you see things so much clearer.
Start listening to it. It’s telling you that you remember something differently for a reason.
3. Every time gaslighting happens, write it down as soon as you can.
Writing things down gets it out of your mind which helps relieve some of your stress. It helps you see that it was real and makes it clear that what your narcissistic partner is saying and doing is not true.
When they are gaslighting you will have told yourself that they are wrong but you also have doubts about yourself. You then start to have constant doubts about your ability to remember things.
If that’s what you’ve been doing and you start to write these interactions down, you will begin to see how often it actually happens. You will also see that you can not be wrong all of those times.
4. Respond with ” well that’s not what I remember” and then let it go.
This may not be a good idea for you. You will have to see for yourself and if you believe it could be dangerous then do not do it.
If you are able to say this to them then know it is for your benefit, not the narcissist. Remember, nothing you say is likely going to change the outcome of the conversation. The reason you are saying this is because you know that something different did actually happen.
The narcissist may say, “You heard wrong. I said…”
Your response could be, “Oh okay.”
The narcissist may say, “Why do you have to argue?”
Your response could be, “I wasn’t trying to. I’m sorry.”
Do not let the narcissist persuade you that you are wrong. You do not have to let the narcissist know that they have not convinced you.
5. If the narcissist walks out, use the time for yourself.
There is no way you can control what the narcissist does. When you are talking with the narcissist where gaslighting occurs, there is always a possibility that the narcissist will leave at some point in an attempt to control you or get you to accept their version of reality.
If they do leave then take this time to focus on your version of reality. It will help to understand what gaslighting is and detach yourself emotionally so that the impact of the narcissist’s words you have already heard will prevent you from being drawn in by new ones.
You can’t keep a narcissist from trying to gaslight you. The only way to beat a gaslighter is to hang onto your version of reality and don’t let it go.
I hope you find this post informative. I certainly had no idea what gaslighting was until someone told me. It messes with your head and that is the point of why the narcissists do it and to have power and control over us.
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Love to each of you