My last post ("Bringing Gaslighting to Light, Part II") discussed why gaslighters gaslight, and the contextual factors that can lead to gaslighting. In this post, the focus shifts to the gaslightees.
Gaslighting is defined as a form of manipulation (on the mild end), emotional abuse, or even psychological warfare (on the extreme end) that results in the slow dismantling of a gaslightee’s self-trust. What makes someone vulnerable to experiencing gaslighting, and what are the warning signs of gaslighting?
Three main needs that set the stage for gaslighting. In no particular order, these include:
- Our need to be liked.
- Our need to be loved.
- Our need to be understood.
These needs are part of being human, and are hardwired into most of us. The bright side of these needs is that they motivate us to form close and loving connections with other human beings, which is healthy. The dark side is that these needs, when combined with certain tendencies, make people vulnerable to gaslighting. Among these tendencies are:
- Self-doubting tendencies.
- People-pleasing tendencies.
- Conflict-avoidant tendencies.
Do any of these sound like you? If so, you may need to pay attention to the possible presence of gaslighting in your relationships. Gaslighting is more likely to occur when people enter into relationships that contain a substantial situational or relational power differential, such as when one person is especially vulnerable due to losing a job, or suffers “fear of abandonment” issues due to a previous loss or trauma. Keep in mind that it is not the need to be loved, liked, or understood that is the problem; it’s the combination of these needs with specific tendencies and habits that makes individuals susceptible to gaslighting.
Here are the 10 signs to watch for that might indicate you are being gaslighted:
- You feel pulled by the other person to constantly blame yourself when things go wrong in the relationship, while the other person assumes no responsibility.
- You frequently second-guess yourself and question whether your perceptions of a situation are accurate. Over time, you may even question your sanity.
- You conclude that you are “just too sensitive” and should “get over it” when something about the other person bothers or hurts you.
- You hide your partner’s behavior from friends and family (or lie about it), because you know something is wrong, but you are not sure what exactly it is.
- You begin to withdraw from close friends or family.
- You find it increasingly difficult to make decisions because you think you can't do anything right.
- You notice your self-esteem plummeting, and you start to feel depressed and self-critical. You may even feel worthless and undeserving of love.
- Your memory seems hazy and you have difficulty remembering what happened during conflicts with the other person.
- Conflicts with the other person are almost never productive. They usually result in the other person playing the victim, even if they have behaved irrationally or abusively.
- You notice that you sometimes gaslight yourself by invalidating and questioning your own reality and experiences.
If these warning signs feel familiar, you may want to ask yourself whether you are in a gaslighting relationship, and assess the impact of this on your life and health. Remember that relationships should enhance people’s lives and help them become better people through encouragement and support, not disempowerment and manipulation.
My next post will focus on how to cope with, manage, or—if needed—leave a toxic relationship.
This article was originally published at Psychology Today on October October 24, 2016