Gaslighting as a subtle form of emotional abuse
Have you ever heard of ‘gaslighting’ before? Gaslighting is a subtle form of emotional abuse and manipulation which is aimed at making you feel like you are crazy or cannot trust your senses.
In other words, you are being told it is blue if it is red and that your feelings and perception (whatever they are) are wrong.
The danger of this sort of abuse is that it is extremely subtle and yet it is very damaging to our sense of well-being and self-esteem.
It is especially damaging if you have been a victim of it for a prolonged period of time because the longer we are told that we are crazy the more we tend to believe that we are!
But are we?? Let’s dive into the details.
I recall one instance when a man was manipulating his booty-call woman into thinking that she ‘wanted too much’ and that she was ‘too demanding and unreasonable’.
Their meetings were mostly pure hookups. There were almost no dates, just occasional happy birthday cards, no spending quality time together and no meaningful conversations.
He did mention that he ‘was looking for a girlfriend’ and so she thought she was almost his girlfriend if only the rest of the hallmarks of the relationship were present too.
Every time she was bringing up the subject of her status he kept insisting that they had ‘a great relationship’ and that she was ‘too demanding and way too emotional’ about the whole thing. Even more so – he kept blaming her for being ‘too moody’ and ‘spoiling a good thing going’ with all this unnecessary drama.
No wonder she felt CRAZY and unstable. There was a huge discrepancy between what she heard and what was happening in reality. Her perception was right, but she was told that she was wrong!
When someone gaslights us like this, it is easy to sink into a self-doubt mode:
~ Am I really that demanding?
~ If they are happy and content, then why do I feel like I am not? Is there something wrong with me?
~ Why am I the only one who is always on the edge about this relationship? Don’t they see what I see?
~ I feel conflicted, my intuition must be malfunctioning
~ Something is off with this relationship. Am I crazy to sense it?
Not sure if you have been gaslighted? Look at these signs. Do you have any of this happening in your relationship?
~ they pretend like they do not understand what you are saying or feeling. “So what if I had lunch with my ex? We are over, don’t you get it? Stop being so upset about it”. I say, go ahead and have lunch with YOUR ex and let the idiot you are currently with know it. Make sure to play a dumb fox game when he fusses about it – “gee, stop the drama, he is just my ex”. Monkey see –monkey do.
~ they change the subject. You – “it has been 3 years and I would like to know how you feel about us and this relationship... “. Him (after 5 seconds of uncomfortable, rather doom spelling silence) – “hey, you know what, what do you think about that new diner that opened last week? Want to try it?”.
They may even pretend by getting busy googling the place, directions, and reviews leaving you alone with the painful question… totally unresolved, hanging in the air, like a cliff hanger… “Ok - you sheepishly say to yourself – maybe next time. Does not seem like it was a good time to talk about it”. You may even feel dumb bringing it up in the first place.
And then the next time when you try to talk about it they change the subject AGAIN. It is like there is never a good time to talk about what bothers you.
~ they conveniently forget (so they wouldn’t have to talk about it) or deny what happened. They may ‘forget’ they cheated on you ”Oh I have no idea, really? I do not remember… are you sure it happened? It must have been such a long time ago and probably not that important otherwise I would have remembered”.
They may ‘forget’ your discussions about important things like what behaviors hurt you or what is expected of them. They may go as far as blaming you for making things up or blowing them up out of proportion. “You mean that last summer? She was just a waitress serving my lunch, nothing happened”.
And here is a big one (a real life example) – they deny they know a woman (aka the other woman) who calls and sends them sms on a regular basis. Duh!
Watch out for favorite and common phrases gaslighters use: “I do not want to talk about it”, “you are confusing”, “you are imagining things”, “you are over thinking it”, “you are too sensitive”, “you are making it up”, “you sound crazy”.
It is incredibly common to second-guess yourself when you are being gaslighted. It is also very likely that you will keep wondering whether you are too sensitive or going crazy.
You will have a sense that something is very wrong but may not always know exactly what it is. And even if you do, pointing it out to them won’t resolve anything because you will be blamed for being ‘unreasonable”, which ultimately makes everything even worse (for you).
It is also common to make excuses for gaslighters and/or apologize often. They may say they love you and do all the (hurtful) things for your own good blaming you for being ‘ungrateful’. They may get on your case for you being ‘constantly miserable’ and doing things wrong most of the time.
It is like you are the one who is blind and stupid who questions everything and they are your savior, rescuer, and a hero.
Why they do this:
Gaslighting is a way of controlling and manipulating. Gaslighters want you to occupy a certain place in their life. No more no less. You cannot change them. You can only change yourself. The only best thing you can do for yourself here is to recognize the situation you are in and take action.
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