Gaslighting means trying to convince someone that they’re wrong about something even when you know they’re right. Depending on the severity of the situation, gaslighting can be anything from a petty irritation to a form of serious emotional domestic abuse. Here’s a quick guide to what you need to know about it.

Where the term “gaslighting” came from

Although the term “gaslighting” has only entered the mainstream fairly recently, it actually dates back to 1944. The film Gaslight portrayed an abusive husband who tries to convince his wife that she is mad. This will allow him to have her institutionalized and gain control of her wealth. His strategy is to convince her that real events are imaginary and that imaginary events are real.

In the real world, gaslighters may not actively want to convince the victim that they are mad. They do, however, want to manipulate the victim to gain control over them. This can have serious repercussions for the victim’s mental health. In fact, it genuinely can lead them to question their own sanity.

Common indicators of gaslighting

Gaslighting can be incredibly hard to spot. There are several reasons for this. One of the most important is that it often occurs slowly. This means that it can pass under the victim’s radar. Another is that it is often perpetrated by someone the victim trusts. This makes the victim less likely to question what they say.

One effective way to spot gaslighting is to keep a journal. Reading this with a calm head can help to clear any mental confusion you may be feeling. It can also be helpful if you want to get a second opinion. This is often very useful in dealing with problems in relationships. Here are some of the signs you should look out for.

  • Lying
  • Saying one thing but doing another
  • Refusing to acknowledge proven lies
  • Separating you from your support network
  • Continually pressuring you

All of these points are red flags in any relationship. This means that even if the perpetrator is not, technically, gaslighting you, there are still issues that clearly need to be addressed. The key characteristic of the gaslighter is the recurring use of deceit.

For example, a gaslighter may not physically threaten you to keep you away from your support network. Instead, they may try to poison your mind against your family and friends. If your family and friends dispute the allegations, the gaslighter will present their denials as lies.

How to deal with gaslighting

Quite bluntly, the first question you should ask yourself is whether or not you consider the relationship to be worth trying to save. Think seriously about this because the easiest way to deal with gaslighting is just to cut the perpetrator out of your life.

If you do decide that you want to try to repair the relationship, then you need to go into the attempt with your eyes open. The attempt may succeed if both parties are prepared to put in the work. There is, however, absolutely no guarantee of this.

With that said, the best starting point is likely to be to seek counselling for yourself. Once you are feeling stronger and clearer in your own mind, you can then see about addressing the issue with the perpetrator. In principle, you can start by trying to talk through the situation with them. In practice, there is a very strong chance that you’ll need professional help.

Author's Bio: 

K J Smith Solicitors are specialists in family law, experienced in all matters relating to divorce, civil partnerships, cohabitation disputes and collaborative law.