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  • Writer's pictureEvolve Therapy

What is gaslighting?

The term comes from a 1944 movie titled Gaslight staring Ingrid Bergman. Her husband systematically manipulates her into thinking she is going crazy by flickering the gas lights and telling her that things she believes to be true, are not. He tells her that she is imaging things, forgetting things, making things up, but he is the one doing it to make her think she is going insane. Another man has to come into the house tell her that indeed the lights are flickering and she is not going insane.

“Gaslighting” is really another term for emotional abuse that is common in abusive relationships. At its core “Gaslighting” is manipulation and can be devastating. The abuser uses his partner’s vulnerabilities against them which to create doubt in his partner’s judgement and memory. The result causes a lot of anxiety and confusion.

What Gaslighting Could Look Like in Your Life:

  • Questioning your sanity in the relationship.

  • Your partner lied directly to you, but not taken accountability for the lie.

  • Your partner told you that there must be something wrong with your memory.

  • Questioning your own memory.

  • Apologizing for things even though you have done nothing wrong.

  • Having a partner that overreacts frequently and then makes it your fault.

Do you feel:

  • Less confident?

  • More anxious?

  • Like you are too sensitive?

  • Like something is wrong, but are unable to identify what it is?

  • Unsure if your response is correct?

  • Like you have to make excuses for your partner’s bad behavior?

  • Isolated, because you don’t want to tell family and friends to protect your partner?

  • Like its hard to make decisions?

  • Hopeless and sad frequently, because of the relationship?

Some examples of statements that an abusive “Gaslighter” might use are:

  • Invalidating statements: “Oh, that’s not such a big deal.”

  • Telling you that people are gossiping about you: “Everyone thinks that are disorganized.”

  • Lying to you about what they told you previously: “I never said that to you,” or ”you must be imagining things.”

  • Hiding things from you: “Oh you lost that again?”

What to do?

The first step is to recognize that you are in an abusive relationship. Get help from a professional so you can sort out what is going on. Since “Gaslighting” creates a lot of anxiety it will be helpful to learn coping skills. Even Ingrid Bergman didn’t go it alone. She has someone help her. A therapist can help de-program the manipulation and understand what happened.

Here is the clip in which Ingrid Bergman realizes she isn’t going insane. Notice how she feels so validated and calm when she realizes she isn’t crazy.

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