If you have ever found yourself in a relationship with a manipulator, then you have likely fallen victim to a common manipulation tactic known as gaslighting. Protect yourself by learning to identify the signs that this is happening to you.
A term commonly used by psychologists, ‘gaslighting’ refers to a type of manipulation in which the manipulator tricks their victim into questioning their own concept of reality. Seen not only in toxic romantic relationships, but it can also be observed in professional settings, parent/child relationships, or even larger groups. In fact, there are many examples of political leaders around the globe using this very tool in order to manipulate the general public.
Imagine living in a situation in which you are no longer sure whether or not you can trust your own memory, questioning everything you believe to be true. This is the life of a victim of gaslighting. Many victims find themselves questioning whether they are going crazy, torn between their recollection of events that have occurred and the ‘truth’ that they are being fed. It is in this way that a manipulator maintains control over their victims, forcing them into a subservient role.
As therapist and psychologist Perpetua Neo describes, gaslighting is when someone “screws with your sense of reality to manipulate you, causing you to distrust yourself and trust them instead.”
This isn’t something that happens overnight. Instead, it comes on very slowly. In the beginning, the manipulator will likely focus on small, little details – aspects of our lives that come across as unimportant. This makes it easy for you to shrug it off or think nothing of it. If, however, you continue to ignore these smaller examples then the manipulator will begin to escalate. Before long, it encompasses your whole life and everything that you believe to be important.
Watch out for these 5 common gaslighting techniques:
#1 – Blocking/Diverting
Rather than talking about the situation at hand, the manipulator quickly changes the subject or suggests that they are making everything up, putting a solid wall in place. They may even point fingers at the victim’s friends or family, accusing people of ‘putting that idea in their head’.
#2 – Forgetting/Denial
Another way to make their victim question their own recollections of what happened, the manipulator may act like they simply can’t remember it happening at all or denying that it occurred. They may accuse the victim of making it up or imagining it.
#3 – Withholding
When the victim brings up a concern or a situation that they believe to be alarming, the manipulator pretends that they don’t understand what is being discussed at all, or brushes the situation off, refusing to listen. They may simply say they ‘don’t want to hear this’ or even accuse the victim of trying to confuse them or complicate matters.
#4 – Trivializing
This is a technique that’s most often employed with the truth the manipulator wants to change includes hurt feelings or overlooked needs. When the victim brings up the fact that their feelings have been hurt or they have been wronged in some way, the manipulator downplays, calling them overly sensitive or acting like they are blowing the whole situation out of proportion.
#5 – Countering
If the victim approaches the conversation with a relatively clear recollection of events, the manipulator may use the countering approach to steer them in a different direction. This is often done by questioning their memories and planting seeds of doubt. Suddenly, once clear memories become cloudy as the victim starts to second guess whether they really remember what they believe that they remember.