Do you spend hours of self-reflection in locked rooms getting consumed by the guilt of not knowing why you are unhappy? Do you question and mistrust your own reality by asking yourself every day if you are ungrateful or sensitive? Do you drown in the crippling fear of feeling that you are undesirable, ‘paranoid’ and never ‘good’ enough?
If yes, then you are probably a victim of gaslighting – an insidious form of emotional abuse that thrives on uncertainty and trust. This mutually tied relationship drives vulnerable gaslightees (victims) to question their perception of reality and believing the gaslighter’s (abuser’s) false accusations as the “real truth.”
Gaslighting often becomes an escalating fashion for abusers as they get ‘addicted’ to the need for domination. They use their target’s ‘mistakes’, ‘overreactions’ and vulnerabilities as a weapon to portray themselves as the victim and assert that the actual victim is aggressive or dramatic. They may also claim the gaslightees as irrational to isolate and undermine them, thus, making them easy targets. For example, in domestic intimate relationships, like psychological warfare, the husband may repeatedly label his wife as insecure for asking his whereabouts until her perception of her identity starts eroding and she believes it’s true.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gaslighting can escalate from emotional apocalypse like anger, resentment or guilt to physical abuse and coercive control. In such cases, gaslighting can be referred to as and considered a form of romantic terrorism.
Refuting facts by denial and intensifying incessant streams of lies are ingrained traits possessed by a gaslighter to sow consternation and ambiguity in their target. In a platonic context, a political gaslighter may deny evidenced racial discrimination by criticizing and discrediting activists, thus, undermining their self-esteem.
Temporary mildness and superficial remorse are premeditated maneuvers intended to inject a hint of complacency before the manipulators reinforce a codependent relationship with the victim on their own terms. At times, gaslighters may guilt-trip their target and adopt gaslighting as a survival mechanism to fill a void inside themselves.
Often in codependent relationships flooded with dependency barriers like security and financial safety, gaslightees are willing to disavow their reality instead of rupturing their elusive relationships. Likewise, in child and parent relationships, the child’s financial and emotional need to heal their forged relationship may feed the parent’s ego into making the child a scapegoat. How does this abuse distort the intuition (beliefs and opinions) of the child and what he/she finds ‘normal’ in a relationship? These fatal, concealed scars casted are, as a result, detrimental to the child’s well being and have a perennially deleterious impact on the child’s self-worth.
The antidote to gaslighting is recognizing its presence through augmenting emotional awareness, sensibility and self-regulation. At the same time, it is imperative to differentiate genuine disagreements and individual personality animosities from debilitating gaslighting. So, it’s crucial to realize that dissociating from gaslighting only alludes to distinguishing between the circumscribed world of the gaslighter and the real world.
In the gaslighting spectrum, the most obscure lens is self-gaslighting, i.e. suppressing and invalidating your own thoughts and beliefs yourself. Self gaslighting could be a blunt symptom of alternative mental illnesses like PTSD, anxiety and depression and the lack of self-dignity or vice versa.
Gaslighting can itself have catastrophic effects on psychological health like post-traumatic or chronic stress, self-doubt, and hopelessness. These and a perpetual barrage of assaults contribute to not only inducing anxiety and depression but also causing victims to presume that they deserve the abuse.
Consulting a therapist is a possible choice to let your feelings out and perceive how to resist psychological manipulation. Nonetheless, it is not always the most prudent or safe choice knowing that medical gaslighting endures and prevails.
According to the CPTSD Foundation, medical gaslighting occurs when any medical professional (therapist, psychiatrist, etc.) dismisses or trivializes a person’s health concerns based on the assumption they are mentally ill. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a tactic sometimes used by therapists for gaslighting victims, involves restructuring and changing patterns of thinking and behavior. Considering the therapist’s use of CBT and how the gaslightee perceives it, this form of counseling could hinder self worth of the victim, further proving to be more hazardous and less benign.
As most victims aren’t equipped enough to find an escape route out of this emotional trap without a support system, the most propitious way is to consult and connect with your intimate wellwishers (friends or family) who you may have isolated and disregarded earlier.
Don’t let your reality be overwritten. Always remember that you have the keys to YOUR own prison. Find the courage to break through this confinement by showcasing resistance and trusting your own true self. Imbibe that being defiant doesn’t make you ‘demanding’ or ‘divisive’, it makes you resilient.
Because at the end of the day, YOU are the architect of YOUR OWN reality.