You may not have heard of gaslighting, but you probably know its effects. Also called ambient abuse, gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse that uses manipulation instead of violence to control someone. It happens in families, at work, between friends and unfortunately, in romantic relationships. Here are five signs it might be happening to you.
1. Lie ’til it’s the truth
A gaslighting partner will use lies against you in several ways. One way is with brute force. Repeating a lie over and over is an easy and effective way to control a relationship.
A) It starts to put doubt in your mind of what actually happened, as you have to remind yourself and him of the truth every time he repeats the lie.
B) It distracts you from being able to resolve a problem or complete a conversation because you have to redirect your attention to correcting the lie.
C) It quickly escalates an argument as you become evermore frustrated at the repetitive lie over time, giving him ammunition to tell you you’re out of control or you’re the one with an anger problem.
2. You can’t trust your memory
Gaslighting often involves trying to convince you to doubt yourself. Your man may be as blunt as telling your you’re crazy and you don’t remember events as they happened. He may also be subtle, where he slowly encourages you not to trust yourself by telling you how the past happened and getting you to agree to it. You didn’t see what you saw or hear what you heard.
3. You can’t trust your senses
An ambient abuser will not only attack you in the past but will also come for the present. He will try to get you to lose trust in your senses. As something is happening, or just after, he will try to convince you something else took place.
4. Rewriting your story
Your partner is using these techniques to rewrite history for you and manipulate the present for himself. By not trusting your memory and your senses, eventually you won’t bother to create a narrative in your mind that he even needs to undermine.
He hopes you will automatically go to him to tell you the story of what happened, even though you experienced it yourself. And if you do try to fight his manipulative ways, he will remind you of how you misremember things and how you’ve been wrong before, creating another circle of doubt.
5. Chain reaction
A staple of gaslighting is provoking someone into a response then chastising the response. This includes being insensitive, aggressive or disrespectful then telling you that you’re too sensitive. Or escalating an argument then telling you to calm down when you get loud.
A gaslighter is always trying to catch you out so he can call you out when you’re off balance, deflecting the attention off him and his behavior. Continuously bating you into an argument puts you eternally on the defensive. But criticizing your reaction makes you reluctant to actually defend yourself.
Gaslighting is dangerous because it gets in your head and has lasting effects. It can be carried from relationship to relationship and eat away at your self-esteem. In the end, you begin to believe he’s always right and you’re always wrong.
If you feel perpetually insecure and distrustful of your own account of things, you’re probably dealing with gaslighting, and you need to seek help. You deserve to feel confident, supported and secure in your relationship, and a person who helps you feel that way.