Iteration of a lie often attains the status of perceived veracity.
The other day a cousin of mine was searching for the car keys, when her husband immediately confronted her saying “You always forget to keep the car keys at the right place, Neelam“. Switching on her defence mode my cousin reacted but retracted when she was reminded how she keeps forgetting things all the time. I had observed her backing off especially when she is told that she doesn’t remember things. Neelam was excellent in academics and always remembers all the songs just by listening to once. I found it hard to believe that she actually has a problem with her memory. Later when I came across the concept of Gaslighting everything about Neelam’s constant retraction to any confrontation zoomed in.
The ‘Illusory truth effect’ or ‘Gaslighting’ is a form of psychological abuse where information is contorted to favour the abuser or information is falsified with the intent of making the victims doubt their perception and memory.
Basically Gaslighting is a form of blame shifting tactic used to mess with your perception of reality, making you constantly doubt your experiences by persistent lying, misdirection, contradiction and denial. It’s an attempt to undermine and delegitimize the victim’s beliefs and understanding of reality. The term is derived from a play (1938)by Patrick Hamilton, Gaslight where the husband tries to manipulate his wife’s sanity by causing her to question her reality.
This emotional abuse can happen to anyone but mostly occurs in personal relationships or workplace where the victim is constantly blamed and undergoes the make believe experiences, doubting their logic and rationale. In a subtle form Gaslighting creates a power dynamics in the relationship where the abuser blame shifts with microaggression. However there are severe cases of dominance, mind control and psychological exploits too.
Preston Ni (M.S.B.A) in his book “How to Successfully handle Gaslighters & stop Psychological bullying” has described the variations in stages of Gaslighting.
1. Fibbing and exaggerating the reality to put the victim on the defensive and iterate those lies constantly to control your percept.
“How would you know when you never remember things correctly.”
Constant use of such phrases is a red flag.
2. When challenged the abuser escalates refuting evidences and misdirecting with denial and blames.
“Why do you always have to bring this up?”
“I don’t want to deal with this nonsense.”
Such statements of dismissal are again red flags.
3. The insecurity and anxiety instilled helps the abuser to gain control on the victim. Over the time this wears out the victim to debilitate and question reality.
4. When you bring up the hurtful behavior, the abuser turns the table to play victim making it seem that you are harming the abuser by even bringing it up.
“Why am I always the bad guy?”
“I’m the one who’s actually hurting now.”
Abuser uses phrases like these conditioning you to mistrust your experiences.
5. Occasionally the abuser would treat you to positive reinforcements to keep you reigned in and you would end up contemplating, “May be they aren’t that bad.“
With this temporary mildness tactic the abuser tries to reinforce a codependent controlled relationship.
Gaslighting as you can see is a form of coercion, instilling fear, doubt and insecurity in the victim resulting in augmentation of power and personal gain of the abuser. So, how can the victim identify Gaslighting. To answer this let’s rewind to the statements mentioned above. With every reaction of blame, if you question the validity of your perception and memories you are being Gaslit. If people in your life are constantly accusing you of being sensitive and telling you that you never remember a thing, you are probably experiencing Gaslighting. When you express your hurt and are ignored or reverse blamed, the red flag of Gaslighting pops.
So, how can you address the situation and get out of this abuse. Well the hardest part is realizing and accepting the warning signs of Gaslighting. Spot out the people in your life who forces you to experience this abuse by noting their behavioral pattern. Always remember manipulation and abuse always has a pattern and trigger points. Realize those moments and don’t give in to the blame. Trust your Instincts and experiences and most importantly trust yourself.
Many times it is difficult to gust out on your abuser owing to the fact that they are family. But be strong, voice your concern and actively affirm your memory and experiences. Don’t allow to be manipulated. Self affirmation is very critical while learning to trust yourself again.
Your own sense of truth can only bring you back to your reality in those moments of manipulation. Your feelings are valid and you have every right to react to things that hurt you. Remember that you are worthy and capable of being able to trust and find yourself again.