“You’re crazy – that never happened.” “You’re imagining things again.” “It’s all in your head.” “You know you have a bad memory.” Does your partner say things like this to you on a regular basis? Do you often start questioning your own perception of reality, even your own sanity, within your relationship? If so, your partner may be using what mental health professionals call, “gaslighting.”
The term comes from the 1938 stage play, “Gas Light,” and the 1944 film adaptation of the same name. The premise in both stage and film adaptations involves a husband’s attempts to drive his wife crazy by dimming the gas-powered lights in their home, and then he denies that the light changed when his wife points it out.
It is an extremely effective form of emotional abuse that causes a victim to question their own feelings, instincts, and sanity. This gives the abusive partner a lot of power; and we all know that abuse is about power and control. Once an abusive partner has broken down the victim’s ability to trust their own perceptions, the victim is more likely to stay in the abusive relationship.
Gaslighting usually happens very gradually in a relationship. In fact, the abusive partner’s actions may seem harmless at first.
Over time, however, these abusive patterns continue and a victim can become confused, anxious, isolated, and depressed. They can lose all sense of what is actually happening. Then, they start relying on the abusive partner more and more to define reality, creating a very difficult situation from which to escape.
Knowing about gaslighting can help bring awareness and even prevent it from happening in the future. If you notice your significant other, or even a friend or family member, causing you to doubt yourself constantly and trying to make you think something’s wrong with you in many ways, there is probably something wrong with your relationship.
Don’t let people manipulate you. Trust your own judgment and decisions. Don’t let someone else change your perception of who you are, and stay true to yourself and who you want to be.