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Gaslighting: A Primer

Gaslighting: A Primer

To gaslight means to undermine a person’s reality by denying the environment, facts, emotions and feelings. A person who is gaslighted is often manipulated into turning against their own perceptions and fundamentals.

Gaslighting has now gained mainstream visibility as a form of manipulation and can be detrimental for one’s emotional, psychological and physical well-being.

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Gaslighting: Origins Of The Phrase

  • A 1938 mystery thriller Gas Light, which got made into a popular Ingrid Bergman movie in 1944, became the origin of the phrase.
  • The academic world got introduced to the phrase in journal articles of 1980, where experts observed that the conditioning of young women to long and yearn for relationships and connections are in a way gaslighting, as it makes them vulnerable to exploitation.
  • In the present time, self-help and relationship books, along with couple-counselling experts use this term to explain types of toxic relationships.

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What Turns People Into Gaslighters

  • The need to prove oneself right, or prove the other person wrong, to deflect responsibility, or to tear down the other person, is not a trait for most people by birth but is a gift of society.
  • Gaslighters learn from the environment, forming their own strategies of what influences and persuades other people. They believe that each relationship is a power struggle, where they have to assert themselves.
  • Some people doing gaslighting might not be even aware of it, and it could be an unconscious bad habit picked up from their friends and relationships.

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How To Recognize Gaslighting

If the following things sound familiar and common, we may be involved in a gaslighting relationship:

  1. Being labelled as too sensitive, hysterical or insecure.
  2. Feeling confused or even crazy in the relationship.
  3. Always saying sorry.
  4. Not able to understand why you are not happier.
  5. Having trouble making simple decisions.
  6. Being called paranoid or dramatic.

Gaslighters more often than not turn out to be males, with the ‘victim’ being female.

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Action To Be Taken When Gaslighted

The antidote to gaslighting is to be emotionally aware. One has to become self-reliant and stop being gullible.

  1. Identify the problem that you have with your spouse.
  2. Remove the distortions and sort out the truth.
  3. Understand that there is a power struggle with your partner.
  4. Give yourself permission to feel your feelings.
  5. Respect yourself.
  6. Understand that it is okay to leave someone if required.
  7. Talk to your friends
  8. Focus on how you feel and not on how something is factually right or wrong.
  9. Realize that even if you are right, you cannot control the opinion of others.
  10. Indulge in self-care and self-compassion.

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