Are You Being Gaslighted in Your Relationship? Know the Facts.
Let's face it, our relationships can make us act and feel a little crazy sometimes. Most of the time this is totally normal, but if you feel like you are being gaslighted, there may be a bigger problem.
What is gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a form of abuse in which someone tactically tries to create a power shift in which they have total control over their partner. Psychotherapist Jeremy Bergen, MS, LCPC, explains, "at its heart, gaslighting is emotional abuse. It's a tactic one partner uses in an effort to exert power over, gain control over, and inflict emotional damage on the other. Gaslighting is such a malicious form of emotional abuse because it causes you to question your experiences, so it can be difficult to identify warning signs."
Often, when the victim realizes something is wrong and discusses their concerns with their partner, the partner will further mentally abuse them by calling them "crazy" or "insane" to try to dissuade further discussion.
Why do people gaslight?
So, what is it that drives partners to engage in gaslighting? Of course, every situation is individual, so what might drive one person to gaslighting could be completely different from another. However, there are often strong patterns.
For one, gaslighters are insecure about their own natural ability to keep their partner, so they create a situation where the partner cannot leave. Bergen explains, "in some cases, gaslighting is a way to try to keep somebody who you want to be in a relationship with around in a very abusive way - there's this notion that this is the only way to sustain the relationship."
It also could be that the person simply likes being in a position of total control, for whatever reason. Naturally, they want to bring this preference into the relationship and might not even realize what they're doing is harmful to the other person, as it brings them so much pleasure. Bergen references, "[there's] a decent amount of research that shows there are people who genuinely find pleasure in having control over others."
However, gaslighting might not always be about the partner, or even the relationship. Sometimes, it is solely about the perpetrator and their own insecurities. Controlling someone else occasionally offers a momentary lapse in the need to analyze oneself. Bergen explains, "sometimes, there's a genuine sense of, 'If I'm controlling other people, then I feel better about where I'm at,' and that search for power is something that expresses itself in the relationship."
How can you tell if you're being gaslighted?
One of the major signs that you may be suffering from gaslighting is when your partner makes you feel unsure of your own sanity or understanding. Bergen explains this further as when "your partner challenges your perception of situations, of yourself, of your thoughts, of your feelings, of their behavior. One of the big warning signs is this persistent sense that what you saw, you didn't really see. And what you experienced, you didn't really experience. What you felt, you didn't really feel."
Lies are also common when gaslighting is present. Perpetrators are often compulsive liars, leading to constant instances of dishonesty. Bergen explains, "these lies are designs to be manipulative for control."
Read on to learn more about gaslighting and what you should do if you're being gaslighted.