Gaslighting: The Painful Emotional Manipulation That’s Super Hard To Recognise

Watching The Bachelorette last night, the social commentary made it painfully clear. There’s a word for people who act like Charlie…

Gaslighters. Yep, when one partner in a relationship tries to manipulate the other person to doubt their reality -- think, “in the outside world you would be cheating on me” and “this isn’t a fairy tale” for starters -- that’s known as gaslighting. It’s painfully on trend, just like Charlie’s Bermuda shorts. And it can be devastating. But how do you know if, like Ali, you’re being gaslighted – or is it gaslit? – and are there signs you should look for? Well, according to Lysn psychologist Noosha Anzab, it’s quite a tricky thing to navigate.

What does gaslighting look like?

“Gaslighting usually happens in relationships over time and can range from subtle abuse through to pathological abuse,” she told 10 daily. “The perpetrator will often blatantly lie to the victim, make them feel insecure, alienate them from their friends and family, make them distrust their own perceptions and make them question their own reality.

 It can happen in personal or professional relationships quite easily. This is because of the power dynamics and the fact that the victim trusts the gaslighter, who is able to manipulate them into thinking what they know to be true may in fact be false.

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What are the effects?

“Gaslighting often overrides your reality so can sometimes be tricky to recognise,” Noosha continued. “You’ll be questioning your own reality and judgment, and it will be hard to pinpoint exactly what is going on. Remember that gaslighting can occur over a long period of time, where subtle tactics of manipulation can end up leaving you feeling beaten down and insecure. Perpetrators will twist and reframe conversations to make you think you were imagining a different reality, causing you to question your judgment and sense of self.”

Gaslighting often overrides your reality so can sometimes be tricky to recognise. Source: Getty

It can happen in the workplace

As Noosha mentioned, it’s not just in relationships that gaslighting occurs. It’s also a work practice -- where someone can force a co-worker or employee to feel they’re doing a poor job.

“Gaslighting at work can be accomplished in different ways” she told 10 daily.

“It’s often grounded in many broken promises, blatant lies and just the right amount of positive reinforcement to make the victim think things that are false are actually true. The perpetrator will often assert something with such intensity that the victim believes them and questions their own sense of reality. The abuser will often blame the victim, accuse them of being too sensitive and convince other’s around them that the victim is doing a poor job.”

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Who’s guilty of gaslighting?

In many cases -- just to add a twist -- the gaslighter may not even be aware of their actions. Their behaviour can be a result of how they were raised (their parents may have had strict opinions passed down as the only way to do something, for example) or how they have been managed in the past -- but neither make it any less destructive to the people around them.

“The victim will still be left feeling confused, frustrated and questioning their own perceptions, and not being able to pinpoint why they feel that way,” said Noosha. Over time this can be devastating -- and very damaging. But there are ways to help yourself.

The signs to look out for

“If you notice you are feeling any of the symptoms, start by confiding in someone close to you to explain your feelings,” Noosha told 10 daily. “This will help to reinforce your perception and validate why you might be feeling that way. The important thing is to recognise and understand the manipulation and try to detach yourself from that person. Build an unwavering belief in your own thoughts and intuition and keep reassuring yourself constantly of your own strengths and abilities. And If you are living with feelings of anxiety, self-doubt or guilt and are questioning your sanity and sense of self, please seek the help of a professional.”

Feature Image: Getty