Gaslighting: subtle emotional abuse

In most cases, the approach to violence is made from the explicit and the obvious, that is, when the physical makes its appearance. However, the possibility of providing help is overlooked when we are faced with much more subtle situations, such as gaslighting.

Invisible, continuous, repetitive, subtle and indirect: there is the biggest problem of this type of violence that manages to blur the figure of the abuser, the one who happens to be configured as a victim.

What is gaslighting?

The gaslighting it is a form of emotional abuse which consists of confusing the victim, to such an extent that she ends up doubting herself and her vision of things.

The term comes from a play, written by playwright Patrick Hamilton and called "Gaslight", in which the husband tries to convince his wife that she is crazy, with different manipulative resources to make her doubt her sanity, herself and her close loved ones.

It is characterized by being subtle and from there derives the complexity to detect it, since the victim is already in a loop in which everything he perceives, doubts it. Facts and thoughts are questioned.

One of the difficulties in recognizing that it is gaslighting is that the people who are involved mean the different episodes as typical of relationship problems. In other words, it is not recognized as a one-off phenomenon, but rather as part of day-to-day conflicts.

In these cases there is talk of a desensitization of violence, which happens when everyday violence is naturalized on an emotional and cognitive level.

Gaslightees is the name used to identify the victims of this phenomenon, while gaslighters It is the one used to name the responsible person.

Subtle violence is difficult to detect and that allows it to be sustained over time with catastrophic consequences.

How can gaslighting be detected?

The process of this subtle violence goes through stages and ways of addressing the victim. This is the most common scheme in couple relationships.

"They are sentimental yours"

This is usually one of the most listened phrases. As part of the strategy of making the person doubt their ability and perception, they are accused of being overly sensitive and of reacting to unimportant things. This implies not only minimizing the damage they are causing, but also a disqualification of feelings.

"I didn't say that, that didn't happen, I don't know what you heard"

Phrases that delegate responsibility for the gaslighter about the other person. The goal is also to confuse and cast doubt on the perception of reality and what happened.

"It's you and your blessed mania for, it's you and your character"

Another form of gaslighting to neutralize one's own responsibility has to do with the fact that the gaslighter identifies the flaws (real or not) and insecurities of the other person and attacks where it hurts the most.

It should come as no surprise that one of the most widely used accusations in the gaslighting is "Are you crazy or paranoid".

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"It must be me"

Finally, the guilt is assumed and the responsibility is removed from the other person; the behavior of the couple is justified and instead one doubts oneself.

The feeling of doing everything wrong leads to inaction. They stop doing things or expressing their own needs in an effort not to disappoint At the couple. Of course, the task involves enormous effort and energy expenditure. Exhaustion becomes commonplace.

"I do it for your own good"

It also manifests itself in gestures of intermittent affection, in false kindness. Otherwise, it would be easier for the victim to separate or even recognize that it is abuse.

There are compliments and expressions of affection that all they do is confuse the victim more and blaming yourself for ruining the relationship. "If you were like this or if you were less of this and more of that, I would feel better" is another of the usual phrases in the gaslighting.

What are its consequences?

One of the main consequences has to do with the way in which the self-esteem of the person who lives the gaslighting. It manifests itself in actions such as maintaining criticism of herself and self-questioning, since begins to believe that he is sensitive or that he really exaggerates.

On the other hand, as every time he says something the person is confused and his feelings are despised and undervalued, he begins to shut up and stop expressing himself. In this way, let's imagine that a tidal movement begins to occur in the relationship: while one of its members gains more and more ground, the other party begins to lose and give way.

In turn, the mood of the person who suffers gaslighting it is also affected. There is discomfort, anguish, worry, insecurity and fear.

Many times it is difficult to attribute these emotional states to the situation of emotional abuse and it is thought that they are things of life, which is part of a moment that we are going through. Sometimes you can't even put a name to what you feel.

As part of the consequences, many people withdraw from their inner circle, family, and friends. Sometimes because of the discomfort they feel and other times so as not to have to justify their partner's behavior.

Exhaustion and isolation become increasingly apparent with gaslighting, leading to depression.

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How can you avoid gaslighting?

It is important to give credit to our emotions and feelings, since many times we decide to shut up or cover up that feeling that something is wrong. In that case, it is best to continue investigating what is causing the anguish or suffering.

Another way to avoid gaslighting it has to do with making our own decisions, with giving ourselves the space to enjoy interests and move on with projects. When we stop doing it, we shrink ourselves and are at the mercy of the other person's wishes and orders.

You have to ask yourself questions and do not assume anything as obvious or established. For example, if a certain situation were happening to a friend: what would my vision be?

Although each relationship is a world, taking the issue out of the personal sphere and thinking about it towards other people can serve as a warning sign that certain attitudes or behaviors are not good or healthy.

Gaslighting can be in your life or that of an acquaintance

Both for the case of gaslighting As for other situations, recognizing yourself as a victim is usually difficult, since most of the time we think that this is something that happens to other people. The truth is that, when we realize that it actually happened to us or is happening to us, we feel bad about it.

Nevertheless, it is important to work to get out of that place of constant guilt and ask for help. It is also key to position ourselves as our compass, giving validity to what we feel and perceive, without leaving decisions to third parties.

In addition to breaking with that toxic and violent relationship, in most cases It is recommended to start with psychotherapy to heal and strengthen self-esteem so damaged, developing new coping resources.

Finally, if you are a relative of a person who you think might be suffering gaslighting, try to reach out and offer opportunities for them to express themselves, as well as showing support. While it is important to respect her time, you also have to accompany her and build trust so that she does not feel ashamed or afraid of sharing her situation.