By BIS Contributor Debbie Lane

 

Have you ever been in a relationship that makes you question your sanity — so much that you are no longer able to distinguish between what is true and what is not true?

Have you lost your self-confidence because of the mind games your spouse / boss / significant other is playing with you? Are you constantly second-guessing yourself?

If any of this resembles what is going on in your life, you may be a victim of gaslighting. Gaslighting, according to Wikipedia, is “a form of mental abuse in which information is twisted or spun, selectively omitted to favor the abuser, or false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception and sanity.”

The term comes from the 1938 stage play, “Gas Light,” in which a husband attempts to drive his wife crazy by dimming the lights (which were powered by gas) in their home, and then he denies that the light changed when his wife points it out. It’s a very effective form of emotional abuse that causes a victim to question their own feelings, instincts, and sanity, which gives the abusive partner a lot of power. Once the abusive partner gains that kind of control—as evidenced by you checking with them about everything in your life because you don’t trust yourself any more—it is very hard to get out of the situation. In fact, many people feel stuck and feel like there aren’t any options – and it is very unhealthy and debilitating to them.

Gaslighting, according to Wikipedia, is “a form of mental abuse in which information is twisted or spun, selectively omitted to favor the abuser, or false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception and sanity.”

  • Could you possibly be in this situation? Signs that can indicate you are the victim of being gaslighted (according to loveisrespect.org,) are:
  • constantly second-guessing yourself
  • asking yourself, “am I too sensitive?” multiple times a day
  • feeling confused and even crazy, often
  • always apologizing to your partner
  • not being able to understand why, with so many apparently good things in your life, you aren’t happier
  • frequently making excuses for your partner’s behavior to friends and family
  • finding yourself withholding information from friends and family so you don’t have to explain or make excuses
  • knowing something is terribly wrong, but never quite being able to express what it is, even to yourself
  • lying to avoid the put downs and reality twists
  • having trouble making simple decisions
  • having the sense that you used to be a very different person – more confident, more fun-loving, more relaxed
  • feeling hopeless and joyless
  • feeling as though you can’t do anything right
  • wondering if you are a “good enough” partner

If these signs resonate with you, and you start coming to the realization that you are being gaslighted, don’t make yourself feel worse by wondering how in the world you could have found yourself in this situation.

Gaslighting can happen very gradually in a relationship — and your relationship probably started out wonderful. It can be compared to putting a frog in a pot of water that is room temperature, but that is on the stove. Once you turn the stove on, and the water starts to heat up, the frog stays in the pot and eventually gets cooked to death. That poor frog never knew what hit him.

It’s the same with gaslighting. Everything starts out great, and gradually morphs into full-blown gaslighting. When you start to feel “confused, anxious, isolated and depressed” and you lose all sense of reality and start relying on the abusive partner to define reality for you, it becomes very difficult to escape. You never knew what hit you!

If you find yourself in this situation, you MUST find a way to escape! It has nothing to do with whether or not the person doing this to you is doing it intentionally. The articles I read about it (having experienced it myself) stated that the person doing this may or may not even know what they are doing. The harm caused to you, whether intentional or not, is harmful none-the-less.

 

So, what do you do?

1. Make sure you stay safe. It is a dangerous time when relationships end, and the emotional / verbal abuse you’ve endured could easily turn into physical abuse.

2. Make a plan of escape (and get a friend to help you and hold you accountable). Escape is not easy and may require multiple tries. It can feel like you’re in a spider’s web, trying to get away…

3. Once you’ve escaped, to give yourself time to heal. Get to a safe environment. Surround yourself with supportive people as you start to build your new life. I promise you, your confidence will return, but it may take a while. Educate yourself about what you’ve been through and read about what others have done to escape and what they are doing to heal from the abusive experience.

 

I implore you to take a step back, and truthfully examine your situation.

If it looks like what I’ve described, carefully put a plan together to escape (with heavy emphasis on escaping to a safe place) and let nothing stop you from implementing your plan. There are so many resources online today (and organizations that can help you). There is no reason to live in this abusive situation. And once you finally move on, there is no better feeling in the world than to finally get your confidence back and regain your sense of self-worth. The you-who-you-used-to-be is still there and will be shining through in no time!


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