Gaslighting is a term so commonly misused in today’s society. It has been misrepresented as a way to deflect criticism in the case of a differing opinion. So often we see the term being used in the context of an individual responding to feedback. Phrases used to express disagreement by voicing a direct criticism of another individual, like the use of the words ”overreacting,” “sensitive,” and “dramatic,” are often being mistakenly confused as being real examples of gaslighting. Although these arguments are condescending in nature, they do not usually count as gaslighting from a mental health standpoint.
When used as intended, gaslighting refers to the behavior of attempting to use deception to convince an individual of incorrect account of the events that occurred, while maintaining that the real events are fake or false. Gaslighting is intentional, ongoing, and dishonest, and constitutes as an abusive behavior. By telling an individual that they are being too sensitive about an issue, there is no real gaslighting taking place because one individual is not deliberately trying to convince the other of the occurrence fake events. However, discrediting an individual’s experience and manipulating them into believing they are being too sensitive when the sensitivity is valid does count as gaslighting. The statement was made with the intention of deceiving the other person and evading any potential consequences in the process.
It’s important to remember that gaslighting can occur in all types of relationships and is a covert form of psychological abuse. Because of this, gaslighting can be very effective over a period of time through the continuous breaking down of the victim. Often, an individual who exhibits gaslighting behavior will isolate their victim to further perpetuate the feeling that they are crazy. This feeds the doubt about reality in the victim’s mind, further perpetuating the cycle of manipulation and psychological abuse.
There are resources available to those who have experienced gaslighting, and to get support if they need it. One comprehensive resource is: https://www.thehotline.org/resources/victims-and-survivors/
Feel free to leave a comment with your experiences, personal or not, if you feel comfortable.
What is Gaslighting? (2014, May 29). The National Domestic Violence Hotline. https://www.thehotline.org/2014/05/29/what-is-gaslighting/