By Maria Lebron, January 2020.
Gaslighting can happen in both personal and professional relationships. Gaslighting is a common technique used by abusers, narcissists, dictators, and cult leaders. Gaslighting isn’t just manipulation, it’s abusive. The intent is to control a person by making the person question their perception, reality, memory, or in extreme cases, sanity.
A gaslighter isn’t just someone who disagrees with you or sees something differently, it’s a pervasive pattern of behaviors you will see happen not only with yourself, but with others the gaslighter comes in contact with.
A gaslighter will use these behaviors to manipulate:
— refusing to listen or engage with what you’re saying
— questioning your memory or reality
— questioning your perception of events
— diverting or changing the subject
— denying something they had previously admitted or agreed to
— claiming to “forget” what actually happened
— making you feel that your feelings are unimportant or overblown
— making you feel isolated by turning others against you
— blatantly lying even when you have proof otherwise
— saying everyone else is lying but them
— wearing you down until you no longer trust yourself
A gaslighter tells blatant lies, but sometimes they may use something which is true to make you doubt yourself. For example, the gaslighter may use the fact that you had a parent with mental illness and say “You sound crazy just like your mother!” to deflect and make you doubt what you’re saying. If you find yourself constantly questioning your judgment or reality, things can quickly escalate, making you doubt yourself and lowering your self-esteem.
How can you deal with a gaslighter?
The first thing is to acknowledge that you are being gaslighted. Allow yourself to have the feelings you have and trust your intuition. An important thing to notice is if you’re having these feelings only with the gaslighter and with no one else. Don’t make excuses for the fact that the gaslighter’s actions don’t match their words. Focus on what the gaslighter does rather than what they say or promise. Be aware that a gaslighter may act positively and praise you when they sense you are withdrawing as a way to keep you off balance. You may think at these times that the gaslighter isn’t as bad as you thought and start to doubt yourself again.
In the workplace, you should under no circumstances make the gaslighter your friend. If it’s not possible to completely distance yourself from a gaslighter, try to limit your exposure to the gaslighter as much as possible. If you need to interact with a gaslighter on a daily basis, awareness of the gaslighter’s motives and techniques is helpful to stay grounded and prepared.
In your personal friendships, you will be need to decide whether you can limit your exposure to the gaslighter or whether you need to end the relationship. In intimate relationships, these relationships can often become toxic and it would be helpful to seek support in order to understand your emotions, confusion, and get help dealing with the gaslighter’s reactions.