Gaslighting is the systematic attempt by one person to erode another’s reality, by telling them that what they are experiencing isn’t so – and, the gradual giving up on the part of the other person. Gaslighting takes two – one person who needs to be in control to maintain his sense of self, and the other, who needs the relationship to maintain her sense of self and is willing to acquiesce. The Gaslight Effect happens when you find yourself second guessing your own reality, confused and uncertain of what you think, because you have allowed another to define reality and tell you what you think — and who you are. Gaslighting can be maddening in the early stages and soul destroying when it fully takes hold. In her book The Gaslight Effect , Robin Stern Ph.D. describes what it is like to be on the receiving end of this type of emotional abuse – in love relationships, in the workplace, in family…and, then, she take readers through the steps necessary to empower themselves to transform the relationship and opt out of the Gaslight Tango. The Gaslight Effect names this insidious type of emotional abuse, that has, to date, been too much under the radar – and, in naming and understanding this abuse, it can be recognized and healed.
Speaking to MailOnline, author Elizabeth Forbes Author of ‘The Nearest Thing to Crazy’ says the image of a weak victim is entirely wrong for gaslighting: “The women I’ve talked to who have experienced gaslighting abuse are often strong, intelligent women.”
‘It is almost as if their developed sense of rationality acts as a conduit for the abuse to flourish. One judges other people’s behaviour by the standards we set for ourselves, and if we wouldn’t lie about such things, if we would consider such manipulation to be devious and immoral, we find it difficult to believe that others could behave in such a way, especially those who profess to love us.’
While it might be easy to advise reaching out to others to help the person reassert their worth, and confirm that they are not irrational and that it is their partner who is behaving badly, this is not always easy.
Forbes explains: ‘When one’s sanity is questioned to the extent that one begins to believe it might be crumbling, talking to friends can also be a terrifying option.
‘What if they confirm our neuroses, albeit in a clumsily well-meaning way that they imagine will make us feel better? ‘I’m sure he wouldn’t do that.
It’s obvious how much he loves you.’ Or the oft quoted response: .. all men are the same. Just ignore it.’
‘And once more the victim’s view of herself as irrational and neurotic is confirmed.’
Psychologist and relationship expert Susan Quilliam says: ‘Gaslighting usually happens when one partner feels threatened or wrong footed in their life for some reason’
‘It may not be deliberate or conscious, but their realty becomes more important than their partners.It is a type of bullying and the longer it goes on the more they buy into the partner’s reality and lose their own.’
‘What keeps it going is silence on behalf of the partner being bullied. My advice for anyone in this situation would be to seek someone objective to talk to about it, then speak to your partner about it, preferably with evidence of their behaviours.’