Gaslighting is a form of manipulation that occurs through actions taken by one person to make the other doubt himself/herself and his/her judgments of reality, making him/her feel confused and mistaken.
Gaslighting is psychological violence that deprives the victim of freedom and independence. The goal of this kind of manipulation is to control and denigrate the victim’s identity by attacking their freedom and self-esteem.
The gaslighter (i.e., the person who manipulates) has several purposes:
- To reduce the victim to a total level of physical and psychological dependence.
- To imprison the victim in a violent spiral, depriving him/her of his/her independence.
- To weaken the resistance of the victim, making him/her inadvertently become an accomplice in the violence perpetrated.
There are 3 phases of manipulation:
- The distortion of the communication: The victim will no longer understand the gaslighter and will be destabilized by his/her hostile silence.
- The defense: The victim begins to support his/her position by trying to convince the gaslighter that what he/she says doesn’t correspond to reality.
- The depression: The victim becomes convinced that the gaslighter is right, so he/she resigns himself/herself, and becomes insecure and dependent.
Research shows that in most cases the victim and the gaslighter are partners or close relatives. Often, this type of behavior is adopted by the abusive partner/relative to punish or alienate the other when experiencing conflicting marital relationships, personal dissatisfactions, and extra-marital relationships.
Those involved in these situations hardly notice and admit the fact that they are being manipulated. Anyway, it is possible to recognize some “alarm bells”, such as:
- Always agree with the gaslighter.
- To renounce from expressing one’s opinion in the face of legitimate doubts as one’s self-esteem is low.
- Constant feeling of inadequacy.
How to get rid of a gaslighter? Firstly, the victim needs to get help from a professional, undertaking a personal journey to escape from psychological violence. The goal of this journey/process is to restore into the victim a sense of independence and the perception of his/her own personal value.
The term “gaslighting” derives from a play (“Gaslight”, 1938) and from Hitckock’s subsequent film adaptation (“Gaslight”, 1944) in which a man tries to convince his wife that some manipulations he performed are due to her hallucinations (for example to dim the gas lights in the house); the husband’s purpose is to male his wife believe she is crazy.
Written by Camilla Silvestrin
Translation by Martina Fontana