The term “Gaslighting” has received a lot of publicity recently due to being used by a judge in a legal case regarding coercive control.   The actions of a gaslighter have been happening for a very long time.  Originally the term was attributed to a movie: “Gaslight”  from 1940 and a more popular remake in 1944, where the perpetrator consciously and maliciously made his wife feel she was losing her mind.  Amongst other things, he moved her things and said she must have done it and he regularly lowered and raised the gas light whilst denying there was any change, to ensure his wife doubted her own reality and sanity.

In present times, it’s pretty impossible to raise and lower the lights apart from with a dimmer switch and if we feel the lights are low, we automatically turn them up. But the effect of Gaslighting not only continues, it is increasing.

“Are you having an affair?” It’s a valid question if you are.  But if you are not, nor displaying any of the traits that could explain the question, then it could be an aspect of the gaslighter projecting blame onto you and away from them, especially, if they are the one being unfaithful.   They will tell lies, sometimes obvious lies and then deny saying it, causing you to doubt what underneath you know is true. You find yourself apologising for things that you know were not your fault, or you begin believing that everything is your fault.

If you turn a question round, the gaslighters response may be “It’s in your head / You’re crazy!”   By adamantly denying something they said or did on a constant basis, and by using these types of statements the abuser can destabilise your mental health and wellbeing and distort your perception.  Once you start to believe that it is in your mind then the abuser will constantly reiterate, validating that perception.

It’s not in your mind and you are certainly not crazy. Remember if your gut says something is wrong, it usually is.

A gaslighter may create a false narrative of both past and present life, always viewed in their favour. There is a saying that the victor rewrites history, so does the Abuser. The gaslighter may provide their family members, friends and colleagues and those of their partner with an account that will discredit and place any blame or culpability onto their partner whilst providing an inspired version of themselves.   Using the same technique with their partner instils a false memory, self-doubt, ensuring the partner becomes dependent on the abuser and believe they will be unbelieved by others.  It’s easy for a family member to start believing you are over-reacting, not coping or even mentally ill, if your partner hints or constantly drops it into the conversation. If you are constantly told something you will start to trust in its authenticity.  It’s also easy for you to believe things are your fault or you caused things to happen.

Alternatively, they may isolate you from family and friends.  Suggest moving to a different part of the country, or in some instances even overseas and make it appear to have always been your idea and moving only for your benefit.  They may make it uncomfortable for you by being moody every time you see your friends or family, or make derogatory remarks about them.

Gaslighting is a form of manipulation, that destabilises your trust and belief in yourself.  Its a type of brainwashing to gain compliance, control and power.

“But my partner loves me.  It’s just their way!”  A gaslighter will shower you with love and affection, often love bombing in the early part of the relationship, and then later as a reward when their approval becomes conditional.  Perpetual manipulation will ensure you do what they want and how they want you to.  Your boundaries will become weakened or even disconnected and removed.  If you try to reinstate them, you will be made to feel guilt that you have rejected the gaslighters opinion or choice, or that you will be rejected by them because you disagree or conflict and disapproval will ensue.  Control lies hidden, Gaslighting is a part of covert manipulation and coercive control. Coercive Control is a crime.

Being in a toxic relationship is incredibly stressful and chronic stress can cause you to suffer both minor and major illnesses. For example:  If you are feeling unwell or have recurring stomach problems, the gaslighter may refer to you as a hypochondriac, over dramatizing or feeling sorry for yourself.  Be aware, chronic stress does cause ill health.

“Is it ever too late to reverse the damage?”  Not at all!

Firstly you need to decide that enough is enough and you want the situation to change.  You are ready to stop being the victim and take responsibility to care for your own well-being.  Then it will be a process of rebuilding your, confidence, self-esteem and most important:  belief in yourself, your instincts and your choices. Healing takes some time, but your life and your happiness is worth it!