It’s Not That Dramatic – A Guide to Gaslighting

By Sophatny Chan, G11


Have you ever heard of the term ‘Gaslighting”? Do you know what it really means?

The term ‘gaslighting’ was taken from a 1938 stage play called “Gaslight”. It follows the story of a husband trying to convince his wife that she is insane. This term started being used colloquially in the 1960s and has been used ever since. Those who watched the play were more familiar with the attitude, therefore giving gaslighting victims more power to call out the deceptive behaviour since its release.


Official Definition

“Technique of deception and psychological manipulation intended to make the victim dependent on the deceiver in thoughts or feelings.” – Britannica 

In other words: a sneaky kind of emotional abuse.

Let me ask you this: has anyone ever made you uncomfortable with who you are? Did they make you question your sanity, feel unwelcomed, or  second-guess yourself? A perpetrator of gaslighting will make you suffer — from guilt-tripping, to doubting, to second-guessing anything. This is obviously torturous, and unquestionably abusive…

But if it’s so bad, why does it happen?

One word: control. Some people feed off of controlling others; when having someone else’s consciousness in their palms, they thrive. Dictators, narcissists, abusers, cult leaders — all those who feel a boost when putting someone down. In most cases, not all gas-lighters won’t bother to acknowledge that they are being manipulative. Gas-lighters have the intentions to corrupt, for example, seen in The Gaslight Effect, which highlights the tricking of  victims into becoming or believing in something they don’t, and they similarly tend to believe they are always in the right.


Right now, you’re probably questioning what the signs of gaslighting are. Have you ever been gaslit? Have you ever gaslighted someone? Let me break it down for you:

Lies & Denial

One of the most obvious signs are lies. These lies could be so blatant that you question whether there is any truth to what is being said. Often lies are masked as jokes or simple passing remarks, which then subconsciously cause you to question yourself and your own thoughts. And when confronted? Deny, deny, deny: “It wasn’t my intention”, “I wasn’t in the right mindset”, or “It’ll never happen again”. This is when you start to question yourself. What is the truth? What is not? The more you question your reality, the more you accept theirs.

Attack 

This is when they start to corrupt your whole life. They tell you that you are worth it, that you are important and strong. Then a full 180° occurs: they target your worst traits, highlighting these and humiliating you. Attacking the foundation of who you are in a very calculated way. As an extended attack, after humiliating you, they will add in positive remarks to mess with your mind, going as far to top it off with a joke. An example: “I’m sorry I can’t tell you, I don’t trust you” followed by, “but I still trust you more than most people”. Cruelly messing with your head, as soon as you’re about to give up your trust in them, they make you question your doubt.

Actions vs. Words

The best thing to do in any situation is to notice their actions, and remember their words. Gaslighters are the best at telling you one thing yet acting in a different matter. They can lure you with their pseudo-promises — what they are saying means nothing because it is just all talk. Sometimes, what they do is the exact opposite of what they say.


Here’s a real life story to further grasp their behaviour: 

The Story of Francesca Belmonte

SOS Safety Magazine: Gaslighting Image

She has suffered an emotionally abusive relationship where her significant other would constantly degrade her and make her feel wronged. The deceiver attacked her constantly by monitoring her social media, trying to convince her that she wasn’t the same person he met, giving lies to feed her, and made her look mentally ill. Poor Francesca actually was mentally ill — she had trouble eating and had frequent stomach pains. Yet he was still there to blame her for her existence.

“He would say verbally jarring things to get a reaction out of me so when I did react I would be called crazy , mentally ill, that I make everything about myself , that I read into everything that I imagine it all and it’s all in my head and that I need help and need to go away and get better . He told me our friends think I should go away somewhere and get treatment.

He once asked me if I was going to kill myself saying that a member of his family had asked.” – Francesca Belmonte

She stated that in the beginning it was all an act to keep this audience entertained. He used her for his benefit of getting free food, traveling, etc. How he felt justified and entitled by making her suffer. It made him feel powerful to have complete control over her, the more he abused the more he got hungry. A final quote that she mentioned was:

“Everything is a projection of their own truth festering away inside them. They turn you into a version of themselves so they don’t have to deal with their real problems. They would rather see you self-destruct . Because it’s what they would do but they just can’t , they have far too much to lose. They enjoy watching it in other people and they enjoy being the cause.”

Francesca Belmonte

Luckily, in the end she finally noticed his corruptive actions and called him out for being destructive and a toxic manipulator. Most people told her that physical abuse would be far more damaging. However, to her they are both the same, both causing damage to a person’s life just one being outside and the other being inside.


Final Remarks

You are not worth being toyed with like a puppet. More importantly, you are not the only puppet out there.I believe that gas-lighters who pretend to not know that they are manipulative and toxic are some of the worst of their breed. They are more likely to make you question reality, question your life, and your decisions. They chew you up the most, yet you stay with them the longest. They can be  your friend. They can even be one of your family members. It’s important, especially now, that we can recognize these traits and call them out. It’s time for you to stand up for yourself.


Sources/Further Reading:

A Deeper Look Into Gaslighting.” The Hotline, www.thehotline.org/resources/a-deeper-look-into-gaslighting/
Dean, Mary Elizabeth. “Gaslighting: A Sneaky Kind Of Emotional Abuse.” Betterhelp, BetterHelp, 22 Jan. 2018, www.betterhelp.com/advice/relations/gaslighting-a-sneaky-kind-of-emotional-abuse/.

Featured image: https://www.stylist.co.uk/life/sign-gaslighting-other-people-psychology/398587

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