Beware of GASLIGHTERS!
Have you ever experienced gaslighting at the hands of a man? It's the absolute worst. And it's dangerous if you don't even know or realize what's happening. As a coach for single women, I realize there can often times be a pattern or theme so I want to shine some light for you, gas free. Gas free light? Gaslighting? Get it? Moving right along...
So what is it? Gaslight means to manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity. Something that came up in my search was that gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person or a group covertly sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or group, making them question their own memory, perception, or judgment, often evoking in them cognitive dissonance and other changes including low self-esteem. Unfortunately, this is a tactic in which a person manipulates another person in the hopes of acquiring power over them. Often times, this manipulation leads to the victim questioning their own reality, and in doing so, not questioning the motives and actions of the person gaslighting them. In the 1944 movie Gaslight, a man manipulates his wife to the point where she starts to believe she's the one actually losing her mind.
Who gaslights and why?
Anyone is capable of doing this. But I'm speaking to the ladies about "men". A lot of guys like to manipulate unsuspecting women. And what I will say is that, believe it or not, it can be unintentional. They don't set out to gaslight, but it happens and they see nothing wrong with their actions. A gaslighter personality is a highly manipulative individual. They could be charismatic and charming, or perhaps mysterious and hard to read. The male species that engage in gaslighting recognize manipulative behaviors and know they are doing them. They use different tactics based on how they come across to others. Hey, even Satan has a strategy for each victim.
Psychoanalyst Robin Stern says, "For gaslighters, the technique is a way to control the moment in the relationship, to stop the conflict, to ease some anxiety and feel "in charge" again. It's a way for someone to deflect responsibility and to tear down someone else, all the while keeping the other person hooked, especially if what they are hooked on is the desperate need to please another person - or prove that person wrong." And this is nothing but truth. She goes on to talk about how people aren't born gaslighters. You know how some of us are born with certain traits and characteristics? Well, not the case here. Gaslighting men have learned this along the way socially. They've either witnessed it, felt the effects of it, or somehow stumbled upon it and started to use it as a strong tool or weapon. For them it's become a strategy, a cognitive strategy actually, for self-regulation. And it works well for them.
On the flip side, I'll also say that men who do this might not know they are being strategic or manipulative. They tend to lack self-awareness and have convinced themselves that they are expressing themselves in a clear direct manner. In rare cases, they are very blunt in the words and truth they speak with the "I'm just telling it like it is" attitude. Here's an example. Imagine your guy doesn't call you when he said he was going to. You mention how it bothered you and you were concerned. Well Mr. Gaslighter will tell you that you're controlling or insecure. It'll offend you. And he'll then have the nerve to ask, "I mean, what's wrong with me pointing out something that's wrong with you? Why can't you accept criticism?" This is how he makes sense of your frustration. It also, in his mind, let's him off the hook. Because the conversation should now be dead as you sit back and ponder over what he just said.
Signs of gaslighting in romantic relationships
Blatant, flat out LIES. They can say something so straight-faced and factual that'll have you believing it. Something in your brain knows what he says is wrong. Or is it...
Denying they said something. You can remind him of something he said and he'll deny ever saying that. Be prepared for, "no sweetie, you have me confused with your other boyfriend."
They tend to use what matters most to you as ammo. Whether it's your career, children, accomplishments, etc he'll find a way to bring it up as a means for you to question yourself, your worth, and your ability. Or simply to insult you.
Wearing you down over time. Women stay way past the expiration date because they didn't realize what was happening all along. Empty promises and blame to the point that you're thinking you're the problem. And because they randomly toss in compliments and sweet nothings, you know he's a good person after all.
Actions and words contradict. Like, completely! They say one thing and do another. But your interest causes you to stay and focus on the good things.
Compliments and positivity every so often. This is all done to simply confuse you. Mind you, gaslighters are highly aware that confusion weakens their victim.
Projection. Nothing like a gaslighting person to take unwanted emotions or traits he doesn't like about himself and attribute them to you. A common example is a cheating spouse who suspects their partner is being unfaithful.
Trying to persuade you that others are crazy and liars. Lord. There's really nothing else to discuss on this one.
What to do?
If this is happening in your relationship, it might be time to leave. It barely and rarely gets better. Now of course these are humans too, though they don't act like it. But men who gaslight seemingly picked up the awful habit from other relationships, not necessarily romantic ones. And if you're able and willing to do the hard work to assist in a needed change, know that change is possible. It would be a matter of changing the way you communicate and interact with them. It's standing on guard as well because their focus is manipulating you. Call him out on his behaviors and see if things change. Otherwise, it's time to go sis.
How to avoid
I tell my ladies often to pay attention! Pay attention early on. Even in the casually dating stage. There are white lies, denial even with proof, attempts to manipulate your feelings, and inconsistency to name a few. Also, listen to some of the things that he says when he's caught, accused, questioned, called out, etc. They love to say things such as,
"You're imagining things"
"That did NOT happen"
"Aww, you're so sensitive"
"You're being paranoid"
"Girl, you are so dramatic"
"It was just a joke, sweetie. Relax."
"It's really not that big of a deal, but OK."
The list. Goes. ON!
If you were a victim in the past, you must heal from it. Be free and breakout! Once the gaslighting fully takes hold, a victim is in for a long road to recovery. They'll need to completely rewire the way they perceive reality because of the number he did on them. Know that things can and will get better. You have the power to make that happen.