Gaslighting: is it happening to you?

Gaslighting. It seems the term has emerged out of nowhere. From being a word most of us had never heard of a few weeks ago, it’s now a term on the tip of our tongues. But why? It has come into focus amongst young people lately mainly due to Love Island, where some fans voiced their concerns over contestant Adam Collard’s behaviour towards Rosie Williams on the show. Since then, awareness has shot up, which is only a good thing – you’d be surprised by how common gaslighting is.

But what exactly is it?

It’s psychological manipulation, a form of emotional abuse that can be absolutely devastating to the victim. It places doubt in their mind, makes them question their own sanity, giving even more power to the abuser, who can enforce manipulations even more. The most concerning thing about it often begins in such a subtle way that the person on the receiving end of the abuse does not even know what is happening, until they themselves, or loved ones, notice how unhappy, depressed, anxious and isolated they have become. Here are the tell-tale signs of gaslighting that everybody should know:

You constantly question yourself

When you begin to feel unhappy in the relationship, you question yourself because the abuser often tells you that you are simply being “over-sensitive” or reading into things. This leads you to constantly questioning yourself, and beating yourself up for not having a thicker skin. You will likely feel like it is your fault that you are feeling unhappy.

You withhold information from loved ones

Perhaps you don’t want to give your friends or family the wrong impression of your boyfriend or girlfriend. You want them to like them – and you know this is all just you overreacting anyway. So you avoid telling loved ones about the problems in your relationship, or how bad your partner is making you feel. It’s easier to withhold information than to try and explain things to them.

You lose your confidence

Sooner or later, you, or the ones around you, will notice how much your self-esteem has dropped. Suddenly, you come to the realisation of how much your confidence has lowered, and you don’t even feel like yourself anymore. You probably don’t know why, or what went wrong, but there’s an underlying sense that you just aren’t ‘good enough’.

They lie, and deny it

You get the courage to call them out on a lie, and they shut you down. They tell you it’s all in your head, that you’ve misremembered, and that they absolutely, categorically, never said that. Even though you were sure five minutes ago that they did, you start to back down. It can get to the point where they make you question your own memory and even your sanity.

They throw you a bone just when you’re about to leave

Many people don’t understand why someone would remain in an emotionally abusive relationship, but often you don’t realise that you’re in one for a long time. A tactic that abusers use to keep you around is to throw you a ‘bone’ when it starts to look like you might be finally getting sick of them, and strong enough to leave. They’ll suddenly start complimenting you, praising you, and make you say, “Oh see, they do love me really!”.

If you find yourself exhibiting these signs, speak to a loved one or click here, and try to get yourself out the situation, fast. And remember to always check on your friends – if they are suddenly uncharacteristically low in confidence, or seem depressed and anxious, it never hurts to ask what is going on.

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