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Gaslighting: When Someone You Love Makes You Question Your Sanity

Have you ever been made to question your sanity by another person? Chances are you might be being gaslighted.

Updated
Mind It
4 min read
Have you ever been made to question your sanity by another person? Chances are you might have been gaslighted.
i
Snapshot

It’s those we love who are capable of hurting us the most. This idea could be the premise of most abusive relationships. When abuse is physical or violent (or both), it’s easier to identify. But what happens when it’s subtle, insidious, and therefore even more dangerous?

How does one place a finger on what’s actually bothering them? No, it’s not a bad day at work, no, it’s not a skipped meal or lack of sleep. No, it’s not even “that time of the month” or your hormones.

Say hello to gaslighting - a form of mental and emotional abuse so fine and astute that most of the time the abused does not even realise that it’s happening to them.

Gaslighting: When Someone You Love Makes You Question Your Sanity

  1. 1. What is Gaslighting?

    Reminds you of mind-control and manipulation? You’ve hit the mark pretty close.

    Reminds you of mind-control and manipulation? You’ve hit the mark pretty close.
    Reminds you of mind-control and manipulation? You’ve hit the mark pretty close.
    (Gif Courtesy: Giphy)

    Dr Samir Parikh, Psychiatrist and Director of Fortis Mental Healthcare, says that it’s an everyday occurrence that can happen in any equation. However, it’s not the same as brainwashing or coercion.

    The term came into existence after a 1938 play by Patrick Hamilton titled Gaslight in which a husband uses manipulation to convince his wife and the world of her insanity.

    This form of abuse is most common in relationships that have an inherent power dynamic. Since it’s often used to suppress the subaltern, it’s more common in a male-female relationship. However, the equation doesn’t necessarily have to be romantic or hetero-normative, it can be parent-child, boss-employee, between siblings and so on and so forth.

    Along with gaslighting being cited in the case of celebrities like Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, interestingly, it has also been used in case of politicians like Bill Clinton and Donald Trump.

    Expand
  2. 2. Gaslighting: Tools and Symptoms

    One of the most classic tools of gaslighting is making the person involved question their sanity and reality. The seed of self-doubt is sown by the abuser while their narrative of truth replaces that of the survivor. Persuasion, point blank denial of situations that the survivor knows happened and confident, blatant lying about events that occurred is also employed.

    A gaslighter would attempt to isolate you from everyone else.
    A gaslighter would attempt to isolate you from everyone else.
    (Gif Courtesy: Giphy)

    Ishita (name changed to protect identity) talks of her experience of being gaslighted by a former lover and says she did not realise what was happening to her for a very long time.

    I didn’t know what would set him off on his passive-aggressive, sulking modes again. My problems on the other hand didn’t exist because he denied their existence and said I was overreacting or was just wrong. I knew in my heart I wasn’t. What made me leave him was just exhaustion from having to deal with the constant circle of abuse and having to win his approval. 
    Ishita

    The common personality types of gaslighters include sociopaths and narcissists. Psychologists believe that gaslighting comes from a place of insecurity. That’s why the abuser attempts to exert their own power over the survivor. The former also isolates the latter for the fear of losing this power over them.

    If moments of self-doubt, denial, constant justification of another person’s behaviour are frequent events with you, you might want to consider if the source of these feelings is the same person.

    Dr Parikh points out that most people are unable to identify gaslighting, including both the doer and the receiver.

    You and I - we are all capable of it, it’s very common. The intensity might change depending on different people.
    Dr Samir Parikh
    Expand
  3. 3. Safeguarding the Self Against Gaslighting

    Pay attention. If there is discontent in your relationships, address it. Introspect. Figure out the reason for that discontent.
    Pay attention. If there is discontent in your relationships, address it. Introspect. Figure out the reason for that discontent.
    (Gif Courtesy: Giphy)

    Anyone can be at the receiving end of gaslighting. I know some very intelligent, smart people who have fallen for it. Intelligence is often coupled with sensitivity and with sensitivity comes vulnerability which is exploited.

    There’s nothing wrong with being sensitive - but when you are made to question it, like it’s an anomaly, something to be abhorred, like it makes you any less of a person, it’s time to stop and think.

    Pay attention. If there is discontent in your relationships, address it. Introspect. Figure out the reason for that discontent. Do you often feel you’re questioning your interpretation of reality? Are you justifying your actions all the time? Are the apologies always coming from you?

    A very easy way to recognise gaslighting and abuse is to understand how fights make you feel. You fight with almost everyone you’re close to. You’re bound to feel angry and upset. But if you also end up feeling insulted, abandoned, isolated, and if you feel you are listening, but never being heard, chances are you are facing gaslighting.
    Ishita

    Ishita says it took her professional help and support of her friends to finally overcome the experience of this form of abuse. Though her lover had managed to isolate her from her friends, she finally did find a way back to them.

    Sometimes, it takes years and years of abuse for someone to realise they are being gaslighted. It might come from a place of love, from someone closest to you. That’s perhaps why it becomes hard to walk out of an abusive relationship.

    Have you experienced gaslighting or any form of mental or emotional abuse? Write in to us and share your story.

    (Subscribe to FIT on Telegram)

    Expand

What is Gaslighting?

Reminds you of mind-control and manipulation? You’ve hit the mark pretty close.

Reminds you of mind-control and manipulation? You’ve hit the mark pretty close.
Reminds you of mind-control and manipulation? You’ve hit the mark pretty close.
(Gif Courtesy: Giphy)

Dr Samir Parikh, Psychiatrist and Director of Fortis Mental Healthcare, says that it’s an everyday occurrence that can happen in any equation. However, it’s not the same as brainwashing or coercion.

The term came into existence after a 1938 play by Patrick Hamilton titled Gaslight in which a husband uses manipulation to convince his wife and the world of her insanity.

This form of abuse is most common in relationships that have an inherent power dynamic. Since it’s often used to suppress the subaltern, it’s more common in a male-female relationship. However, the equation doesn’t necessarily have to be romantic or hetero-normative, it can be parent-child, boss-employee, between siblings and so on and so forth.

Along with gaslighting being cited in the case of celebrities like Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, interestingly, it has also been used in case of politicians like Bill Clinton and Donald Trump.

ADVERTISEMENT

Gaslighting: Tools and Symptoms

One of the most classic tools of gaslighting is making the person involved question their sanity and reality. The seed of self-doubt is sown by the abuser while their narrative of truth replaces that of the survivor. Persuasion, point blank denial of situations that the survivor knows happened and confident, blatant lying about events that occurred is also employed.

A gaslighter would attempt to isolate you from everyone else.
A gaslighter would attempt to isolate you from everyone else.
(Gif Courtesy: Giphy)

Ishita (name changed to protect identity) talks of her experience of being gaslighted by a former lover and says she did not realise what was happening to her for a very long time.

I didn’t know what would set him off on his passive-aggressive, sulking modes again. My problems on the other hand didn’t exist because he denied their existence and said I was overreacting or was just wrong. I knew in my heart I wasn’t. What made me leave him was just exhaustion from having to deal with the constant circle of abuse and having to win his approval. 
Ishita

The common personality types of gaslighters include sociopaths and narcissists. Psychologists believe that gaslighting comes from a place of insecurity. That’s why the abuser attempts to exert their own power over the survivor. The former also isolates the latter for the fear of losing this power over them.

If moments of self-doubt, denial, constant justification of another person’s behaviour are frequent events with you, you might want to consider if the source of these feelings is the same person.

Dr Parikh points out that most people are unable to identify gaslighting, including both the doer and the receiver.

You and I - we are all capable of it, it’s very common. The intensity might change depending on different people.
Dr Samir Parikh

Safeguarding the Self Against Gaslighting

Pay attention. If there is discontent in your relationships, address it. Introspect. Figure out the reason for that discontent.
Pay attention. If there is discontent in your relationships, address it. Introspect. Figure out the reason for that discontent.
(Gif Courtesy: Giphy)

Anyone can be at the receiving end of gaslighting. I know some very intelligent, smart people who have fallen for it. Intelligence is often coupled with sensitivity and with sensitivity comes vulnerability which is exploited.

There’s nothing wrong with being sensitive - but when you are made to question it, like it’s an anomaly, something to be abhorred, like it makes you any less of a person, it’s time to stop and think.

Pay attention. If there is discontent in your relationships, address it. Introspect. Figure out the reason for that discontent. Do you often feel you’re questioning your interpretation of reality? Are you justifying your actions all the time? Are the apologies always coming from you?

A very easy way to recognise gaslighting and abuse is to understand how fights make you feel. You fight with almost everyone you’re close to. You’re bound to feel angry and upset. But if you also end up feeling insulted, abandoned, isolated, and if you feel you are listening, but never being heard, chances are you are facing gaslighting.
Ishita

Ishita says it took her professional help and support of her friends to finally overcome the experience of this form of abuse. Though her lover had managed to isolate her from her friends, she finally did find a way back to them.

Sometimes, it takes years and years of abuse for someone to realise they are being gaslighted. It might come from a place of love, from someone closest to you. That’s perhaps why it becomes hard to walk out of an abusive relationship.

Have you experienced gaslighting or any form of mental or emotional abuse? Write in to us and share your story.

(Subscribe to FIT on Telegram)

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