Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic that can be used by one partner to gain control and shift the power dynamic in a relationship, leading to emotional abuse. Psychotherapist Jeremy Bergen, MS, LCPC, sheds light on the psychology behind this toxic relationship pattern.
Gaslighting is a type of psychological manipulation that causes the victim to question their judgment, memories, and sanity. According to Bergen, this is a form of emotional abuse that one partner uses to exert power, control, and inflict emotional harm on the other. It is a malicious form of abuse because it causes the victim to question their experiences, making it challenging to identify the warning signs.
In the following sections, Bergen discusses the psychology of gaslighting in relationships, including identifying warning signs, understanding the reasons behind this harmful behavior, and navigating the consequences.
5 Signs of Gaslighting in a Relationship
1. Your Perception of Reality is Challenged
Gaslighting is characterized by a persistent questioning of one's perceptions of situations, thoughts, feelings, and even one's own behavior, according to psychotherapist Jeremy Bergen. You may feel that what you saw or experienced is not accurate, leaving you doubting your own reality.
2. Blatant and Persistent Lies
Gaslighters use lies as a tool for control, says Bergen. If you suspect gaslighting, ask yourself if your partner makes you doubt your own thoughts or experiences, and if they have lied to you.
3. Breaking You Down to Make You Insecure
Gaslighters often prey on the insecurities of their victims to gain control and power. Bergen advises asking yourself if your partner consistently says things to make you feel bad, and if they repeatedly criticize the same thing.
4. Attempts to Isolate You from Supportive People
Gaslighters may try to separate their victims from those who care about them, says Bergen. This can be a way for them to control the narrative and cause conflict.
5. Denying Evidence and Twisting Reality
Gaslighters aim to make their victims question their sanity and perception of reality. They may deny saying or doing something, even when there is evidence to the contrary, and may try to discount or twist the victim's reality. This is often referred to as "countering."
3 Reasons Why Gaslighting Happens in Relationships
Gaslighting is a toxic behavior that can have devastating effects on the victim's mental and emotional health. According to Jeremy Bergen, here are some of the reasons why people engage in gaslighting behavior.
1. Believing It's the Only Way to Sustain the Relationship
Gaslighting can be used as a manipulative tactic to sustain a relationship, even if it's unhealthy. According to Bergen, some people resort to gaslighting in an attempt to keep their partner around, even if it means using abusive tactics.
2. Feeling Better About Themselves When Controlling Someone Else
For some individuals, controlling others is a way to boost their self-esteem. As Bergen explains, "Sometimes, there's a genuine sense of, 'If I'm controlling other people, then I feel better about where I'm at,' and that search for power is something that expresses itself in the relationship."
3. Enjoying the Power and Control
Research has shown that there are individuals who take pleasure in having control over others. As Bergen notes, "there's a decent amount of research that shows there are people who genuinely find pleasure in having control over others."
Dealing with Gaslighting
Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse that can leave the victim feeling confused, isolated, and powerless. The first step to healing from gaslighting is to recognize that you are being manipulated and to commit to breaking the cycle of abuse. However, this is often easier said than done, as gaslighters are skilled at derailing their victim's plans to leave the relationship. Here are some tips that may help you:
Reach out to a Trusted Confidant
Gaslighting can make you feel like you are alone and that your abuser is the only one who understands you. To break free from this isolation, it's important to seek help from someone outside the relationship. Talk to a trusted friend, family member, or coworker who can validate your feelings and help you assess the situation objectively.
Seek Professional Counseling
A licensed therapist or psychologist can help you navigate the complex emotions that come with gaslighting and provide guidance on how to move forward. If you're in a romantic relationship, consider couples therapy, but be sure to book private sessions for yourself as well. Long-term therapy may be necessary to equip you with the tools you need to break free from a toxic relationship.
Focus on Yourself
Don't lose sight of who you are in the midst of gaslighting. It's important to create space internally and externally by engaging with people outside the relationship. Reconnect with old friends or pursue new interests to rebuild your sense of self and open yourself up to new social connections.
Trust Your Instincts
One of the most damaging effects of gaslighting is the erosion of your sense of reality. To counteract this, make a commitment to trust your gut and not question your own thoughts, feelings, or memories.
Gaslighting is a harmful relationship pattern that can lead to emotional abuse. It can be challenging to recognize the warning signs, and it can leave the victim feeling powerless. iFindCheaters offers a simple and discreet solution to help you regain trust in your own instincts. Our anonymous online service can help you check the feelings of your spouse without causing them any harm or discomfort. Our constantly growing list of sites ensures that you have all the information you need to make informed decisions about your relationship.
So, remember to trust your feelings, even if your gaslighting partner tries to convince you otherwise. Nobody has the right to re-narrate your experiences for you.