Introduction: Why Is Gaslighting So Hard and What to Do About It?
Gaslighting is a form of abuse that relies on confusion and self-doubt to disempower, confuse, and ultimately destroy someone. Traditional gaslighting requires four preconditions: (1) two people, (2) some form of authority, (3) a grievance and (4) a vulnerable state. The person exercising the gaslighting is trying to take advantage of another’s trust in them or authority to ultimately cause the other person distress.
In a traditional sense, gaslighting requires the ability to work a room—the ability to charm people into believing your version of truth. It requires an audience. It is a “performance.”
In the traditional sense, it is easy to recognize gaslighting—a person’s lies are on display for everyone to pick up on and compare to what was said. This may have seemed harmless enough when used in the context of a joke or social interaction, but over time it becomes problematic.
In the context of relationships, gaslighting can be done in an insidious way to destroy one’s entire worldview. It doesn’t require a joke, it doesn’t require a pretense. Gaslighting is simple: you deny the truth of another’s experience by trying to convince them they are wrong or mistaken about what they know.
The 5 Types of Gaslighting and How Should You Respond
Gaslighting comes in many forms. It is an insidious form of manipulation that slowly erodes away at a person’s sense of reality. The anticipated outcome for the abuser is for the victim to second-guess themselves, which erodes their self-confidence and ability to trust their own instincts, perceptions and/or reality. Learn more here: 5 Types Of Gaslighting To Be Aware Of And How To Respond.
Apart from the obvious fact that gaslighting is a type of abuse, the deliberate nature of this behavior and how it stems from emotional stress in the abuser has led to its classification as a form of emotional abuse.
The distinguishing feature of gaslighting is that it is a form of emotional abuse. It is also a manipulative tactic because it aims to pull someone away from their sense of self so as to gain power over them. Gaslighting is thus a form of emotional abuse that is designed to make a person doubt their own perceptions, thoughts and reality. The goal for the abuser is for the victim to feel like they’ve lost control over their thoughts and beliefs.
#1 Reason Why Most People Don’t Understand or Recognize the Problem of Gaslighters
Gaslighters take advantage of situations and quirks in human nature. In their efforts to manipulate their victims, they rely on the fact that most people are uncomfortable with conflict and don’t like to make waves. Thus, they prey on the “dread of battle” (1) our need to avoid the confrontation which would expose their dishonesty. And if there is no battle, we are fooled.
If you are gaslighted, you might have the feeling that you are not in the right, but what’s worse is that you have no idea why, and it is likely that those around you don’t either. A stinging example of this truth was given by Jeannie Suk in her book “Gaslighting: Recognizing and Navigating Gendered Betrayal.”
Jeannie Suk’s husband was a successful senior executive at a major corporation when they married. After almost a year of marriage, he told her that she had to get someone else to handle the books because she was just not good enough. When she asked if he was joking, he said no. They engaged in a lengthy and painful process of arguing and refuting his claim until finally he admitted that his comment was a joke.
Since she had no idea why her husband had made such an outrageous claim about her capabilities, it took Jeannie two years to realize that he was gaslighting her.