Last month, Teen Vogue joins many other media outlets in accusing Donald Trump of gaslighting the public through lies and denials, despite the contradicting facts and evidence. Outside politics, gaslighting is more commonly discussed in the context of relationship, be it between partners, siblings, colleagues, or even parents and children. What is gaslighting actually?
According to psychologist Jennifer Sweeton, gaslighting could be defined as an emotional and psychological manipulation that results in lowered self-trust. It “leads victims to question the soundness of their own judgment, their sense of self, their perception of reality, and the validity of their emotions”.
One could gaslight others by denying things that were said or done (“that never happened”), challenging others’ feelings and responses (“you’re just being too sensitive…”), trying to control others’ response (“you should be ashamed of thinking like that”) and spinning a fact to one’s favor (“I cheated because you constantly accuse me of cheating“).
Here are a few signs you’re being gaslighted, according to psychoanalyst and author Robin Stern:
1. You are constantly second-guessing yourself.
2. You start to wonder, “am I too sensitive?” more often.
3. You often feel disoriented and even crazy.
4. You’re always apologizing to people around you.
5. You don’t feel happy despite all the ‘good’ things in your life.
6. You start making excuses for your partner’s behavior to friends and family.
7. You find yourself withholding information from friends and family so you don’t have to explain or defend your actions.
8. You know something is wrong, but you can’t pinpoint as to what it is that is wrong.
9. You have issues making decisions, even the simple ones.
10. You feel that you used to be a very different person – more relaxed, confident and fun.
11. You feel like you can’t do anything right.
12. You wonder if you are a “good enough” partner/employee/friend/child.
Identifying gaslighting is a good start to helping yourself. By recognising that you are being gaslighted, you can start to stand up for yourself, build back your self-trust and take steps to get out of the toxic relationship.
If you need more support and information, call the National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line at 1800 RESPECT or 1800 737 732.