How to Identify and Deal with Gaslighting in Abusive Relationships

Gaslighting is one of the forms of psychological violence most used by an aggressor in abusive relationships. This type of psychological violence is very frequent, but little detected by those being manipulated. The word translates a psychological violence typical of toxic relationships in which the abuser distorts, lies and manipulates the victim until she thinks she has gone mad and is wrong. Generally, those who manipulate emotionally tend to devalue, diminish and confuse the other’s feelings.

How Does Gaslighting Happen?

The abuser tries to turn the victim against people. She invents things about her friends and family so that she increasingly distances herself from them in order to isolate her socially. He, in turn, goes about his life normally with friends and family. Speeches such as: “you’re exaggerating” , “you’re imagining things” or “you’re going crazy” are often used in this context by the aggressor. 

The repetition of an idea ends up building a belief and diminishes the victim’s self-perception capacity and she ends up believing those statements. It feels like you’re really freaking out. The abuser’s goal is to gain power and control over the victims.

Another characteristic of the abuser who uses gaslighting is to have a “bite and blow” reaction. When the abused person confronts him, he behaves peacefully, giving the victim various treats. This ends up generating confusion and insecurity in the abused person. Because she is emotionally involved, she hopes that her partner will change. He knows this and that’s exactly why he behaves like that.

It is noteworthy that statistically women are victims of gaslighting in love relationships with men, but this is not exclusive. This cruel manipulation can occur in family life, at work and in friendships. Furthermore, it is not exclusive to one genre.

Signs that will Help Identify Gaslighting

It is very important to pay attention to the signs. It is necessary to pay attention if doubts, fears and bad feelings become part of everyday life more often, such as:

  • Fear of acting alone
  • Not feeling happy even though things are going, apparently well
  • Always apologizing to your partner
  • To be constantly justifying his actions to friends and family even when they are wrong 
  • Lying to yourself, friends and family that things are going well
  • Creating a false illusion
  • Hiding information about the relationship from others so that you don’t have to explain yourself
  • Asking yourself whether you really are good enough at what you do
  • Feeling confused and having self-doubt all the time
  • Believing to be responsible for the problems in the relationship.

How to Act if You Identify the Signs of Gaslighting

Stand back. This type of manipulation is mental and emotional abuse for the sole purpose of controlling and having power over you. 

Talk to someone intimate about how to get out of this situation. Tell someone that their partner is being manipulative and that they need to get out of this relationship.

Get in touch with a support network for victims of domestic violence. They will know how to guide you and will pass on other contacts who can help.

Listen to yourself. This will certainly be one of the hardest things during your recovery and also the most important. After being constantly manipulated, it is normal for you to simply ignore your intuition and it disappears, but this is reversible.

Take care of yourself. Start with small things like paying attention to your body, tell yourself that you can trust yourself to know when you need to meet your basic needs, such as sleep, hunger, and hygiene. 

When you need to make a decision, don’t feel pressured or give that power to others. Tell yourself that you will respect your time and that you will use it to consider all your options before making a decision. This may seem like little, but it’s a big step towards your self-confidence.

Seek qualified professional help. Recovery will be faster and more effective if you have a network of people you can count on. A skilled psychologist will listen without judgment to what you have to say and can provide useful tools for dealing with the effects of  gaslighting. 

Even if the relationship in question was brief, talking to a professional will help you discover strategies to recover. In addition, they can also help you deal with symptoms of depression, anxiety or other disorders.  


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