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What Is Gaslighting and Its Importance In Relationships?

Secret Type of Manipulation In Relationships

Gaslighting is the conscious manipulation and control of an individual’s perspective over an extended period of time. 

It is an attempt to make someone doubt their understanding of reality, to make them believe that they cannot trust their perceptions and judgments about reality. In other words, it is a form of psychological abuse. 

The term Gaslighting is based on the theatre play Gas Light, which was performed in 1938. 

In this play, the male character makes some attempts to make his wife doubt his sanity. 

He does this by telling his wife that although he dims the light of the gas lamp over time when she says that the light has decreased, the light of the gas lamp has not decreased, and the light has remained the same. 

Thus, his wife begins to believe that the gas lamp is not dimming, but she cannot make sense of the room getting darker and darker. At the end of the day, the woman is pushed into thoughts that she is going crazy.

What are the stages of Gaslighting?

We can state that it has three stages. These are

  1. Idealization
  2. Devaluation
  3. Discreditation

1. In the Idealization stage

The dominant person in the relationship idealizes the other and attributes an admirable status to the person who will be victimized. 

They attempt to construct a perception that their relationship is perfect. The direction of this admiration turns into a more intense admiration for the other, i.e. the person who is gaslighting.

2. In the devaluation stage

The person who previously aroused feelings of admiration turns into someone who cannot do anything, who is useless. 

The person now perceives themselves as worthless, as the problematic party. At the beginning of the relationship, the person who was confident, happy and thought he/she was worthy becomes doubtful about his/her self-esteem after manipulative behaviours. In this situation, he/she sees himself/herself in desperate efforts not to lose the other and to make things work in the relationship.

3. Discreditation is the last stage of the gaslighting process. 

The manipulator discards the other person and seeks other victims. The gaslighted person sees themselves in a position of apologizing in order not to be abandoned.

As can be understood from all stages, first of all, trust and love are gained. The victimized person is included in a painful process by being made to doubt himself/herself by the person he/she loves and trusts. 

Then, dependency develops on the gaslighting perpetrator and the power of influence intensifies and weakens the other person. 

The most important factor in gaslighting is that the psychological abuse continues until it has the desired effect on the perpetrator. 

Over time, the person becomes hostile to their own perceptions and relinquishes control to the other person. As a result, initiative skills such as decision-making are damaged.

Examples of Gaslighting 

People who are being gaslighted are usually not aware of it during the relationship. They normalize the situation that this may be the nature of their current relationship. 

However, they may be warned about certain issues by those around them. It is not easy to recognize the existence of this manipulation. For example:

You find yourself constantly apologizing for something you did not do,
If the other person keeps saying, “I never said such a thing to you”,

If he/she shows you insulting words or behaviour and then reacts by saying, “You made me do this, it’s all your fault that I am the way I am.”

If he/she doesn’t understand your sadness and resentment and takes your emotions down by saying, “You are exaggerating too much, if others see you like this, they will think you are mentally ill.”

When you are having an argument even though you are right, you are constantly resorting to lies to save the moment, just so that the other person does not get more angry, just so that the tension ends as soon as possible.

You may be a victim of gaslighting if you are constantly beating yourself up for not being good enough, for saying “I am not good enough, I am always the one who makes mistakes and this will not change” even though you are good enough.

When we look at the characteristics of those who practice gaslighting, we see that they are actually very weak, inadequate and worthless. 

Precisely because of these characteristics, they resort to devaluing and disempowering one another. 

We can briefly explain their purpose of Gaslighting in this way.

How to deal with Gaslighting in a relationship?

In the light of the information we have given above, if you think that you are exposed to similar things in your own relationships, the first thing to do is to realize that what you are experiencing is gaslighting. 

The next step is to face the reality of what you are experiencing. Some victims may want to stay in the relationship, believing that there may be healing steps to give the relationship another chance, and may not end it. 

However, they cannot improve the situation by being in a relationship that makes the individual so doubtful about their self-worth and perception of reality. 

For this reason, if you have difficulty ending your relationship with such dynamics, you can get support from a mental health professional.