Written by: Melissa Pilarski.
What is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a term coined by the field of psychology to describe a style of manipulation. The term was coined after the 1944 movie “Gaslight,” wherein the husband convinces his wife she is crazy and losing her mind. Gas lighting can exist in a variety of relationships; parent-child, romantic, co-workers, and even between leaders and nations. Essentially, gas lighting is when one person is successful in getting the victim to question their reality, often resulting in an unhealthy relationship dynamic.
How Can I Tell if I’m Experiencing Gaslighting or Genuine Misunderstanding?
There are a few warning signs to spotting gaslighting. If someone continues to stand behind their “belief” or lie, even in the face of evidence, you may be experiencing gaslighting. They may deny a commitment they made to you, which makes you question whether you actually heard them say the commitment in the first place. There is a difference between gaslighting, and genuine misunderstanding. When someone is open to the possibility of remembering a commitment incorrectly, and is able to take some accountability for the misunderstanding in communication, you are not being intentionally manipulated.
When someone is intentionally gaslighting someone else, it typically happens in small doses over a longer period of time. This slow erosion can cause a lot of confusion for the victim, especially if the person doing the gaslighting weaves in positive reinforcement to the victim too. In the situation of a genuine misunderstanding, there is an absence of being told you are crazy, an absence of aligning other people against you, and the absence of being told everyone else is lying to you.
What Can I Do if I’m Experiencing Gaslighting?
Therapy is a great space for processing the experience of gaslighting, or addressing the unhealthy dynamic it can bring up in a couple relationship. Emotionally Focused Therapy asks that each partner does their best to be curious and vulnerable about their own emotional experience, and it is the therapist’s job to create safety in sessions by allowing space for both partners’ emotional experiences. Being a witness to your partner’s emotional experience can be very impactful in building compassion, empathy, and understanding– directly combatting unhealthy relationship dynamics. If you’re ready to explore the idea of therapy in a free consultation, or schedule a first session, follow the links below.
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