Gaslighting: What it is and how you can avoid it

What does it look like in real life?

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By Delna Mistry Anand

Published: Thu 9 Jun 2022, 5:29 PM

While discussing a news event with my teenage son recently, he used the word ‘gaslighting’ a couple of times. Gaslighting is a term that’s being used more and more often in popular culture these days, though the concept is not new at all. In fact, the term itself comes from the title of a 1930s play called Gaslight. It was a story of a woman whose husband was trying to drive her insane by contradicting the evidence of her senses, using psychological manipulation so extreme that she doubted her own sanity.

Today, psychologists are using the term ‘gaslighting’ to refer to a specific type of manipulation where the manipulator is trying to get an individual/s to question their own reality, memory or perceptions. And this is always a serious problem. The danger of letting go of your own reality is pretty extreme.

Gaslighting appears in relationships, with family and also at work. So what does gaslighting look like in real life? While heading out for an important presentation, a colleague says to you, “You’re looking so stressed out, take it easy”. He/she is gaslighting you. Do you see how this a form of distraction or power play? Or a parent says to their child, “You could have definitely aced this, you were just not focused” while forcing them to do an activity they aren’t naturally adept at.

• How to deal

Gaslighting is an attempt at gaining power over the other. Learning to identify people or situations like this, is a good place to start. Once you know you are being manipulated, you can determine your own reality more easily.

• Be alert

Keep mental (or actual) records of your encounter with a gaslighter. Be sure of yourself, and remember your truth. Especially in your place of work — be thorough with facts, be prepared and keep written records.

• Stand your ground

Don’t compromise yourself to avoid conflict. Remember who you are and what you stand for.

• Set personal boundaries

Boundaries tell others what you are willing to accept in a relationship. Make it clear as to what you will and will not stand for, be it personal or professional.

• Perspective

It’s important to step away and gain perspective when you are dealing with intense emotions. Physically leaving the situation can help. You can also try self-healing and grounding techniques such as listening to a guided meditation, walking on a beach, or deep breathing.

• Talk to trusted friends

Getting an outside perspective from someone you trust can help and lend emotional support.

• Know when to walk away

It can be difficult but sometimes you just have to cut ties and end the relationship with someone who constantly gaslights you.

Gaslighting — be it mild or intense — is a form of emotional abuse and severely affects your mental and emotional well-being. Look out for those who are hurting you, and learn to protect yourself and your peace at all costs.

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