The term 'gaslighting' may have its origins in a 1944 movie, but its impact is far from outdated. The movie 'Gaslight' depicts an abusive husband manipulating his wife into questioning her sanity by manipulating gas-powered lights. Today, gaslighting refers to any manipulation that leads individuals to doubt their memories, emotions, or perceptions, often resulting in a challenging impact on mental health.
Common Gaslighting Tactics
According to Dr Neerja PhD Psychology, Psychologist and Co-founder of Emoneeds, gaslighting tactics are insidious and pervasive. They create a power dynamic where the victim becomes dependent on the gaslighter, perpetuating a cycle of control and emotional turmoil. Common gaslighting tactics include:
Countering: One of the most common tactics is 'countering', where the gaslighter challenges the victim’s memory of events, even if those memories are entirely accurate. This manipulation can leave the victim feeling perplexed and uncertain about their recollections, further eroding their sense of self.
Withholding: Another gaslighting tactic is 'withholding'. Gaslighters may pretend not to understand something or refuse to listen, effectively invalidating the victim’s thoughts and emotions. This creates a sense of isolation and helplessness as the victim’s attempts to communicate are repeatedly rebuffed.
Forgetting: 'Forgetting' is another tactic wherein the gaslighter pretends to have forgotten events or denies their occurrence. This can make the victim feel like they are losing their grip on reality, as the gaslighter distorts the narrative to suit their agenda.
Trivializing: 'Trivializing' involves belittling the victim’s concerns and emotions, making them seem unimportant or irrational. The gaslighter minimizes the victim’s feelings, causing self-doubt and emotional distress.
Diverting: 'Diverting' or 'blocking' is a tactic where the gaslighter changes the subject or focuses on the credibility of what the victim is saying rather than addressing the content. This manipulation further confuses and distracts the victim, leaving them feeling disoriented and unheard.
The Impact on Mental Health
The cumulative effect of these gaslighting tactics is a challenge to mental health. Victims may genuinely believe they are mentally unwell, plagued by inaccurate memories, and unable to trust their thoughts. This pervasive self-doubt can lead to various mental health challenges, including:
Anxiety: Gaslighting causes constant uncertainty, making victims anxious about their perceptions and judgments.
Depression: Emotional abuse can lead to feelings of sadness, worthlessness, and hopelessness.
Low Self-esteem: Gaslighting erodes self-confidence and self-worth, leading to a negative self-image.
Isolation: Victims may become isolated as they fear being disbelieved or further manipulated, hindering their social connections and support systems.
Gaslighting constitutes a deeply damaging form of psychological abuse, but by spreading awareness and comprehending its tactics, we can empower individuals to safeguard their mental health and overall well-being.