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Family & Relationships A definitive guide to gaslighting

09:05  14 december  2019
09:05  14 december  2019 Source:   redonline.co.uk

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Gaslighting is the act of causing another person to begin to question their own thoughts. Here are some tips to help you deal with gaslighters. However, it doesn't just happen in romantic relationships. Just about any kind of relationship can be subject to gaslighting , so it's important to watch out for it.

Jump to : Gaslighting In Relationships. Gaslighting Amongst Family. Gaslighting At Work. 14 Personal Signs Of Gaslighting . Has anyone ever said something to you that stopped you in your tracks and made you question your very sanity?

a person sitting at a table using a laptop © Hoxton/Tom Merton - Getty Images

You’ve probably heard the term gaslighting thrown around before, but do you know it's actually a serious form of emotional abuse? During Love Island this year, contestant Joe Garrett was called out by Women’s Aid for his “controlling” behaviour towards Lucie Dolan. In a conversation labelled by fans as “manipulative”, Joe told Lucie that she should spend more time with the other female contestants rather than friend Tommy Fury.

A few months before that, actor Rebecca Humphries accused ex-boyfriend Seann Walsh of repeatedly gaslighting her - calling her “mental” and “psycho” - when she questioned his growing relationship with Strictly co-star Katya Jones, and making her feel worthless throughout their relationship. Unfortunately, these are not rare incidents.

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Gaslighting describes a mind game that emotional abusers use to control their victims. (Gaslight is also an old movie, in which a husband uses the technique to The victim of gaslighting is usually a woman and the perpetrator usually a man. Of course this is not always true. Either sex can be the gaslighter

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New statistics show that coercive control (behaviour meant to manipulate and isolate someone into being dependant on their abuser) offences have almost doubled in the last year. But campaigners are also warning that fewer women and survivors are reporting domestic abuse to the police, meaning we need to start taking gaslighting and other deceptive forms of emotional abuse a lot more seriously.

What is gaslighting?

The term comes from the 1938 play Gaslight, in which an abusive husband tries to drive his wife insane by moving objects and creating strange noises in their house, then denying it’s happening. Since then it’s made its way into modern vocabulary and was even named one of the most popular words of 2018 – beaten only to the top spot by ‘toxic’.

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Gaslighting meaning explained

“Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse which involves psychologically manipulating someone to make them doubt their own sanity,” Anat Toffell, a Women’s Resilience Awareness Project facilitator at London-based charity Solace Women’s Aid, says. “As the victim doubts their own mind and loses confidence, they become more dependent on their abuser and less likely to leave.”

But there’s an important difference in definition between gaslighting and disagreeing, she adds. “Someone who is gaslighting will repeatedly imply or claim outright that the victim’s perception of a situation is crazy or nonsensical.”

a man wearing glasses and looking at the camera: What is gaslighting? (Posed by models) © Lucy Valdes What is gaslighting? (Posed by models)

Gaslighting and the law

In recognition of the severe emotional distress that this behaviour can cause, in 2015 the Serious Crime Act was updated for England and Wales to include coercive control offences. Under the new changes, someone found guilty of gaslighting could be fined or imprisoned for up to five years.

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A Guide to Gaslighting . November 20, 2016. “You’re crazy. Gaslighting describes a mind game that emotional abusers use to control their victims. (Gaslight is also an old movie, in which a husband uses the technique to try to convince his wife that she is insane.

Gaslighting . This term comes from the 1938 stage play Gas Light (and later, the 1940 movie, and later remakes), in which a husband tried to drive his wife crazy by dimming the gas-powered lights in their home. When his wife points out the change in light, he denies that the light changed at all.

Frustratingly however, gaslighting is difficult to prove. According to the law, it has to be established that the victim felt threatened with physical violence on at least two occasions, or that the perpetrator’s behaviour was seriously affecting their daily life.

In 2017, just under half of those prosecuted were sentenced with the new legislation. But more recent cases have hit the headlines; Sally Challen, who was found guilty of murdering her husband over a decade ago had her conviction quashed after campaigning by her family, on the grounds that she was subjected to years of gaslighting and emotional abuse before the law existed.

Gaslighting in relationships

While a Policing Research report reveals that 95% of victims are cisgender women, gaslighting can happen to anyone. It’s not confined to romantic relationships either, anyone who has an intimate relationship with their victim can be convicted of gaslighting. This could include close friends and family members, or even employers in some cases.

Everyday phrases such as “crazy ex-girlfriend” or “psycho” only help to suppress victims of gaslighting and normalise gaslighters’ toxic behaviour. It’s all a part of the patriarchal idea that intense, expressed emotions are unjustified – especially when they come from women.

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Definition of Gaslighting . Perhaps the best way to examine this inherently abusive behavior is to go straight to the source, the 1944 film “Gaslight.” Unfortunately, gaslighting is also used by abusers and narcissists, and it can be difficult realizing you may have those people in your life.

a person standing in front of a mirror: What actually is gaslighting? © Tommy Starck / EyeEm What actually is gaslighting?

Gaslighting signs

“Gaslighting can be extremely difficult to identify, as abusers tend to introduce it gradually over a period of time.” Anat says, “Someone who is being gaslighted is likely to feel confused, anxious or depressed, but unable to pinpoint the source of these feelings.”

On top of this, victims of gaslighting might have been accused of misremembering situations, been told they’re imagining things and had their emotions or needs trivialised over time.

Sophie* was in a two-year emotionally abusive relationship that left her suffering with PTSD. “At the beginning I gave him the benefit of the doubt,” she says. “I believed that there wasn’t anything going on with other women for example, because he made me believe that I was crazy for even thinking he would do that to me.”

Other signs of gaslighting include feeling like you can’t do anything right, finding yourself lying to avoid hurtful comments or twists of the truth, always apologising to them and constantly second guessing yourself.

“He would tell me that I was nothing and that no one would ever love me,” Rebecca says about her ex-boyfriend, who was emotionally and physically abusive towards her. “When I retaliated, he would hit me. He would then say how much he loved me and start to cry, until I felt like I was in the wrong. It was always me who had to apologise and make up for what happened.”

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Gaslighting relies on lying, deceit, manipulation, which are couched in benevolent terms.

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If this sounds familiar to you, there is a way out.

What actually is gaslighting? © Samere Fahim Photography What actually is gaslighting?

Where to get help

As Anat says, “Talk to a domestic abuse specialist, who can help you identify what’s going on in and help explain your options, including how to get out of the relationship safely.”

Solace Women’s Aid offers advice, support and safe accommodation for those in the capital, while national charity Women’s Aid also offers a range of online support services for survivors, including a Live Chat Service and a Survivor’s Handbook.

Clinical psychologist, Dr Daniela Hecht has over 10 years’ experience with survivors of emotional abuse. She says that building back confidence is vital for long-term recovery. “Understanding how relationships, both past and present, have affected someone’s confidence will be the foundation for rebuilding it and ultimately, help them to avoid damaging relationships in the future.”

Recognising gaslighting as an insidious form of coercive control and knowing the signs are an important step to helping victims of emotional abuse. If you need any further help or advice visit https://www.solacewomensaid.org/get-help or call The National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247.

*Names have been changed

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