There’s a common saying that has been attributed to many sources that go like this, “if you repeat a lie often enough, it will soon be accepted as truth.”
Almost in the same regard, a certain popular Indian guru by the name of Paramahansa Yogananda also remarked, “Some people try to be tall by cutting off the heads of others.”
These two sayings have been brought to perfection by people who have mastered the art of gaslighting in relationships.
But, what exactly is gaslighting?
Gaslighting was first brought to light through a film released in 1994 called Gaslight.
In the film, a husband is persistently trying to convince her beautiful wife that she is insane by constantly causing her to interrogate herself and her reality.
In typical form, gaslighting is simply a form of tenacious manipulation and indoctrination which results in the victim beginning to doubt themselves and ultimately lose their sense of perception, self-worth, and identity.
How gaslighting manifests?
Gaslighting can present itself in different degrees.
In its mild forms, it creates an elusive, yet unbalanced, power dynamic in a given relationship in which the gaslightee is exposed to unreasonable scrutiny, micro-aggression, or judgment that has no basis (not fact-based).
In other times at its worst display, gaslighting institutes a type of mind-control couples with severe psychological abuse.
Personal relationships whether at the workplace or in an entire society are all possible victims of gaslighting.
The stages of gaslighting, in no particular order
Gaslighting can occur following many stages which may differ in the order of their occurrence and depends on different situations.
1.Lies and exaggerations
In most cases, the gaslightee will always be put on the defensive.
The gaslighter uses baseless, generalized false presumptions and/or accusations that are independently unverifiable, to create a negative narrative about the gaslightee.
Thus, it is an act of pushing him/her on the defensive.
Example 1 – A possible gaslighter mother in a supermarket would yell at her daughter, “I hate when you put pastries on the checkout counter that way. How many times do you I have to tell you that I hate it?”
Example 2 – A line manager would comment, “The work this department does is just a waste of resources and time. How can they even justify their employment here?”
2.Gaslighter escalates disputes when challenged
Whenever a gaslighter is called on their lies, they employ typical tactics of defense and escalates the argument by doubling and tripling down on their attacks, fiercely refuting any substantive evidence brought forth with blame and denial.
This introduces more false claims and misdirection, and in the process planting more doubt and confusion.
In other words, they will deny any wrongdoing even in the face of undeniable evidence and immediately go on the defense to accuse the gaslightee of wrongdoing.
Example – A boyfriend red-handedly caught sexting with someone, then flatly denies it and blame the girlfriend of imagining things. They can even go to the extent of calling her names.
This resembles psychological warfare where falsehoods are consistently and repeatedly propagated for the audience to stay on the offensive.
The gaslighter controls the conversation and rules the relationship.
4.Form codependent relationships
Codependent relationships exhibit excessive psychological or emotional reliance on a partner.
For gaslighting in relationships, the gaslightee is kept vulnerable, controlled and nearly submissive to the gaslighter, by being exposed to constant to insecurity and anxiety by the gaslighter.
The gaslightee literally has no control of the relationship and the gaslighter retains the powers of approval, safety, security, acceptance, and respect. Furthermore, the gaslighter, unfortunately, keeps also the powers to withdraw all these and often continually threatens to do so.
This creates a direct relationship with codependent relationships which is also built of vulnerability, fear, and marginalization.
5.Wear out the victim by constantly being put on the offensive
Being continuously kept on the offensive can be tiring, and the gaslightee is already facing it.
Having mastered his/her tactics of keeping victims on the offensive, the gaslighter will soon wear them down making them resigned, pessimistic, discouraged, self-doubting (best gift to the gaslighter) and fearful. Soon enough, the victims begin to question their own identity, perception, and reality.
And this is how the gaslighter wins the battle in the relationship.
6.Give some calculated false hope
At this stage, the gaslightee now employs their manipulative tactics and tries to deviate from what he/she has portrayed all through. They are likely to start occasionally treating their victims with some moderation, mildness and may even top it up with some superficial remorse or kindness that elicits some false hope in the gaslightee.
This is when the ‘let’s give it a chance’ feeling starts to grow in the gaslightee.
But all these are calculated moves aimed at instilling some complacency on the side of the gaslightee to bring down his/her guard before the gaslighter pulls off the next phase of gaslighting.
It’s also at this stage that the gaslighter tags the codependent relationship tendencies with him/her.
7.Dominate and control
This is the ultimate goal of all pathological gaslighting in relationships.
It’s always to gain control, dominate and take advantage of unsuspecting individuals, groups or even a whole society, given a chance.
The gaslighter maintains and intensifies a constant stream of coercion and lies which in effect keeps the gaslightee in a state of doubt, fear, and insecurity.
Consequently, this grants him or her the freedom to exploit at will the gaslightee in a bid to propagate his power, influence and personal gain.
Gaslighting in relationships is a sad affair.
Some people may not be able to identify what’s happening in their relationship. They are therefore left wondering whether they are just losing their minds or simply being paranoid.
If you suspect being some bit of gaslighting in your relationship, seek help immediately or talk to your partner if you can reach help for whatever reasons there may be.
Want to have a happier, healthier marriage?
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.