Abuse is a four-headed monster that can be physical, sexual, verbal, or mental. Unlike the first three types that are quickly identified, mental abuse is more cunning and subtle. Sometimes, it’s difficult to spot a gaslighter and the psychological abuse they bring with them.
Hey, You Left the Lights On!
Are you a fan of classic film noir? These iconic black and white thrillers often used the element of surprise and psychological twists to grip the audience’s attention. One such memorable movie was “Gaslight,” starring Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman.
The plot consisted of a devious husband who was slowly trying to manipulate his wife into thinking she was losing her mind. One of his ploys was to brighten and dim the attic’s gaslights and suggest that the wife only imagined it. This highly acclaimed film lent its name to what psychologists today call gaslighting, or psychological manipulation.
How can you spot a gaslighter in your life? These people can be close family or friends or can be a love interest. They seem genuinely concerned about you and are trying to look after your best interests on the surface. However, gaslighters have hidden agendas to mess with your mind, so they have complete control.
What Purpose Does Gaslighting Serve?
At first, it may be difficult to spot a gaslighter because they often appear charming and accommodating. If they are narcissists or have another personality disorder, the ruse will fade because of their need to dominate. All forms of abuse are about controlling others, no matter what it takes.
• Seeds of Self-Doubt
Gaslighters usually don’t have to raise their voice or resort to violence in the beginning. They try to achieve their skewed goals by craftily sowing seeds of self-doubt. It soon makes their target wonder if their thoughts and memories are imagined. Then, the perpetrator begins to mold the target’s views, opinions, and memories.
It doesn’t take long for their targets to wear themselves down physically, mentally, and emotionally because of the constant second-guessing. At this point, the abused people become putty in the gaslighter’s hands. Should the abuser resort to physical or mental violence, they can easily manipulate their targets to believe that they are to blame for the outbursts.
• Forced Isolation from Others
These instances often end up with the targets feeling guilty and begging the abusers for forgiveness. It’s an impressive ego boost to the gaslighter’s warped mind. As the abused people get more tangled into the dark web of deceit and manipulation, the next stage of abuse happens.
You can often spot a gaslighter by his heightened efforts to keep his targets isolated. One of the greatest fears of gaslighters are outsiders who can blow the whistle on their mental abuse. They will use threats and other psychological ploys to keep their targets away from family and friends.
• When Boredom Sets In
Their goal is to divide and conquer, so their targets are scared, alone, and must depend on the abusers for everything. This profound psychological abuse may continue for years. However, the abusers’ antisocial aspects may lead them away from their broken targets to look for fresh ones.
The Aftermath of Gaslighting and Psychological Abuse
Are you or someone you know a survivor of gaslighting abuse? Even if the abuse lasts for a short time, it can have devastating effects on your entire well-being. If you didn’t spot the gaslighter at first, your self-confidence and esteem could have eroded before you noticed. Perhaps you even came to believe that you deserved to be abused.
• Psychological Damages
Gaslighting damages your feelings of trust for others and yourself. In a shifty atmosphere where nothing is as it seems, you may not trust your senses or your memory. It can be quite debilitating, and it may take a while to realize that you’ve been taken.
Since the abuser made you doubt your ability to reason and remember, making decisions on your own may be difficult. You may be hesitant to show emotions or tell others how you feel because you’ve forgotten the feeling of validation. Maybe you feel less than everyone else and unworthy of love because of the abuse.
• Social Damages
When you’ve been gaslighted, you may have gradually been estranged from family and close friends. Abusers can only have control when their targets are alone and vulnerable. It may be hurtful and embarrassing to try to pick up the pieces of your past relationships with your friends and family.
• Mental Health Issues
Understandably, gaslighting can affect your mental health. When you’ve had your confidence slowly chipped away with self-doubt, it may have led to panic and anxiety. You may also develop depression because a callous abuser stomped your self-esteem.
Getting past gaslighting abuse may also include dealing with PTSD, codependency, and severe trust issues. As a survivor, you may feel guilty because you overlooked the gaslighter in the beginning. All these messy emotions may affect your relationships in the future.
Since you lost feelings of validation from the psychological abuse, you may be anxious to receive it again. In desperation, you may become a people-pleaser and not take up for yourself. These behaviors may make you a vulnerable target for another gaslighter.
Five Ways to Spot a Gaslighter
The best way to avoid the snare of psychological abuse is to learn how to spot a gaslighter. When you recognize the first signs of manipulation, it is easier to walk away with your dignity and well-being intact. Here are five ways you can spot a gaslighter.
Lies fuel the cruel engine of gaslighting, and the abuser can do it with ease. These warped personalities usually have a long history of pathological lying. Even when people call them on the carpet with undeniable proof, the gaslighter will continue to defend their lies.
Is your new love interest too good to be true? Maybe he/she isn’t when you notice that they’re compelling with lies. Even if they aren’t a gaslighter, you don’t need a relationship based on falsehoods, so walk away.
2. They Refuse to Accept Blame
You are human, and you will make mistakes. Beware the gaslighter that has deluded themselves into thinking they’re infallible. As a master manipulator, a gaslighter will act innocent and indignant even when their faults are apparent.
They have distorted reality in their mind for so long that they always view problems as somebody else’s fault. The tell-tale sign is when they try to shift the blame to you. If they can’t own their mistakes and shortcomings, don’t make the mistake of getting involved with them.
3. They Tried to Isolate You
In the beginning, it may be difficult for you to notice that they’re edging you away from the crowd. Do they use strong emotions to manipulate you every time you want to spend time with your family and friends? Remember that the gaslighter’s most devious tool is isolation, so this behavior is a red flag for you to go your own way.
4. They Minimize Your Opinions and Feelings
One of your basic human needs is validation, and you should have it from someone who claims to care about you. The narcissistic gaslighter only cares about their feelings and opinions, and they feel threatened when yours doesn’t match. They use patronizing language to minimize any difference of opinion.
When you express your opinions or feelings, they may try to shame you by saying you are overreacting or too sensitive. If you disagree, then they will resort to name-calling, like you’re juvenile. Nobody has the right to tell you how to think or feel, so you need to open your eyes.
5. They Twist Conversations
You can often spot a gaslighter after a few conversations. If the discussion starts to go south, they may attempt to manipulate your words to make you look wrong. Gaslighters have a deviant talent of re-writing past events as if you if your memory isn’t reliable.
For example, they may have become enraged when you were in the grocery store and talked to an old friend. Maybe they said something rude and pushed you towards the door. When discussing the event later, they may try to say that your friend was rude, and they were taking up for you.
The manipulative person attempts to appear loving, and they use comforting words to make them look like a hero. They want you to emerge as the weak-minded loser. Trust your conversational skills and memory, and don’t fall for this abusive manipulation. Fight hard not to lose yourself for someone who wants to abuse and control you.
You can spot a gaslighter when you trust your gut feelings and refuse to be manipulated. Your best weapon against this psychological abuse is to confront the situation. The only gaslights you need in your life are the ones creating the romantic ambiance on a date with someone who loves you.