This term comes from the 1938 stage play Gas Light, in which a husband attempts to drive his wife crazy by dimming the lights (which were powered by gas) in their home. When his wife points it out, he denies that the light changed. Gaslighting is an extremely effective form of emotional abuse that causes a victim to question their own feelings, instincts and sanity, which gives the abusive partner a lot of power (and we know that abuse is about power and control). Once an abusive partner has broken down the victim’s ability to trust their own perceptions, the victim is more likely to stay in the abusive relationship.
Gaslighting tends to happen very gradually in a relationship; in fact, the abusive partner’s actions may seem like just a harmless misunderstanding at first. Over time, however, these abusive behaviors continue, and a victim can become confused, anxious, isolated and depressed, while losing all sense of what is actually happening. Then, the victim may start relying on the abusive partner more and more to define reality, which creates a very difficult situation to escape. This is one of the most dangerous mental abuse tools out there. Recognizing it usually provides some relief as you now know what it is. This can start the journey to get out and start to heal
What Are the Signs My Partner is Gaslighting Me?
According to author and psychoanalyst Robin Stern, Ph.D., the signs of being a victim of gaslighting can include:
You constantly second-guess yourself.
You ask yourself, “Am I too sensitive?” multiple times a day.
You often feel confused and even crazy.
You’re always apologizing to your partner.
You can’t understand why, with so many apparently good things in your life, you aren’t happier.
You frequently make excuses for your partner’s behavior to friends and family.
You find yourself withholding information from friends and family so you don’t have to explain or make excuses.
You know something is terribly wrong, but you can never quite express what it is, even to yourself.
You start lying to avoid the put downs and reality twists.
You have trouble making simple decisions.
You have the sense that you used to be a very different person – more confident, more fun-loving, more relaxed.