Are you a victim of gaslighting?
Just as a dangerous fire can be created by gas, an abuser can ignite that same type of destruction in a form of emotional abuse known as gaslighting.
Used as a method of domestic violence, “…gaslighters create a reaction – whether it’s anger, frustration, sadness – in their victims. Then when victims react, the gaslighter makes them feel uncomfortable and insecure by behaving as if their feelings aren’t rational or normal,” according to one Huffington Post blog.
The term gaslighting originated from the 1944 film “Gaslight” in which a man gradually attempts to drive his wife crazy by making her doubt her own judgement and sanity.
“Although gaslighting is generally subtle, the emotional experience of betrayal, broken trust, abandonment, self-doubt, shame and manipulation is far more difficult to work through than physical beatings,” says Rev. Kathy Gingrich, staff chaplain at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill., who works with domestic violence survivors and victims.
Gaslight victims experience three stages: disbelief, defense and depression.
One documented example is the case of a woman who experienced disbelief when her husband shouted out another woman’s name during sex. Her husband denied what he said and accused his wife of hearing things. She tried to defend herself, but figured she drank too much and that is why she heard what she did. The lying continued as her husband constantly changed his alibi, leaving the woman feeling guilty, anxious and ultimately depressed.
Once a victim has gone through each stage, the psychological scarring and ensuing post-traumatic stress disorder are signs that gaslight victims should reach out and seek help, Gingrich says.
To permanently extinguish the destructive fire of gaslighting, Gingrich says, victims must seek help to remove the gas that ignites the flame: the abuser. She suggests victims of gaslighting research websites, community-based domestic violence shelters and services, hotlines and police departments for safe networks.
“Places of support want to send the message to victims that they are resources for help, support, resources and a plan for safety,” Gingrich says. “Most importantly, however, these places want victims to know that they are not alone and there are people and places that can help.”
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.