Why is Gaslighting So Dangerous?

Why is Gaslighting So Dangerous?

Why is Gaslighting So Dangerous?

The term “gaslighting” has been popping up more frequently in conversations and media lately. Generally it means making someone question their own reality. I’ve heard people throw the term around freely, but actual gaslighting is a serious and intentional form of emotional abuse.


What is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a manipulation tactic used to control another person. It is an intentional technique used to keep the victim questioning reality. The gaslighter isolates the person they are gaslighting from trustworthy people, including friends and family. This is a similar strategy with other forms of abuse. The gaslighter’s goal is to gain and maintain control and power over their victim. 

Just like in many other cases of abuse, the abuser, or person who is gaslighting, seems stable, confident, empathetic, and sincere, which makes the gaslighting dangerous and difficult to spot. In the beginning of the relationship, they’ll reel you in with charm, love, and affection. Eventually they’ll pit you against people you once trusted, so you’re forced to rely solely on the gaslighter as your source of comfort and trust. The abuser puts you down repeatedly, and doesn’t believe your experiences, as if they never happened. When you begin to doubt the person gaslighting you or the relationship, the gaslighter does what is called “hoovering” – they’ll suck you back into the relationship by making false promises, charm you, and get you to doubt yourself. You become unable to remember what is true or not and question your own sense of reality. In extreme cases, the victim experiences trauma and is unable to believe themselves and are only able to believe in the gaslighter. 

When you are being gaslit, it diminishes your self-confidence. It keeps you questioning reality, the truth, and yourself. You are unable to trust your own intuition and are vulnerable to the person who is gaslighting you. 


What It Is NOT

Gaslighting isn’t accidental or a result of poor communication. It doesn’t happen because someone is in a bad mood or confused. Many people will often say someone is gaslighting them during an argument because the other person is adamant that they’re right. But genuinely thinking you’re correct and trying to convince the other person of that is not the same as gaslighting. 


How Do I Know If I’m Being Gaslit?

If you are unsure if you are being gaslit, ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I able to communicate my thoughts and feelings clearly?
  • Do I more often rely on the other person to establish reality?
  • Can I trust my own sense of reality?
  • Can I rely on myself?
  • Do I have a network of trusted family members and friends I can talk to and rely on?
  • Does my partner (or the person who may be gaslighting you) validate my feelings and experiences?

If the person in question doesn’t allow you to express yourself, isolates you from trustworthy people, and doesn’t validate your feelings and experiences, you may be the victim of gaslighting.


How to Prevent Gaslighting

People who struggle with anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and/or have a history of trauma tend to be more likely at risk of being gaslit. They have a difficult time trusting themselves or have been told by others that they can’t trust themselves. Although they are more at risk, gaslighting can happen to anyone. Here are some ways to protect yourself:

  1. Never isolate yourself from people you trust. Maintain a positive support system of friends and family. When you begin to doubt yourself, seek trustworthy people as a sounding board. This breaks the cycle of solely relying on the gaslighter so you can question what they tell you. If you are victim to gaslighting, you don’t have to only rely on yourself or the gaslighter; other people can help you break that pattern.
  2. Tap into your own problem solving skills. How would you solve any other problem? Approach this the same way. Take a step back from the situation and break down the issue into smaller steps that you can tackle.
  3. Be mindful of your emotions. Focus on your thoughts and feelings, not what the gaslighter tells you your thoughts and feelings are. What are your experiences? Don’t run from your emotions – let them be a guide for what is happening. Emotions are part of your reality, so let them tell you what is happening. That’s tapping into your own inner wisdom.
  4. Never abandon your intuition. If you have a gut feeling about something, listen to it. Does something seem off? Is there a little voice in your head telling you something is wrong? Use that as a guide.
  5. Your behavior and decisions should align with your values. Take some time to reflect on what your values are. Don’t let the gaslighter tell you what they are. They will want you to abandon your values in order to get what they want and maintain control over you.
  6. Contact the right people. Who are some trustworthy people in your life? People who can be trusted are people who encourage you to rely on your own intuition. They will want you to be able to trust yourself and your own instincts. When you start to doubt yourself, they’ll help you restore your ability to rely on yourself.
  7. Talk to a mental health professional. Therapists are unbiased and nonjudgmental. Their goal is to help you be able to rely on yourself. Therapy will help you strengthen your self-confidence, stay grounded in reality, and figure out your goals. If you are being gaslit, a therapist can help you recognize that and build the strength to become independent. 


Gain Confidence & Trust In Yourself

If you live in New York or Florida and are struggling to tap into your inner strength and wisdom, I’m here for you. Dr. Heather Violante offers online individual therapy to help you improve your mental and emotional help so you can be in healthy and happy relationships. You have the ability to love and trust yourself. Contact me for more information and to schedule your free consultation.