What is Gaslighting? Emotional Mind Games
Over the years, I have had the same unfortunate conversations with different female clients. Their former husband or boyfriend has said or done a number of things contrary to what the woman knows to be true, yet their former mate has managed to be so convincing in his assertions that, despite evidence to the contrary, she begins to question the state of her own mental stability.
This nefarious form of mental manipulation is called "gaslighting". The term originates from a famous classic movie called Gaslight about a man who manipulates his wife so horrifically that she begins to question her sanity.
A few years ago I was called by one woman, successful in her career and an obviously loving mother to two very bright and well behaved children, recount how her husband, whom she had separated from, was perpetually making statements that were obviously not true in spite of the rock solid proof she possessed, which contradicted them. As a result, she had begun to second guess many things she was certain were absolute fact. Sadly, thanks to years of psychological exploitation, my client was experiencing what I call an "Alice in Wonderland" reality where "what's up is down, what's down is up."
What is more, my client's estranged husband suggested to her that he had planted numerous hidden cameras and listening devices around the house, which is why our client had called us to sweep her house for the aforementioned bugs. In most cases, it is unlikely that someone has the technical skills to install hidden spy equipment, but her soon to be ex husband did and she knew it.
After performing a thorough search of every nook and cranny of her home, from attic to basement, no bugs were found, but this fact only slightly alleviated our client's anxiety because her ex was still employing several mind games on an almost daily basis.
I should point out that it's not just narcissistic men who employ gaslighting as a form of control, but woman do as well. I am writing from a prospective of only what I have experienced professionally on this matter.
According to psychologist Stephanie Sarkis, Ph.D., there are 11 primary warning signs that you are the victim of a gaslighter. They are:
1. They tell blatant lies
2. They deny they ever said something, even though you have proof
3. They use what is near and dear to you as ammunition
4. They wear you down over time
5. Their actions do not match their words
6. They throw in positive reinforcement to confuse you
7. They know confusion weakens people
8. They project
9. They try to align people against you
10. They tell you or others that you are crazy
11. They tell you everyone else is a liar
To find out more about gaslighting, you can purchase Dr. Sarkis' book on Amazon here or you can read her article on the topic on Psychology Today here.