Gaslighting is a common term in our world today and it’s often misunderstood. Because the term is thrown around carelessly at times, even in jest, it’s often dismissed, questioned, and minimized in real cases of emotional abuse. For this reason, it’s important to know what gaslighting really is. Gaslighting occurs in conjunction with relational trauma. It’s insidious in nature and at the very core causes great confusion for the person being gaslit.

The impact on mental health and well-being is profound. Furthermore, because it leaves one feeling fragmented and in a complete state of self-doubt, someone being gaslit will go to great lengths to mask the abuse, often thinking they are the “crazy” one. So, if you find yourself in a difficult relationship and questioning your perceptions or feeling like you’re “going crazy,” you may be experiencing gaslighting. This blog delves into gaslighting and its effects. I also offer hope for healing.

Gaslighting is Disorienting and Destructive

Gaslighting is a form of emotional manipulation that involves distorting or denying your reality to the extent that you question your perceptions and memories. It’s subtle in nature and slowly chips away at your confidence, self-esteem, and ultimately your ability to navigate life effectively. The uncertainty that ensues erodes your very identity.

I find the origin of the term fascinating and recommend the 1938 film “Gas Light” to anyone seeking more understanding. In the film, the husband manipulates the wife by dimming the gas lights in the house only to tell her she is imagining the changes. By causing her to doubt her own reality, he manages to write off her claims of the dimming lights as signs of insanity. In the end, he is able to commit her to an institution only to take her inheritance. The audience watches as the wife slowly begins to lose herself and her sense of reality.

The word was first used in the 1950s but only in recent years has it become common vocabulary. Given the severity of its impact and its silent and subtle nature, it’s important to know the signs. The journey of healing begins with the recognition of gaslighting and understanding the severe impact it has on mental health and well-being.

Image of a couple standing together outside. Discover how gaslighting can be affecting your relationship and how trauma therapy in Austin, TX can help.

Gaslighting: What Does it Look Like?

Recognizing gaslighting can be challenging, especially when the manipulator is adept at concealing their motives. Gaslighters present distorted versions of events and may even outright deny they ever happened, leaving you with a profound sense of cognitive dissonance. Realizing that you are being gaslit is a powerful step towards regaining control of reality.

Look Out For The Following Signs of Gaslighting:

  • Withholding information from you
  • Countering information to make you doubt your memory
  • Trivializing your thoughts or feelings
  • Using your words against you
  • Dismissing your experiences
  • Twisting or retelling events to shift blame to you.
  • Denying that the abuse happened

Common Phrases in Gaslighting:

  • You’re crazy and others think you are too.
  • You really don’t feel that way.
  • I’m worried about you; you keep forgetting things.
  • That never happened.
  • You’re overreacting; you’re too sensitive; you’re crazy.
  • You don’t really feel that way.
  • It’s all in your head.

Effects of Gaslighting and Relational Trauma on Well-Being

The impact of gaslighting can be devastating to one’s mental health. It causes confusion, self-doubt, and a questioning of one’s sanity. Gaslighters often aim to amass control and power over you. Mental instability becomes a means to that end. The impact of gaslighting can manifest in many ways:

  • Development of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Confusion and difficulty making decisions
  • Adherence to their version of reality to avoid conflict
  • Withdrawal from family, friends, and social activities
  • Masking and coping through addiction or other harmful methods
  • Suicidal thoughts and ideation

Image of a happy woman standing in a field of flowers. Discover how gaslighting can cause relationship trauma and how trauma therapy in Austin, TX can help you cope.

Seeking Relational Trauma Therapy: From Doubt to Certainty

You may be wondering if you can heal, if you can feel alive and confident once again. This is a normal response to relational trauma and gaslighting. But you don’t have to let trauma define you. You can grow beyond your trauma. Healing is possible with trauma therapy. I have witnessed the immense challenges that survivors of relational trauma face. And, I have also had the privilege of witnessing their resilience and capacity for healing.

Gaslighting is an indicator of emotional abuse and relational trauma. Bridging the knowledge gap about gaslighting is vital to recognizing relational trauma. If you feel you are in an emotionally abusive relationship or suspect that a loved one is, reach out for help. Healing requires awareness, acknowledgment, and the courage to seek help. Each step taken in this direction is a step towards growing beyond your trauma to a place where you can reclaim your truth, your identity, and your well-being.

Other Therapy Services Offered at Lysle Shaw Psychotherapy in Austin, Houston, and throughout Texas

I provide online trauma therapy in Texas. If you’re ready to begin trauma therapy and think we may be a good fit, reach out for a phone consultation. I would be honored to work with you. Begin your journey toward healing and growth by reaching out today. Find more articles like this on my blog!

Image of a couple sitting on a bench on a sunny day. Discover how online trauma therapy in Austin, TX can help you cope with gaslighting and relational trauma.

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