What is it?
A manipulation tactic where an abuser undermines a victim’s reality, perception and sanity. Within the realm of domestic abuse, gaslighting becomes a powerful tool for control and dominance.
Idealisation- beginning of a relationship whereby the victim is carried along on excitement and the abuser will put the victim on a pedestal.
Devaluation- abuser will cease the adoration of the victim and employ psychological and emotional tactics to devalue and destabilise them.
Discard– If the victim begins to fight back or the abuser no longer has a use for the victim, the abuser will end the relationship abruptly and without warning.
Where does it come from?
The 1938 play “Gas Light” – a wealthy man makes his wife believe she is going insane by hiding things to question her sanity, lying to her, not allowing her to have visitors and telling her she “reads meanings into everything”.
What are the signs?
- Questioning and ridiculing the victim’s memory
- Withholding information
- Constantly contradicting or discounting information that comes from the victim
- Blaming the victim and making them feel as though they have failed
- Silent and sulky treatment
- Dismissive language i.e., “you’re so paranoid” or “don’t be so dramatic”, or “you’re imagining things”.
- Creating inexplicable incidents to blame the victim
- Unconditional apologies like “I am sorry that you feel that way” where no responsibility is being taken for behaviour.
- Pitting people against each other
What is the impact on the victims?
To a victim, this may present as though they are constantly second-guessing themselves by questioning their judgement, memory, sanity and self-confidence.
As gas-lighting can undermine a person’s emotional well-being, they may feel anxious and confused. Their behaviour may become erratic due to increased fear and vulnerability.
Gas-lighting can mean that victims become isolated from their support network meaning they become reliant on the abuser for emotional stability. They may also feel like they constantly need to apologise to the abuser and make excuses for the abuser’s behaviour to friends and family.
How can the cycle be broken?
- Raise awareness – educate people on the tactics and impacts
- Talk to someone – reach out to trusted friends, family members, and support organisations. Next Link – 0808 2000 247
- Recognise the warning signs – encourage people to be vigilant for the signs and equip people with knowledge about healthy relationships.
If you are being affected by these issues, Lyons Davidson can discuss help which can be provided to keep you safe.