I think the phrase ‘gas lighting’ has been thrown around recently with little historical context or understanding of what it really is or what the signs are if you truly are being gaslighted within a relationship. From personal experience, I never knew I was being gaslighted until a friend pointed it out to me, explained it and had an open conversation with me about my relationship. Since that moment, I began to see signs of gaslighting with my own eyes and it was one of the reasons I took myself out of that situation, however, without the knowledge that my friend kindly gave me, I would have no clue that I was in a relationship with someone who was gaslighting me nearly every single day. Here is a short history of where gaslighting originated from and signs to look out for in a relationship.
Patrick Hamilton’s mystery/thriller play, “Gaslight”
Hamilton’s play ‘Gaslight’ explores a man who destroys his wife’s sanity, placing her into an insane asylum so that he can go find jewels of the late woman he murdered. The play is set in the 19th century in which streets were lit by gaslights- where the title originates from. Jack, the husband, uses different methods to prove to his wife that she is insane; secretly moving objects so that his wife believes she has misplaced them, creating sounds to make her believe that she is hallucinating and going insane. Belle begins to believe that she is going insane, she can no longer believe her own perception of reality.
The term ‘gaslighting’ came to describe a form of psychological abuse in which the abuser manipulates the victims into doubting their own mind.
Signs that you are being gaslighted:
1. You begin to doubt your sanity over little things- someone who is gaslighting you will make you believe you are forgetting things, such as small conversations that the two of you have had. They will make it obvious that you have apparently forgotten something important and make you feel guilty for it or use it against you.
2. You begin to second guess yourself- you will question your decisions and choices and worry about how they will impact your partner and the relationship.
3. Doubt yourself- doubting your self worth can come from your partner making you feel insecure. They may question your clothing choices or how you style your hair, making you doubt the way you do those things and in turn attack your self worth.
4. You invalidate your own feelings and emotions- someone who is gaslighting you will make you question your own feelings and emotions. They will make you feel stupid for getting upset over things, tell you to ‘get over it’ or that ‘you are too sensitive’.
5. You feel confused- again doubting yourself and feeling in a state of permanent confusion, again this is implemented by the partner.
6. You apologise a lot, even when you do not need to- a need to say sorry constantly is typical in a gaslighted relationship. Feeling as if you have always done wrong or you wish to extinguish an argument before things get too heated.
7. You do not know who you are- not recognising the person you are is something I personally experienced. Looking into the mirror and not realising the face staring back is something hard to explain, you feel as if your identity has been erased or only belongs to you when you are with your partner. You are more than the person in the relationship.
8. They make you feel as if you demand too much- simple things like asking for affection or attention seem outrageous demands to someone who is gaslighting you. Again, I experienced this myself, asking for affection was always deemed as effort and I eventually began to pull away, to stop asking for those small demands that he made huge issues.
9. You feel insane- literally feel insane. You may begin to feel out of control. If you have mental health illnesses then you may think they are getting worse, a gaslighter will purposely do this so that you depend on them.
10. You have been in this long-term relationship and say ‘this is what it is’- you give in to the idea that this relationship is as good as it’s going to get, meaning you are too afraid to leave and think you deserve this treatment… this is false! You deserve better than the current relationship.
If you see these signs, take notice of them.
Do not push them aside and think things will get better or give excuses. It is important that if you have a friend or family member who cannot see these signs that you (kindly) express them to the person, sometimes love blinds us from the truth. Without my friends, I would never have noticed it or even learnt what gaslighting meant and I can take these facts with me into my next endeavour.