So, what exactly is gaslighting?

Jul 30, 2018

Even if you’re not a fan of the trending ITV2 reality series ‘Love Island’, you may still have heard about the reports of gaslighting that have emerged from the show recently.

Women’s Aid hit the headlines by issuing a warning following a June episode of the show, in which 22 year-old contestant Adam Collard displayed “clear warning signs of gaslighting and emotional abuse” towards fellow contestant Rosie Williams.

To clarify, gaslighting is a term used when somebody is emotionally manipulated by another person, to the extent that they begin to doubt their own judgement. In relationships, gaslighting can emerge when a partner attempts to gain control by trivialising your thoughts and feelings, questioning your memory of events, or turning things around to blame you.

If you second-guess yourself, continually question your perception of reality (perhaps calling yourself “crazy” in the process), and suffer from low confidence, it is possible that you are a victim of gaslighting.

Though emotional abuse such as gaslighting is slow-burning and unseen, the damage it causes can be just as harmful as physical abuse. Rapidly changing moods and situations can be very frightening, and in fact gaslighting is a tactic that is often successfully used by terrorists, torturers and cult leaders. They know very well that mentally disorientating their victims will keep them scared and compliant.

Sandra Horley, Chief Executive of Refuge, stated that “it is especially powerful when a man inflicts gaslighting on a woman, as it takes advantage of the damaging notion of women being somehow hysterical or over emotional” – particularly if the man has cultivated a kind and easygoing image to people on the outside of the relationship.

Sandra Horley continued: “If you alter your behaviour because you are frightened of how your partner will react, you are being abused.”

If you believe you may be a victim of gaslighting in a relationship, watch out for instances of blatant lying, snide comments, using close friends or family members as ammunition (for example if you have children, they may tell you that you shouldn’t have had them), and odd moments of praise. Occasional praise has the effect of keeping you unbalanced, as you tell yourself that your partner “isn’t all that bad”.

The good news? Following the offending ‘Love Island’ episode, social media immediately lit up with both men and women condemning Adam Collard’s behaviour. In a later show, Rosie Williams took Collard firmly to task about the way he had been treating her, eventually earning an apology.

It isn’t as hard as you may think for others to recognise emotionally damaging behaviour, and there is a wealth of support available if you yourself are a victim, or you believe that somebody else is suffering from emotional abuse such as gaslighting.

All About People offer a completely safe, completely confidential counselling service, with sessions conducted in Leamington Spa or over the telephone, in the comfort of your home. Our friendly team of therapists are trained, experienced and non-judgemental, so you can talk in comfort.

To find out more, or to arrange a session, simply contact us.

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