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Gaslighting is a difficult aspect of emotional health. Probably the most common and easiest way to think about gaslighting is when you are psychologically manipulated by someone to question your own sanity.

Gaslighting

Gaslighting is when someone presents a false story which makes you question your perceptions of the person, allowing for you to be misled, disoriented and/or distressed. When your perception of the reality around you becomes disoriented, you can easily question your sanity as your self-esteem deteriorates.

When this happens, it can make it easier for others to take advantage of you, kind of like a false lighthouse in the fog, leading you to the rocks rather than the safe waters.

In abusive relationships (romantic and others as well), this is where breadcrumbing comes into play. Breadcrumbing is where someone gives sporadic (false or real) information to keep you on a line of false hope as there is little follow-through.

With emotional distress from gaslighting and then desperately trying to find a path of relief on the falsified path of relief and validation, a codependent or dependent emotional trap is set.

That's where you can be captured in the cycle of abuse, causing more and more deterioration of self-esteem and illusionary hope and increased dependence on another person, who can then dominate you.

Just like other types of domestic abuse and relational dysfunction, gaslighting and breadcrumbing are not gender specific. Even though these types of relational dynamics are mostly thought of in romantic relationships, as you become aware of this type of emotional manipulation, you will notice dysfunctional behavior in many situations: Politics, the media, advertisements, judicial systems, work — all of these have a tendency to set up emotional tug-of-wars, where someone is trying to break someone down and then entice them into a controlling environment where autonomy is taken and power is the goal.

Learning to keep your own autonomy, setting healthy boundaries and continuously working on your self-care can help eliminate hierarchal differentials within relationships.

You may also discover times where you may be doing the same. If we all begin with ourselves, then move to our personal and professional relationships, we could expand this to change the fear and atrocities our world is experiencing now. Starting with yourself is the key.

Becoming aware of emotional manipulation can help to decrease power-splitting and allow for more equality in the world.

What is Gaslighting?

The term “gaslight” is inspired by the 1944 film of the same name. In it, a husband slowly leads his wife to believe she’s losing her mind by doing things like dimming the gaslights and then pretending that he didn’t.

Gaslighting is a form of severe emotional manipulation where the goal of the gaslighter is to sow seeds of confusion. This aims to make you doubt your own thoughts, emotions, or reality.

A controlling partner may downplay an experience, like an angry outburst, and then accuse you of being overly sensitive. They may also say something hurtful, then follow it up with, “It was just a joke. You’re being dramatic.” This is gaslighting.

They may even deny saying things, lie to you or tell you that your gut instinct is wrong. At times, they may even ask you to seek help, saying that you’re losing your grip on reality.

Gaslighting is a common manipulation tactic of people with strong narcissistic, sociopathic, psychopathic tendencies. Here, often the perpetrator has some shady motives and doesn't really care that they hurt you. Narcissistic gaslighting is typically a long-term, gradual technique. The ultimate intention is to keep you under tight control and dependent on them.

The thing is, the more someone gaslights you, the more you begin to doubt yourself and wonder if they’re right.

Why gaslighting is so damaging

Gaslighting makes you doubt your own perception, your feelings, and your memory. It makes you doubt reality itself, and therefore your own sanity. When you doubt your perception of reality and you dont know if you are sane, then you can become insane, to the degree that you are detached from reality.

The levels of sanity and insanity varies in different areas of life and in different situations because all of us have certain blind spots, lapses, or lack in knowledge or perception. However, if you are deliberately and routinely made to doubt your accurate thoughts, feelings, motives, drives, and perceptions, then it damages or even destroys you as a person.

Doubting your sanity is scary (Is it real? Did I make it up? Did it really happen?). This sometimes results in the victim actually becoming detached from reality (in thought and in emotion) or not being able to process certain aspects of reality accurately.

It is more damaging the younger the person is because a child's brain is still developing and they are dependent on their caregiver.

Becoming aware, seeking out professionals and healthy friends can help give you reality checks on if you may be falling into or you are in an emotional trap.

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