Have you ever been labelled a ‘psycho’, possibly by an ex or someone you have had some kind of relation with? Well I have, and I am sure if you ask your friends that question, they will probably say yes too. So, let’s ask ourselves- why is this so common? And why does it seem ‘normal’ for women to be called ‘psychos’? Now I am not saying this is exclusively something that only women experience, because it isn’t- My point is, in normalising this behaviour, we open a gateway for those who take it further, and use it as an insidious form of control and manipulation. Gaslighting.
A few days ago, I was with a friend who expressed that she didn’t really know what gaslighting was. This left me thinking, how many people are actually unaware of what gaslighting is? Also, if people are unaware of it, how are they going to identify it if they need to? It just goes to show how much we need to raise more awareness so we can all be educated about the signs. Whether you are experiencing or have experienced gaslighting yourself; or whether you know someone who you suspect is a victim.
So, what is gaslighting? The Healthline defines it as “a form of emotional abuse” which is “the act of manipulating a person by forcing them to question their thoughts, memories, and the events occurring around them”.
It’s so important to recognise that this is a form of emotional abuse, as well as the fact that it can occur both inside and outside of relationships. It is common for perpetrators to use gaslighting as a form of manipulation against their victim of sexual violence and assault. So be aware that you don’t have to be in a relationship to feel gaslighted- regardless, everyone who has or has in the past experienced it, should be taken completely seriously.
Some examples of common ways in which gaslighting is conveyed include:
· Telling you that people are talking behind your back
· Saying things to you that they later deny having said
· Undermining your feelings
· Accusing you of making things up
All of these examples are just the basis of what gaslighting could include. ‘Gas lighters’ will use these in order to take control and supress victims into losing trust in themselves- but if you are a victim of this, you have to remember that you are not being over emotional and there has to be a reason that you are feeling this way. Take a stand and understand that this manipulation is a form of abuse and no one should have to deal with it.
Now we know what gaslighting is, let’s focus on the signs of it, whether you are a victim of gaslighting or have a friend you are worried about; it is so important to know the common signs in order to identify the problem and know what to do next:
· Feeling like you are no longer the person that you used to be
· Being more anxious and less confident than you used to be
· You could be often wondering if you’re being too sensitive
· Feeling like everything you do is wrong
· You are always thinking it’s your fault when things go wrong
I cannot stress enough how important it is to speak out. Equally if you are a friend of someone who is being or has been a victim of gaslighting - support them and talk to them! See how they are, or what you can do for them. Most importantly, be there for them.
Gaslighting is not something that we should be quiet about, it is something that we should be speaking about more. Break the stigma, talk to your friends and family about it, educate them, don’t allow victims to feel like they are silenced, or they are “overreacting”. Gaslighting is a form of abuse and needs to be recognised as one.
If you are a victim of gaslighting or after reading this you feel as though you are- I encourage you to get talking, start taking back control. Again, I understand this is easier said than done and some of you may feel like you won’t be believed, or you feel like you are overreacting because that’s what you have been made to feel like. But I am telling you on behalf of everyone at ‘Say it Loud’- We believe you.
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