Gaslighting: Are You At Risk?
Domestic abuse comes in different forms and may include or escalate to physical abuse, but not always. All of them are damaging to your self-esteem and can cause trauma and depression. Name-calling, put downs, blaming, cruelty, hypercriticism, control, isolating you from friends or family members, financial abuse, discounting your needs and feelings, passive aggressive behavior, invading personal privacy, threats, and other forms of abuse are common.
Abuse victims may also be subjected to gaslighting, a destabilizing form of psychological abuse used frequently by narcissists.
What exactly is gaslighting?
Gaslighting is more common than one might think. The abuser asserts that what is false is true or what is true is false to make their victim doubt their own memory and even their sanity. The abuser may deny that an abusive incident ever happened, or claim that something else happened when it really didn’t. Events are embellished or facts taken out to put the abuser in the best possible light. The abuser lies to manipulate their victim and disorient them, even possibly staging events that are bizarre.
The intent behind gaslighting is to make the victim lose confidence and begin to doubt their perceptions of what is actually real.
You might not even recognize the extent to which it has been happening to you until long after your divorce is final and the fog in your mind clears. If you tried to assume the best about your partner, you may have charitably attributed a pattern of lies to either their faulty memory or yours. It is very destabilizing when someone intentionally deceives you, as you begin to doubt what you know is true. It makes you lose perspective and trust in yourself, which is exactly what your partner is trying to achieve. Nobody wants to believe that the person they married is manipulative and a liar.
Signs of gaslighting
If you feel uneasy, confused, insecure, trapped, and deflated around your abusive partner, they may be gaslighting you.
Pay attention to signs of destabilization that this insidious behavior may cause, such as a loss of confidence in your judgment and ability to make decisions, depression, second guessing every decision, passiveness, fear of expressing feelings or opinions, apologizing without knowing why, indecisiveness, feeling lonely and isolated, suspicions that you have memory problems or feelings that you may be crazy, unstable, or neurotic.
You may have physical side effects, such as difficulty concentrating, anxiety, depression, nightmares, muscle tension, or aches and pains.
Why do narcissists lie?
I believe that narcissists have been deeply wounded and lie to hide the truth and protect their lack of self-esteem and fragile identity. They self-aggrandize and exaggerate their abilities and talents, frequently criticizing others while lacking any awareness of their own flaws. All of their lies become their truth, as they are incapable of admitting that they make mistakes or behave poorly.
To protect their grandiose self-concept, narcissists frequently convince themselves over time that their lies are true.
A narcissist will lie to defend themselves, shift blame to their victim, use gaslighting, or smear their victim’s reputation by calling them a liar.
How to cope with gaslighting
It may be difficult to accept, but you cannot change a narcissist or compel one to tell the truth. It is just not in their nature. They may tell the truth temporarily to manipulate you and get you to stay or do what they want, only to revert to their revised version of the truth later on, after they have accomplished their objective. Be aware that your abuser may be gaslighting other family members when you are not present to turn them against you. He or she is a master at manipulation and this can be dangerous.
Tell the truth, document events as they occur, and make plans to leave your abuser.
Their toxic behavior will not stop. The only way to end it is to leave it and them behind.
For those are looking for the help, tools, and insight to attain freedom from an abusive relationship safely and strategically, visit our library of free resources or check out the complete survival guide, “Breaking Bonds: How to Divorce an Abuser and Heal,” available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and anywhere that sells books.
Rosemary Lombardy is a financial advisor with over 35 years of experience, and the founder of Breaking Bonds, a comprehensive resource platform for abused women. Although her professional expertise is in financial matters, her perspective on marital abuse, divorce, and recovery is deeply heartfelt and holistic. She draws on decades of personal experience, as well as the experiences of others, to help inform abused spouses so that they will become empowered to leave their abusers and begin to heal.
Rosemary Lombardy's award-winning new book, Breaking Bonds: How to Divorce an Abuser and Heal - A Survival Guide is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and anywhere that sells books.