Have you ever been in a relationship where your partner did little things to make you think you're going crazy?
You could be a victim of ‘gaslighting’ - an insidious form of emotional abuse in which a person is manipulated (often by a partner and most often by a male partner) into doubting their own memory, perception and sanity.
The term ‘gaslighting’ originated with the 1938 stage play Gaslight and its two 1940s film adaptions. In the most famous – the MGM version of 1944 – Ingrid Bergman plays a woman whose tormenting husband nearly succeeds in convincing her that she is insane.
Although the cinema version of gaslighting is more insidious and crazy-making than what happens in real life relationships, Robin Stern says it can still be very serious.
So what are the signs you’re being gaslighted?
Robin gives quite a long list of potential indicators:
“When you find yourself unsure of things you used to be sure of, when you just don’t feel like yourself anymore, when you find you’re embarrassed to tell close friends and family members what your relationship is like or how you’re feeling in the relationship, when you don’t want to tell your partner about things that are going on because you don’t want to listen to their reaction.”
She says it can also be useful to write down what is said in a conversation – i.e. "I said, he said, I said, he said" to get a clearer picture.
“Take a look at whether the things you’re actually asking are the same things that he’s addressing – or has he switched the conversation somewhere in the middle?"
For further confirmation, talk to those closest to you.
“Ask people who know you really well what they think about the way you’re thinking about your relationship. Are they noticing any changes in you?”
And if you are being gaslighted?
Robin says extricating yourself from this power dynamic is not easy, but, thankfully, is possible. The first step is to confirm what is going on.
Are You Being Gaslighted? (Robin Stern’s 15 telltale signs)
Professor Robin Stern is the associate director for the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. She is also the author of The Gaslight Effect: How to Spot and Survive the Hidden Manipulations Other People Use to Control Your Life.