Gaslighting–a Codependent’s Dilemma
Gaslighting is a type of manipulation in which someone makes you question your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, memories, perceptions, and even your sanity. Many people with codependency are in relationships in which this occurs, especially if the partner is abusive and controlling. However, it is possible to be in a co-dependent relationship in which the partner is not abusive or controlling, but is impaired functionally or is emotionally unavailable. For those people, gaslighting may not apply.
Gaslighting Needs a Target
A person who uses this tactic always has a target or victim. It is a strategy used directly against another person in order to gain greater power and control over that person. Consequently, anyone who has an opinion the abuser doesn’t like is a potential target. The same is true for anyone whose behavior is disliked by the abuser. Typically, anything that feels to the abuser like a threat to his or her ultimate authority in a relationship is apt to draw fire. People who use this manipulation usually do not limit it to one target, but rather will use it whenever their authority is challenged. It is a common dynamic in domestic violence situations. Victims are often told their memories and perceptions of abuse are incorrect, for example.
The Details of the Manipulation
This form of manipulation can be very effective because it is often slow to reveal itself and is usually a concentrated and pervasive effort on many fronts of the victim’s life. For example, it can include:
- Telling others that you are crazy, make things up, exaggerate, can’t remember things–this is an effort to prevent others from believing the victim’s account of the abuse he or she is undergoing.
- Using confusion tactics to wear you down into compliance or submission–abusers understand that if you are confused long enough you are disempowered.
- They say one thing but do another. It is important to watch the behavior of a gaslighter rather than listen to explanations, compliments, etc.
- They lie and it’s not always a problem for them to get caught in a lie. If you have been lied to once, you don’t know what to believe or not in the future. This works to a gaslighter advantage because it further confuses you.
- When you seem to retreat from under their control, they will do something nice or give compliments to pull you back in closer.