“The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.” – George Orwell, 1984
1984 is fundamentally a book about politics, but how its fascist antagonist manipulates and lies to its citizenry is eerily similar to many abusive partners. Gaslighting is one of the cruelest, most sinister tactics in an abuser’s repertoire. Like 1984’s ruling “Party,” it is designed to make a victim forget they are a victim, and therefore rob them of their agency.
What is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting is the practice of feeding small bits of misinformation or outright lies to someone in order to make them doubt their own sanity, memory, or even perception of reality. Because these lies come from someone the victim trusts, they are more likely to fall for them. The person may be a parent, significant other, or coworker.
Psychologist Elinor Greenberg identified three primary goals of gaslighting:
The term originates from a 1938 play, fittingly titled Gas Light, about a manipulative husband.
Examples in Relationships
So how does gaslighting manifest? It can be both overt and innocuous.
Effects and Treatment
Gaslighting may make a victim feel dependent on their abuser, or to only trust their version of the truth. It can make someone feel weak, powerless, or even insane because they “ignore the evidence of their eyes and ears.”
Even after escaping abuse, victims of gaslighting may continue to doubt themselves, have low self-confidence, or suffer lifelong anxiety, depression, and/or PTSD.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is critical for victims of abusive relationships, be they romantic, familial or otherwise. You deserve the confidence to believe in yourself and regain your agency and inner strength. Azevedo Family Psychology can help you rebuild by understanding your trauma, triggers, and how to react to these behaviors. Contact our team today.