When most people hear the words "domestic violence," they typically think of the physical abuse perpetrated on the victims. While it's true that this form is potentially lethal, psychological abuse can leave life-long psychic scars.
Beware of "gaslighting"
Abusers can launch devastating psychological attacks on their partners in a practice known as "gaslighting." The name is derived from a play from the late 1930s where the lead actor tries to drive his wife to madness by making her doubt her own sanity.
That's precisely what modern gaslighters attempt with their own victims. For instance, they may say things to them like the following:
- That never happened -- you're crazy.
- You're making that up.
- Is your memory playing tricks on you again?
Think about how devastating it would be to be isolated from familial and other support systems, as that is the first step abusers take to enhance their victims' vulnerability. Once the victims are isolated, the abusers begin to break down their psychological defenses.
Victims can lose their instincts for self-preservation because they doubt both their perception and gut instincts. If they are unable to continue thinking for themselves, they will be especially easy for their abusers to control and manipulate.
Countering -- Abusers question their victims' account of events. They deny that something occurred, or alter the timeframe of events.
Withholding -- The abusive spouses or partners act like they can't understand what their victims explain or refuse to hear them out entirely.
Trivializing -- Domestic abusers make light of their victims' hurt feelings after a verbal attack. They accuse them of being "too sensitive" or imply they had no right to get mad over what occurred.
Diverting or blocking -- Abusers change the subject when victims attempt to address the abuse. They might also imply that their victims imagined it or that victims' friends or family members influenced their actions.
Amnesia -- Abusive partners pretend to forget pivotal events happened. After a reconciliation, they may deny that they ever made promises to their victims.
It's not an overnight process
Another reason why gaslighting can be particularly effective is that it is a gradual process that evolves over time. Once the abusive pattern takes form, an escalation of the seriousness of the attack begins. But the harm has already begun.
Not being able to trust your own reality is earth-shattering. Victims become unable to fend for themselves and rely totally on their abusers, which is the end game of the abusers.
If you think that you could be a victim of gaslighting, ask yourself if:
- You frequently question whether you are too sensitive.
- You always second-guess yourself.
- You find that you always apologize to your partner.
- You are often confused about events or sequences or wonder if you are crazy.
- You try to excuse your partner's behavior to family and friends.
- You have lied to dodge attempts to question reality.
- You need help to make the most basic decisions.
- Life is without happiness, joy or hope.
- You limit what you share with family and friends to avoid making excuses or offering explanations.
Life is too short and tenuous to spend it with someone who keeps you mentally clouded and miserable. If you are ready to make a change for the better and reclaim your mental health, learn what legal challenges you face to obtaining your freedom.