Domestic violence is something women around the whole globe are experiencing but when the abuser leaves no mark on your body then where should a person go? Where should women go to file a complaint against the abuser? Her family and relatives may not recognize when all is not well and the victim person can find it challenging to translate what’s happening? How the term gaslighting came to exist?
The term gaslight originates with a 1938 play called “Gas Light.” In the play, a woman’s husband tries to convince her that she is mentally unstable. He makes small changes in her environment, such as dimming the gaslights in their house. He then convinces his wife she is simply imagining these changes. His ultimate goal is to have her committed to an asylum so he can steal her inheritance. It’s an abusive tactic aimed to make another person doubt. It’s a behaviour you can observe in male members or those who are in an authoritarian position.
A Survivor’s Tale:
Survivors of gaslighting explain the psychological trauma can lead to severe depression, and in some cases, a victim may even be driven to suicide. A major concern related to this is nobody understands what exactly is happening to someone and her mind. One can talk only in metaphor. Gaslighters are generally of narcissistic and aggressive personality types, which makes them do whatever it takes to secure and maintain a position of advantage over their partner.
Riya’s(name changed) experience was disastrous and she went into clinical depression. Her mind was controlled by her abusive partner. It was insidious and in many ways, could be considered worse than physical abuse because it could not be pinpointed. Her friends started doubting her because she was losing her mental balance. She started speaking the mind of the abusive partner.
What Gaslighting Looks Like:
The abuser will manipulate you and judge you for your career and friends. He will abuse you and will undermine you with phrases like “you are good for nothing”, thus putting you in dilemma where you start questioning yourself. Here are the typical signs you can note how a person gaslights you:
- Confuse the partner’s memory or accuses them of being wrong
- Trivializes the feeling of a partner.
- The partner will abuse and manipulate you.
- A gaslighter will make you doubt your friends and family so that you will stay alone.
Robert Stern, who wrote the book “The Gaslight Effect: How to Spot and Survive the Hidden Manipulation Others Use to Control Your Life” believes that women are more often the victims of gaslighting because they learn to focus on others and see things from their points of view, as well as prioritize other people’s feelings over their own. He also pointed out that people are not born gaslighters and it’s social learning.
Gaslighting In The Indian Society:
When we speak about gaslighting, it is important to talk about one’s society too. Indian society is a hierarchical society where we can see the division of castes. In Indian society, we can see how an upper-caste uses casteist slurs for lower castes to degrade them. We need to recognize that while ending the stigma around mental health and gaslighting, it is crucial to remove the pain of those who experience it, we also need strong legal and therapeutic solutions that challenge discriminatory behaviours against survivors. We also need more mindful engagement to explore a wider reach for gendered violence which can also provide relief sufferers of gaslighting and intimate partner violence.
These are some common ways in which abusive individuals use gaslighting to dismantle the mental and emotional functioning of people. What can a person do once they’ve identified that they are a victim of gaslighting? They can go to a psychiatrist and take counselling sessions to overcome this phase.
Another problem that needs to be tackled is the lack of conversation surrounding this topic; people speak more about domestic violence and the bruises and marks on the skin but we never discussed psychological abuse. This needs to change.
Gaslighting is a social behaviour that a person learns at a tender age and it often was done by men because they are in a powerful position in society. So we need to take care of our boys. We need to take care of mental health and we can surely save millions of lives in India and all over the world.