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Are you a victim of Gaslighting?

Kavita Sharma

An Emotional abuse making you mentally, socially and physically sick.

Do you feel depressed for not being able to assert your choice, or feel dominated by your partner who imposes his or her choice on you and you find no choice but to follow the suits? You may be suffering from Gaslighting. Although not of common knowledge, Gaslighting is a fairly common term in psychology defined as an emotional abuse and its victims are increasing everyday not only in India but all over the world.

What is Gaslighting

Although both men and women can be the victims, according to the psychologists more females are becoming a victim of it. The term is used where, in a relationship one person questions or dominates another in terms of his or her choices and decisions. People those who are emotionally abused by their partner are identified as a victim of Gaslighting.

The real story….

This is a story of a 32 year old women Anisa Khan, mother of three girls. Due to years of emotional trauma and victimisation from her husband and in-laws Anisa, today is a victim of Gaslighting. Due to continuous emotional abused become a patient of depression. Although she denies physical abuse by her husband and his family day to day basis of emotional abuse has sewerly impacted her mental health.

When I met her while attending a family function in Uttar Pradesh, wearing a Blue jeans and red top there was Anisa’s gazing eyes that caught my attention. She was in full sleeves ladies suit and dupatta (stole) covering her head completely. She was continuously staring me and when she found me alone she opened up. “I also want to wear clothes like you, I have ordered some western dresses for me but by in –laws restrict me from wearing them and especially my Husband”. Her husband does not allow her to wear such dresses even on vacations, and insist that I don’t look good in these, said Anisa.

“I am not allowed to do anything of my choice, I feel helpless, I am not able to concentrate on anything not even my kids because I always feel dejected”. It’s not that they abuse me or physically torture me but they forbid me from doing anything of my choice, I can’t follow my passion, they always point out mistakes in my work and this is making me mentally unfit, Anisa added. This is not only a story of Anisa but many like her are going through this emotional trauma.

How does Gaslighting affect relationships

For a victim of Gaslighting it becomes difficult to continue a relationship with the dominating partner. In such a situation there is lack of trust and the person struggling to cope with the situation develops anxiety and depression. He/ she loses his confidence and becomes unsocial.

Often Gaslighting is attributed to romantic relationship but virtually all kind relationships can be affected by phenomenon of Gaslighting. This includes relationships in family place, workplace, friends and even a relationship between political figure and its constituents. In a gaslighting relationships one partner tries to overpower other and follows every techniques to dominate the partner.

A person with low self-esteem or mental health issues is more vulnerable to gaslighting. Often people fear that they will never come out of this situation but it is not true. Although road to recovery, according to the experts is a slow process but it can be cured. The victims of gaslighting needs motivation and support. According to a renowned psychologist, Maya Mishra, Gaslighting is a deliberate strategy to control a partner. By undermining their sense of reality, the gaslighter maintains power and manipulates their behaviour. The impact is severe, causing confusion, self-doubt and low self-esteem. Here victims struggle to trust themselves or make decisions independently, relying on the gaslighter for validation, she added.

Can Men be the victim of Gaslighting?

According to, a consumer mental health website, “gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse where the abuser manipulates situations repeatedly to trick the victim into distrusting his or her own memory and incidentally very few male are victims of it as compared to females. This can be emotional empowering, financial power relationship between a boss and its employee and physical power relationship between the able and disabled person. Boss and employee can be of opposite sexes. In same sex relationships also a more powerful partner can dominate the other.

Getting out of the tormented and emotionally abusive relationship can help but often it is difficult for the victims to identify the problem. Though the female victims of gaslighting can get help outside if they want to end up their relationship, the male victims of gaslighting have deck stacked against them. If a male boss gaslights a male victim he can leave the job, but in a romantic relationship he is less likely to be believed or have pity on him.

Psychology behind Gaslighting

According to the psychologists, gaslighting is an insidious form of abuse which makes victim believe what their abuser tells is true. The term gaslighting comes from a 1938 British Play “Gas Light’ where a husband attempts to drive his wife Crazy using variety of tricks causing her to question her own perceptions and sanity. Movie named ‘Gaslight’ was also released in 1940 and 1944.

Gaslighting techniques are used to hide truths that the abuser doesn”t want the victim to realize. For example the abuser here will remove the keys from the place where they are always kept and victim will always think that she has misplaced it. Then he would help the victim in getting the keys, but would blame her for her bad memory. Typically gaslighters are seeking to gain power and control over the other person, by distorting reality and forcing them to question their own judgement and institution. A Gaslighter will often make you beg for their forgiveness even if you have not committed any wrong, sometimes you may not even know for what you are apologizing. But it will become your responsibility to calm them everytime says Somya, another psychologist by profession.

Not only the adults but children are also victims of gaslighting. Children are trained to obey adults so they are easy prey for those who want to manipulate them, added Maya. It is important to make them understand of gaslighting and recognize it so that they are protected. Children by their age,inexperience and dependence on adults are vulnerable, especially when the adult is in a position of authority. Kids should be instructed in home, schools, clubs, sports organizations, hobby centers etc.

Signs of a Gaslighting victim

The person who is a victim of gaslighting is often confused, has self-doubts and constantly questions herself/himself of not being “good enough”. Always feels unhappy and hopeless and is unable to make simple decisions, often make excuses about his Partner, feels low, stays away from social life, always feel isolated.

Highly sensitive people are more susceptible to gaslighting because they do not trust themselves. Gaslighting is often used by people with narcissistic personality disorder,abusive individuals, cult leaders, criminals and dictators.

Gaslighting can also be Brain Destroying

If a person is physically fit, has no fat but is told that you are overweight, that person gets confused, the brain struggles to find the right answer. And if that person is repeatedly told that he or she is unfit, they start questioning themselves, Am I really Unfit? Gaslighting then impacts your brain seriously. So it is important to be mentally fit to understand whats right for you.

According to a survey administered by National Domestic Violence Hotline 74 % of the females victims have experienced gaslighting by their partner.

Gaslighting is a crime now, it is a illegal in UK and USA. It is a crime in India also and soon this criminal offence is likely to be penalised in upcoming Digital India Bill.

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