The term “gaslight effect” comes from the a 1944 film starring Ingrid Bergman. In the film, Bergman’s character is made to feel that she is going crazy by her husband. He does this by creating situations in which Bergman begins to doubt her own ability to recognize what is real and what is not.
Today the term refers to psychological and emotional abuse inflicted on one partner by another partner. If you are in a relationship in which you feel that you constantly need to prove yourself or your feelings are invalidated then it may be that you are being gaslighted. Gaslighted can be hard to pinpoint because the attacker is hiding behind a mask of good will or “being right”. Some traits to look for in this type of unhealthy relationship are a partner who often says to you that you are “too sensitive”, right after he insults you or calls you a name or puts you down in front of others. Other traits are when you know something is right and the person you are with insist that you are wrong, causing you to doubt yourself and your own truth.
Eventually this type of relationship will cause the victim to experience a loss of joy in life. They become so focused on making their partner see that they really are smart, caring, good people or whatever traits are being attacked that their ability to enjoy life vanishes.
There are some tools to help the partner who makes the decision that they want to stay in the relationship. It is not easy and requires the ability to learn to speak up for oneself in healthy ways and to not engage in trying to win an argument. Gaslighters have more experience and skill at “winning” than their victims.
*Learn to “agree to disagree” even if you gaslighter partner wants to continue the argument.
* Learn to practice not responding to every insult or veiled criticism that your gaslighter partner says to you.
*Let your partner know what your boundaries are, and when they cross the line. A good time to have a discussion about boundaries is before an argument.
* Guard against constantly seeking your partner’s approval or begging them for reassurance. Sometimes they will not approve. Practice the emotional muscle it takes to not constantly seek approval.