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Gaslighting: What It Is & How To Spot It

There’s been a lot of talk about gaslighting over the last few days, the catalyst being a certain Love Island contestant. While reality TV may not reflect real life all the time, the emotional abuse millions of viewers have witnessed on the show has struck a nerve with many. The sad truth is this – every single woman you know will have had experiences of gaslighting. They might not know how to describe it, they may not even recognise it, but they will have experienced it. Adam is an embodiment of manipulative relationships that have become commonplace in modern day society. It’s subtle, chilling and unnerving to watch. And familiar. Women’s Aid has spoken out against the contestant stating “On the latest series of Love Island, there are clear warning signs in Adam’s behaviour. In a relationship, a partner questioning your memory of events, trivialising your thoughts or feelings, and turning things around to blame you can be part of a pattern of gaslighting and emotional abuse”.

It’s been a painful watch, to see Adam smirking and laughing while Rosie, understandably and rationally, expresses her upset over the situation. Gaslighting is insidious, often normalised and a product of the patriarchal society we live in. Emotionally abusive and manipulative men have the backing of a society that demonises women as “crazy”, “psycho” and “sensitive” as a way to undermine their opinions.

Some viewers have criticised Love Island for normalising Gaslighting, others are calling for his removal from the show. One thing we can all hope for is that this situation will educate and show young girls what is and isn’t a healthy relationship, and teach them that they should never, ever, accept this behaviour.

Below, we’ve listed typical signs of emotional abuse and gaslighting:

 

  1. They tell blatant lies: one sure-fire way to tell if you’re dealing with a Gaslighter is their ability to dismiss facts that you both know are true. They’ll tell you that you didn’t say something or see something correctly – it’s the act of unbalancing you and breaking down your self-belief.
  2. They’ll flip the issue: a Gaslighter will tell you “you’re being too sensitive” or “you’re acting crazy” – they want you to lose faith in your own judgement, they want you to believe that you’re the problem and not them.
  3. The shut you down: when a Gaslighter knows they’re wrong, rather than addressing it or apologising, they’ll block you out. They’ll refuse to discuss the issue, they’ll ask you to “stop going on about it” and they’ll make you regret bringing it up in the first place – which, ultimately, further reinforces their message that your feelings aren’t important or valid.
  4. They shift a ‘sorry’ onto you: a Gaslighter wants to make you feel like everything is your fault. If they do apologise, which is rarely, they’ll still manage to turn it around. A “sorry you felt that way”, “sorry you got upset about this” or a “sorry but you weren’t clear” – it’s never genuine, and the end game is to make you feel lesser. Textbook narcissism.

If you spot this behaviour in a partner or witness it happening to another person, please speak out or contact the below helpline:

Women’s Aid: 0808 2000 247 (freephone 2hr National Domestic Violence Helpline).

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