NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Are You Being Gaslighted in Your Relationship?

In the 1944 film, "Gaslight", Ingrid Bergman's husband, played by Charles Boyer, attempts to manipulate his wife and others to convince them that she is insane.  He secretly manipulates certain elements in their home, including dimming the gas lights, and insisting to his wife and others that she is confused and misremembering things.  During the 1970s, the term "gaslighting" began to be used to describe how a manipulative and abusive person can try to convince someone that they're not in touch with reality.

Gaslighting in Relationships
Gaslighting is a very real phenomenon in relationships (see my article: A Relationship With a Narcissist Can Have a Negative Impact on Your Self Esteem).

People, who are especially adept at gaslighting, are often sociopathic.  They use gaslighting in their relationships as a way to dominate their spouse or partner to get what they want.  They know exactly what they are doing and they have no remorse for their abusive behavior.  

This is the hallmark of sociopathic behavior.  Their goal is to systemically destroy their partner 's sense of self and sense of reality.  Just as in the movie, this can start in small ways and then it can gradually build to bigger things.

Are You Being Gaslighted in Your Relationship?

People who engage in this form of manipulation often know intuitively how to choose their "victims."  They choose people that they know they can dominate and demean.

The person who uses gaslighting to manipulate can be very convincing.  Sometimes, even psychotherapists or marriage counselors are taken in by their manipulation.

Over time, especially in relationships where the more passive partner is dependent upon the person who is engaging in "gaslighting," becomes more confused and less confident.  His or her sense of self diminishes as he or she becomes more "brain washed" by the manipulative spouse.

In some cases, friends or family members might be able to see that the manipulative spouse is "gaslighting"the more passive spouse.  They might try to warn the more passive spouse, but this is often to no avail.  The passive spouse is often in denial about his or her sociopathic spouse.

Gaslighting is a Serious Form of Emotional Abuse
It's important to understand that "gaslighting"or any other form of emotional abuse is a serious problem, and the more passive spouse who is being "gaslighted" needs to be in his or her own individual therapy.   

Although there could be exceptions, in most cases that I have seen, the manipulative spouse lacks empathy and isn't interested in changing, which is why marriage counseling often doesn't work with couples that have this dynamic.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you suspect that your spouse or partner is attempting to "gaslight" you by trying to destroy your confidence in your sense of reality, you owe it to yourself to get help from a skilled, licensed mental health clinician as soon as possible.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist (see my article: What is a Trauma Therapist?).

I work with individuals and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.