Friday 22 June 2018

What is gaslighting and has it happened to you?

Gaslighting isn't anything new. In fact, the term stems from a play by Patrick Hamilton called Gas Light, in which the main character Bella is made to feel insane by her husband Jack, who disappears every night and flirts with their servants.

The word has been used to describe behaviour in a relationship where one party tries to manipulate the other's perception of a situation by making them second-guess themselves. For example, in a physically abusive relationship, the opressor may deny that they were ever violent towards the victim, making the victim question themselves. It creates dependency for the victim and control for the opressor, which is obviously toxic in a relationship.

The reason I'm talking about gaslighting on my blog today is due to the amount of media coverage surrounding Love Island's Adam and his attitude towards Rosie. I'm a follower of the show (and I'm not afraid to admit that because I think you can watch something and just appreciate it for what it is instead of trying to rise above it and criticising it when it is obviously trashy TV), and from what I've seen over the past few seasons is the beginnings of some very real instances of emotional abuse. We'll get to Adam later, but we've also witnessed Jonny being controlling over Tyla, Olivia verbally abusing Chris (who was then revealed to have a history of struggling with mental health) and Kady hurling abuse at Tina and Scott (the latter being arrested for assaulting Kady following their departure from the villa).

Some might say that, with all of these negative relationships being portrayed, Love Island is a pretty toxic show. But I think that it's important that these kind of relationships are highlighted and talked about, as creating a dialogue could help people who are struggling in similar relationships get the help they need.

Unfortunately, these situations happen too often, and victims may not even know about it. For example, I was gaslighted when I was younger. I didn't know it was happening, and now looking back I wish I had seen Love Island and read the media coverage so that I could have helped myself.

I was a teenager at the time, and was seeing a boy who had a very close relationship with a girl who he insisted was a friend and made me feel insane for thinking otherwise (and even painted me out to be insane to other people). But I knew that they went on nights out together a lot and texted each other at all hours, and even other people were asking me what was happening between him and this other girl. All the signs were there - lying, denial, and a completely sociopathic lack of empathy for me and how the situation was crushing me inside.

Eventually it turned out that I was right to be suspicious, and I'll leave it at that. But I really wish I had been able to identify this behaviour, or at least had someone 'in the know' to tell me how to deal with it. Instead, people were giving me the old 'boys will be boys' talk, or telling me to 'leave him alone otherwise he'll think you're nuts and leave you' - like it was my fault he was acting like that, and I was pushing him away.

It was a really sad time in my life, and because of that, it really hurts to see it happening to other women. When I watched Rosie pouring her heart out to a stone-faced (and almost smirking) Adam, it reignited that sadness, as well as frustration and anger. Rosie told Adam, 'I don’t think you have any idea how much you’ve hurt me and how much you’ve really upset me. And the worst thing is, I don’t think you care,' whilst Adam tried to make her question her interpretation of his actions towards Zara, before claiming that she pushed him away with her jealousy. Sound familiar? This is the very start of gaslighting, and again Rosie was right to be suspicious as we then saw Adam and Zara kissing later in the show.

If you feel as if this relates to a situation you're in, here are 11 warning signs of a gaslighter, as laid out by Psychology Today:

  1. Lying about their actions, thoughts or emotions
  2. Denying somthing they or you did or said, even with proof
  3. Getting personal (i.e. accusing you of having a jealous personality)
  4. Gradual worsening of behaviour
  5. Conflicting their actions with their words
  6. Throwing you off with a positive comment or action after a series of bad behaviour
  7. Making you feel confused
  8. Accusing you of engaging in similar behaviour to distract from their own
  9. Aligning their or your family, friends or co-workers against you
  10. Telling others you're crazy
  11. Telling you everyone else is a liar to make them seem like they are the truthful one
I can't urge you enough to seek help if you feel that this is happening to you. If you feel that you can't get through to the person you're in a relationship with, either talk to someone you trust and ask if they can help you through the situation, or talk to a helpline if you feel think an outside perspective will aid you more. Either way, it's important to remember that you're never 'insane' for being suspicious, that there are people out there just like you who have been through the same thing, and that you can seek help if you need it.

Useful helplines: Women's Aid, Refuge, Victim Support

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