- Gaslighting is both a form of emotional and mental abuse that plagues our society in all different levels and degree.
- This form of manipulation is emotional abuse in that it causes the victim to experience increasingly harmful emotions like fear, severe sadness, and panic.
- Gaslighting is also a form of mental abuse as it undermines the victim’s ability to understand what’s happening right in front of them and in their own mind.
- Many people employ gaslighting tactics every day, from lawyers to colleagues, bosses, politicians, lovers, and neighbors.
*Yocheved Golani, a life coach and an editor and writer for e-counseling.com, explains the difference between emotional and mental abuse, how each is interconnected with gaslighting, and how this form of manipulation plagues our society today.*
Gaslighting: As Emotional Abuse
Emotional abuse sabotages someone’s feelings. It leaves the victim confused, unhappy, fearful, and incapable of ending the problem unless they can escape or outsmart the emotional abuser.
Gaslighting sabotages the victim’s self-confidence. It leaves them fearful and unable to correct the lies being told to and about them. Emotions escalate as the increasingly sad, sometimes panicking victim struggles to understand why the gaslighter lies to them, refusing to acknowledge truth. If the victim realizes that there is a nefarious, evil goal such as ruining the victim’s life somehow, desperation is the next emotion to arise.
The overall effect of gaslighting, the gaslighter’s goal, is to sabotage the victim’s emotions so that they become powerless to save themselves from the abuser and vulnerable to all kinds of additional victimization (e.g., alienation from society, legal repercussions regarding divorce and/or custody issues, inheritances, employment, social, and/or family responsibilities).
Gaslighting: As Mental Abuse
Mental abuse undermines someone’s intelligence and their ability to perceive what’s going on around them. It also renders them helpless as the gaslighter convinces other people of the victim’s alleged incompetence.
Gaslighting renders the victim uncertain of simple facts and unable to convince the gaslighter to admit to specific realities. That frustrating situation allows the gaslighter to manipulate his or her victim, especially when the gaslighter lies to other people about the non-existent mental or emotional frailties of the gaslighting victim. Other people can be tricked into doubting the integrity of the victim, who is stuck in the vortex of an ever-worsening situation. If the victim understands why the gaslighter lies to them and refuses to acknowledge truth, misrepresenting specific realities to anyone they wish to deceive, the victim is left to prevent their life, career, and various goals from being sabotaged by the gaslighter. This is a formidable task, as the gaslighter usually takes care to ruin the victim’s reputation in public.
The manipulated victim is left struggling to convince the public at large, especially people in charge of their wellbeing (lawyers, judges, police officers, family members, colleagues, spouses, friends, children, etc.) that their mental and emotional faculties are fine and fully functional.
A Plague in Our Society
It is a great pity that divorce and child custody courts do not contend with the reputation-ruining efforts of one manipulative parent against a beleaguered second parent. It is just as sad when heirs demean each other in order to win most of the goods in someone’s will, or when colleagues and bosses demean each other while sabotaging careers or retirement packages as they lie about and misrepresent facts, memories, and intentions. Politicians are excellent gaslighters, as are fake kabbalists and so-called therapists. Some career paths depend on betraying the sense of good judgment that most people have and on manipulating people to do someone else’s will. Gaslighting is an excellent tool for making that happen—it is a tool of control freaks.