By Christina Martinez, LCSW
Contributing Writer

The term gaslighting is often used to call out manipulative behavior. Moreover, gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse and mental manipulation that has you questioning your reality.

Victims of gaslighting are deliberately led to believe false information, which leads them to question what is true, doubting their memory, perception and even sanity. The term originated from a 1944 movie, “Gaslight,” in which a husband is manipulating his wife into believing that she has a mental illness.

Initially, a relationship with a “gaslighter” may be unremarkable, and this changes once the individual develops an emotional connection to their victim. This usually occurs quickly in the relationship, which is known as “love bombing.”

The sooner a victim becomes charmed, the quicker the next manipulation phase begins.

Tactics that are often used by a gaslighter can include trivializing or disregarding your feelings, diverting, or denying your emotions and withholding or refusing to engage in actual conversation with you.

The following are some examples of phrases they may use: “You’re being crazy,” “You’re overreacting,” “I was just joking!” “You made me do it,” “If you loved me, you’d let me do what I want,” “I’m only telling you this because I love you,”and “This is all your fault.”

How do you respond to someone in these types of situations? It is important to try to remain calm and composed.

Gaslighters often try to provoke emotional reactions to further their manipulation. Avoid engaging in arguments, as they thrive on creating confusion and arguments.

Instead, focus on asserting your feelings calmly. Finally, set boundaries if the gaslighting continues despite your efforts, and consider whether the relationship is healthy for you in the long run.

(Christina Martinez, LCSW, is the Program Manager of the Los Banos Clinic of Merced County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services, located at 40 W. G. St.,Suite C, in Los Banos.)

The Westside Express