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How to turn out the gaslight 

You might not have heard of ‘gaslighting’ but you could have seen it happening to someone or experienced it yourself. 
 
Gaslighting is a power game that you don’t know you’re playing. Its purpose is to manipulate you by making you question yourself and lose confidence. When the gaslighter is in a position of power, such as a supervisor or manager at work, it must be taken very seriously. 
 
To counteract the effects of gaslighting you need to know what to look for and have confidence to put yourself beyond the reach of the gaslighter. That’s not easy to do when their sole purpose is to undermine you, to lower your self esteem, to bully you. 
What is gaslighting? 
 
The term ‘gaslighting’ is based on the title of the 1944 film ‘Gaslight’ starring Ingrid Bergman. After a whirlwind romance Bergman’s character marries and moves into her old home with her new husband. Mysterious things start to happen, but her husband convinces her that she is imagining and forgetting things – in short, losing her grip on reality. Of course, this is all a scheme by her husband to achieve his criminal aims. 
 
Psychologists use the term to describe a subtle but very unhealthy, manipulative type of behaviour. 
 
Because gaslighting is very slow and confusing you might not realise what’s happening. Here are some things to look out for: 
 
Ten signs of gaslighting. 
 
Relentless - negative behaviour is low-key in the beginning but builds up over time 
Destabilising - you might trust the person, but feel they repeatedly put you in situations that make you question your ability 
Undermining - you might find your personal decisions and characteristics are constantly questioned 
Inconsistent - following endless criticism, you might suddenly receive praise 
Lying – obvious lying seems to be pointless, but it will confuse you by making you doubt whether anything the gaslighter says is true 
Denying – the gaslighter will often promise to do something and then simply deny that they made the promise 
Unreliable - gaslighters often say one thing and do something very different, causing you to doubt your judgement or understanding 
Accusing - you find yourself accused of having characteristics that are actually typical of the gaslighter (like dishonesty or unreliability) 
Isolating - the gaslighter turns others against you, creating mistrust by suggesting that you are unstable or unreliable 
Doubting – you might also be told that everyone you trust is lying or misleading you. 
 
Reality check 
 
If you have seen or experienced any of this behaviour at work, you might be in the presence of a gaslighter. The first important step is to make a record of their behaviour. Keep a note the dates, times and context of events that have made you feel uneasy. If you can, write down the actual words used. After a few days re-read what you have written. In all likelihood you will realise that the behaviour is very inappropriate. The reason you were uncertain is because the gaslighter has been subtly undermining you and your colleagues for some time. 
 
Regaining control 
 
You have taken the first step towards taking back control by confirming your suspicions. Unfortunately, even though the gaslighter is the person with the problem, not you, it’s unlikely their behaviour will change. 
 
If the gaslighting is taking place at work, you probably don’t have the option of walking away although you can try to minimise contact with that person. Trying to reason with them is unlikely to work and they might even try to use your arguments against you. 
 
Your alternative is to find strategies to recognise and resist this manipulative behaviour so that you can maintain your confidence. 
 
Gaslighting is likely to make you feel confused, uncomfortable or anxious. Learning to recognise situations that give rise to these feelings can help you to prepare yourself emotionally and build up your resilience. 
 
You can point out that a specific behaviour makes you uncomfortable and ask the gaslighter to stop. If you can do this when other supportive colleagues are around, even better. You can also refuse to give the gaslighter the emotional responses they are looking for (regardless of how you actually feel), which will defeat their purpose. 
 
Continue to keep your journal and congratulate yourself when things go well. Add encounters with people who you trust and who give you confidence so that you always have positive support. 
 
Relaxation techniques such as mindfulness and meditation can be useful too, helping you to reduce stress and manage negative feelings when they arise. 
 
If you have concerns about gaslighting at work you are very welcome to get in touch
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On 5th November 2018 at 17:38, Sajid ali wrote:
I enjoyed reading what i have experienced at work and i know i am not crazy . I am learning to recognise the signs of gaslighting and can try to walk away from the situation to avoid being manipulated .
On 16th June 2018 at 11:30, Suzy Cane wrote:
I am a black lady in her 40's working with white men in there 20's. This is something which has been happening for a while in my workplace and I can never put into words what is happening and I am always made to feel like the problem. I was told by a member of staff the other day in front of the manager in an aggressive manner that we are not friends, we will never be friends and that we have nothing in common. This was because the day before it got too much and I had left work in tears after they had been excluding me and I was told I was being childish. The manager just says the gentleman has mental health issues and I should be more resiliant. I now know I am not mad or over sensitive, thank you.
On 24th May 2018 at 10:15, Paul Holland wrote:
What an interesting article. I have often seen this type of subtle, undermining behavior and it is refreshing to see a term linked to it. As a manager, I have always tried to stop bullying within my team, but there is often little substantial evidence to refer to and I have had to keep notes on incidents when the behavior has been consistent, in order to build a better picture and have something more tangible to approach the perpetrators with.
On 27th January 2018 at 11:47, Christine Nairne wrote:
Thanks for this Steve. I hadn't heard it called gas lighting but have certainly seen it happening.
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