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Are you being victimized by 'gaslighting?'

Does your wife or husband ever question your sanity, or deny that the version of events you are certain occurred happened entirely differently? There is a name for attempting to make someone question his or her perception of reality. It's called "gaslighting."

The term originated with the stage play from 1938, "Gas Light." In the play, the husband tries to make his wife insane by repeatedly dimming the gas-powered lights in the couple's home, while denying that there was any change at all in the lighting. This tactic is a cruel but effective type of psychological abuse.

It works because it causes victims to doubt their instincts, feelings and sanity. This, in turn, imbues their abusive partners with power, which along with control, form the basis of abusive relationships. Once victims are marginalized to the point where their mental health is in question, they are much likelier to remain with their abusers.

Below are some techniques of gaslighting an abusive partner might employ:

-- Countering their version or memory of events and dismissing them.

-- Withholding by acting like they don't understand what is being said or refusing to hear what their victims are telling them.

-- Trivializing their victims by making their feelings or needs seem exaggerated or insignificant, e.g., saying, "Don't be so sensitive!" or "That's not even worth getting mad over."

-- Blocking or diverting by repeatedly changing the subject or telling their victims that they are imagining things.

--Denial, or "forgetting" that something happened, e.g., "Quit making things up!" and "I have no idea what you are talking about."

Gaslighting usually happens over time in a relationship, and might even appear to be harmless initially. But as time passes, the incidents form a pattern of abuse that can leave victims anxious, confused, depressed and isolated, even questioning their ability to perceive reality. As their confidence in their own abilities decreases, their dependence on their abusive partners to define reality increases. Eventually, they can lack the capacity to escape completely.

There are many forms of abuse, and this is just one of them. If you are being physically, mentally or emotionally abused in your marriage, it may be time to seek a divorce.

Source: thehotline.org, "What is Gaslighting?," Brollings, accessed Dec. 03, 2015

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