Gaslighting is a type of emotional abuse that involves the manipulation of another person’s thoughts and emotions in such a way that the victim start to doubt their own memory, perception of events and reality, or judgement. The gaslighter may use a variety of tactics to achieve this manipulation, such as invalidating their victim’s emotions, denying or distorting facts, and even using love and affection as tools for control. Today, gaslighting is recognized as a serious form of emotional abuse that can have long-lasting effects on the victim’s emotional and mental health including feeling of confusion, anxiety, depression and low self-esteem.
According to a post on Psychology Today, “Gaslighting is a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality. It works much better than you may think. Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done slowly, so the victim doesn’t realize how much they’ve been brainwashed.” (Sarkis, 2017).
Gaslighting can occur in many different types of relationships, including those between parents and children. Gaslighting parents use a range of tactics to manipulate their children to maintain control and a sense of rightness in the parent-child relationships. Here are seven signs that your parents may have been gaslighting you as a child:
1: Controlling Your Emotions
Gaslighting parents often dismiss their children’s emotions or induce guilt in them, causing them to feel bad for expressing their feeling. They may say, “You’re overreacting,” or “That’s not a big deal.” They may also blame their child for feeling a certain way, saying things like, “You’re being too sensitive” or “You’re just looking for attention.” By invalidating their child’s emotions, gaslighting parents manipulate them into believing that their feelings are not valid or important.
2: Denying Your Reality
Another common sign of gaslighting in parents-child relationship is the denial of their child’s reality. They may deny things they have said or done, even when confronted with evidence. For example, suppose a child confronts their parent about hurtful behavior. In that case, the parent may deny saying things like “I never said that” or “Your memory is bad. It did not happen that way”, causing the child to doubt their memory and perception of events.
3: Blaming You for Their Behavior
Gaslighting parents may also shift blame onto their children for their actions. They may say things like, “You made me do it,” or “If you didn’t behave that way, I wouldn’t have to treat you like this.” By blaming the child, gaslighting parents deflect attention from their harmful behavior and manipulate their child into thinking they are at fault.
4: Twisting the Truth
Gaslighting parents may twist the truth or manipulate the facts to suit their narrative. They may selectively omit information, distort the facts, or change the story to make themselves look better, and their child look worse. This manipulation of the truth can confuse the child and make them doubt their own reality.
5: Withholding Affection or Love
Gaslighting parents may use affection or love as a tool for manipulation. They may withhold affection or love as a form of punishment or to gain control over their child. For example, they may threaten to withdraw their love if the child does not comply with their demands or if the child questions their behavior. This can leave the child feeling anxious, insecure, and desperate for validation and approval from their parents.
6: Isolating You from Others
Gaslighting parents may try to isolate their children from other sources of support. They discourage their child to form close relationships with others, such as friends or extended family members, or even prevent them from participating in activities that would expose them to different perspectives. By isolating their child, gaslighting parents creates an environment of dominance where their manipulation can operate unchecked and unopposed.
7: Creating a Culture of Fear and Control
Gaslighting parents often creates a culture of fear and control within the family dynamic. They may use intimidation, threats, or punishments to maintain their authority and ensure compliance from their child. This culture of fear and control can make the child feel trapped and powerless, leading to long-term emotional and psychological damage.
Final Thoughts on Gaslighting Parents
Growing up with gaslighting parents can profoundly impact a child’s emotional well-being and sense of reality. Children of gaslighting parents may struggle with self-doubt, anxiety, and depression well into adulthood. If you recognize any of these signs in your own upbringing, it’s important to acknowledge the harm that was done and seek support to heal the damage. Remember, you are not responsible for your parent’s behavior and you.