Where there is power, there are manipulators. In situations of imbalance and inequality, uneven distribution of control may provide fodder for those who seek to destabilize and control. The dark art of psychological oppression known as ‘gaslighting’ is one pathological tactic used in such scenarios, and it’s a destructive force that too often goes unseen.
It’s not a subject one will typically find talked about in polite company. After all, gaslighting thrives on secrecy, leveraging tactics of psychological might to outpower, mislead, and keep people in a state of questioning their own understanding. On the outside, it’s an impressive and intimidating game of cat and mouse, but, sadly, the casualties of these games can be devastating.
As an insidious method of emotional warfare, gaslighting flies in the face of reason. It creates conflict is by pitting one’s inner voice of truth against a false external façade created by their manipulator. This falsely constructed net of untruths tricks victims into believing their thoughts, memories, perceptions, and experiences are wrong and unable to be trusted, robbing them of their confidence, security, and ability to make decisions independently.
Beyond the victims themselves, gaslighting also wreaks havoc on relationships and social systems. Manipulators deftly turn trusted companies and communities into vehicles of their own power grab – inverting forms of diplomacy, manipulation, and falsified facts to squash any efforts of resistance. The victims of this oppressive maneuver can suffer from bouts of fatigue, stress, anxiety, and depression due to the confusion and withdrawal from personal certainty and autonomy that comes with the territory.
At the same time, there is hope. Understanding this common phenomenon can act as a preemptive move before an abuser sets their campaign of psychological deceptions in motion. It can help to identify risky situations early on, as well as provide tools to prevent manipulation and resist control.
When people feel like they are in power and are able to understand the forces at play, they feel more confident and empowered to take appropriate action and not become victims. It’s important to look for signs such as sudden changes in behavior, dismissing honest feedback, or attempting to engage in sowing disorder or distress as early warning signs that someone is trying to dismantle truth and overtake control.
Also, it’s important to remember that one is never above becoming a target. Everyone is susceptible. In some sense, it’s a universal theme that resonates through communities, social groups, and institutions. It comes down to a basic level of trust and wanting to believe in something that might not hold value. Not only should the promise of well-structured systems of communication, safety, and accountability be held to a high standard, but also attention must be paid to relationships, environments, and individuals. It’s important to understand how power works on both macro and micro levels so that manipulation can be identified and countered as early as possible.
No one is immune to becoming a victim of gaslighting, however vulnerability can be lessened with awareness and vigilance. Those who have been targeted must seek support, remember their truth, and be cognizant of their environment. In resisting manipulation, victims can take back their power, restore confidence, and reclaim autonomy.
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