Love Island 2019 – A lesson in Gaslighting

Love Island 2019 is all over, as are many of the relationships formed within it. This year the popular television show brought us the expected daily onslaught of Islanders being “pied” and “mugged off” when their grafting boots failed or their latest love interest had their head turned at the fire pit recoupling. However, Love Island 2019 may be remembered for the more sinister behaviour exhibited in the villa, Gaslighting.

The term gaslighting was coined from the 1938 play Gas Light by Patrick Hamilton. The play was about a husband who slowly manipulated his wife into believing she is going insane. He subtly manipulates her home environment by dimming the gas lights and when she comments and questions the subtle changes in lighting he denies there has been a change and insists that she is imagining it. The wife slowly starts to doubt her own sanity. Love Island 2019 may be far removed from the 1938 play but the same behaviour exhibited in the villa was broadly similar in that it was designed to make the victim question their recollection of events and manipulate them into believing that it was their fault that their relationship failed, when their other half had their “head turned.”

The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 has redefined what constitutes abuse in a relationship and has extended the definition of domestic abuse to include psychological abuse. It also recognises that that behaviour which has specific effects on the victim, such as making them feel controlled, isolated and dependent is punishable in the Criminal Courts. Now that coercive control is recognised in law as a form of abusive behaviour, people are becoming more aware of gaslighting, with one particular episode of Love Island 2019 garnering 196 viewer complaints in relation to gaslighting behaviour in the villa.

According to the book, Gaslighting: Recognize Manipulative and Emotionally Abusive People -and break free by Stephanie Sarkis as quoted in Psychology Today (www.pyschologytoday.com) there are eleven signs of gaslighting behaviour:-

1. They tell blatant lies.
You know it’s an outright lie. Yet they are telling you this lie with a straight face. Why are they so blatant? Because they’re setting up a precedent. Once they tell you a huge lie, you’re not sure if anything they say is true. Keeping you unsteady and off-kilter is the goal.

2. They deny they ever said something, even though you have proof.
You know they said they would do something; you know you heard it. But they out and out deny it. It makes you start questioning your reality—maybe they never said that thing. And the more they do this, the more you question your reality and start accepting theirs.

3. They use what is near and dear to you as ammunition.
They know how important your kids are to you, and they know how important your identity is to you. So those may be one of the first things they attack. If you have kids, they tell you that you should not have had those children. They will tell you’d be a worthy person if only you didn’t have a long list of negative traits. They attack the foundation of your being.

4. They wear you down over time.
This is one of the insidious things about gaslighting—it is done gradually, over time. A lie here, a lie there, a snide comment every so often…and then it starts ramping up. Even the brightest, most self-aware people can be sucked into gaslighting—it is that effective. It’s the “frog in the frying pan” analogy: The heat is turned up slowly, so the frog never realizes what’s happening to it.

5. Their actions do not match their words.
When dealing with a person or entity that gaslights, look at what they are doing rather than what they are saying. What they are saying means nothing; it is just talk. What they are doing is the issue.

6. They throw in positive reinforcement to confuse you.
This person or entity that is cutting you down, telling you that you don’t have value, is now praising you for something you did. This adds an additional sense of uneasiness. You think, “Well maybe they aren’t so bad.” Yes, they are. This is a calculated attempt to keep you off-kilter—and again, to question your reality. Also look at what you were praised for; it is probably something that served the gaslighter.

7. They know confusion weakens people.
Gaslighters know that people like having a sense of stability and normalcy. Their goal is to uproot this and make you constantly question everything. And humans’ natural tendency is to look to the person or entity that will help you feel more stable—and that happens to be the gaslighter.

8. They project.
They are a drug user or a cheater, yet they are constantly accusing you of that. This is done so often that you start trying to defend yourself, and are distracted from the gaslighter’s own behavior.

9. They try to align people against you.
Gaslighters are masters at manipulating and finding the people they know will stand by them no matter what—and they use these people against you. They will make comments such as, “This person knows that you’re not right,” or “This person knows you’re useless too.” Keep in mind it does not mean that these people actually said these things. A gaslighter is a constant liar. When the gaslighter uses this tactic it makes you feel like you don’t know who to trust or turn to—and that leads you right back to the gaslighter. And that’s exactly what they want: Isolation gives them more control.

10. They tell you or others that you are crazy.
This is one of the most effective tools of the gaslighter, because it’s dismissive. The gaslighter knows if they question your sanity, people will not believe you when you tell them the gaslighter is abusive or out-of-control. It’s a master technique.

11. They tell you everyone else is a liar.
By telling you that everyone else (your family, the media) is a liar, it again makes you question your reality. You’ve never known someone with the audacity to do this, so they must be telling the truth, right? No. It’s a manipulation technique. It makes people turn to the gaslighter for the “correct” information—which isn’t correct information at all.

The more you are aware of these techniques, the quicker you can identify them and avoid falling into the gaslighter’s trap.”

If you recognise these behaviours as a regular occurrence in your relationship, it may be a sign that your partner is gaslighting you and could be indicative that you are in an abusive relationship. If you need legal advice on leaving an abusive relationship and the various civil protective orders that are available then contact the award winning Family Law Team at Macleod and MacCallum.

To read more on Protective Orders see our previous article here.

October 14, 2019