Reports of gaslighting, a term used to describe manipulative emotional abuse, are on the rise. Gaslighting happens when someone is made to doubt themselves, their own judgement and intuition. 

It happens by the systematic breaking down of someone’s spirit, confidence and self-esteem with controlling behaviour and criticism. It is manipulation – abuse of the mind.

As a clinical hypnotherapist I have seen that this is particularly prevalent within the Asian community.

I come across clients at my practice on Harley Street who have experienced verbal (and sometimes physical) abuse but often they do not fully realise it.

When they do realise it they don’t feel empowered enough to leave the difficult relationship due to wider family pressures, and even community pressures for fear of being judged. Sometimes the reason is lack of financial independence. 

With Asian culture, the family unit can extend much further than just the couple – individuals often see themselves and their self worth as intertwined with a wider unit or community which can be more difficult to speak out against for fear of shame or rejection.

Signs of gas-lighting
Being made to feel as if it is your fault no matter what, your partner flips everything back on you. It can feel like a mountain is made out of a mole hill. Over time the victim begins to lose their own sense of worth, judgement.

Made to feel low or guilty about yourself
A partner can be verbally abusive, this may not always take on a loud shouting tone. It can still however be controlling. You may be made to feel as if you are walking on egg shells around your partner for fear of upsetting or angering them.

Another key sign is the partner might try to stop you from being in contact with your emotional support circle – friends and family. The victim can lose their sense of freedom, personal space and independence. 

Financial abuse
I have also come across examples of individuals whose partner keeps them financially dependent on them in order to maintain their weaker position.  Often in patriarchal cultures this means the balance of power lies with the bread-winner.

How to seek help:

1) If you feel you are subject to such emotional abuse it is important to seek independent help – this can be friends for support but also a qualified therapist. There are also helplines you can call as a first step.

2) Keeping a journal of your feelings and emotions is always something I recommend to my clients – this is a way to externalise those negative thoughts that spin around in our head helping to achieve more clarity. It helps to get more intimate with our thoughts.

3) With clients I use hypnotherapy, specifically a regression technique which helps them to gain clarity over their state of mental wellbeing. Often the roots of their low self esteem and low confidence go way back to their early years.

Neesha Sonii is a Leading Clinical Hypnotherapist based at 10 Harley Street in Central London.