Photo courtesy of Esther Perel’s Blog.

Mental Health — we all have it, and now we should all strive to be more open and vulnerable about it. 

TheraPieces* is a Slice of Culture monthly column by Mendez, who has a Master of Social Work degree in clinical/medical social work.

Dark Psychology is the science and art of human behaviors involving controlling or manipulation of the mind. It focuses on one’s thoughts, actions, behaviors and interactions influenced by tactics of “motivation, coercion, and manipulation” in order to achieve a wanted desire. 

Dark Psychology has its perks – in obtaining a personal goal or advancing skills in life – but we’ll be focusing on the negative and lasting effects it has by taking advantage of those feelings and behaviors in relationships. 

There is a thin line when it comes to the two words “gaslighting” and “breadcrumbing.” 

We often hear of the term “gaslighting” as it has been used around loosely, but what does it actually mean? At least in psychological terms.

Gaslighting – The form of psychological and emotional manipulation where one seeks and attempts to sow self-doubt and confusion in one’s mind, consequently subverting the victim’s perception of reality. This can lead to questioning one’s thoughts, feelings, experiences and even their sanity.  

This form of manipulation method works by gaining control of another by breaking down or sabotaging one’s truth. 

(Courtesy of Lauren Wilson)

It may also increase how much reliance goes on the gaslighter. In relationships, it often begins small and can grow the more the abuser seeks to gain control from the victim. Once trust has been established and the relationship develops, the person will often make requests, suggesting there is a lack of dependability from their partner or that they are unstable. 

This is when the victim starts to question if the person is right, slowly decreasing self-certainty and trust within themselves and relying it all onto the manipulator. 

The abuser will then gain more control and power the more the victim loses trust within themselves to the point where trust is no longer there. The victim will then become completely reliant on their partner, making it more difficult to leave in the long-term.

Although gaslighting behaviors can be distinctive, they are still harmful and can have long lasting effects on one’s mental and emotional wellbeing. 

Gaslighting behaviors can happen excessively and often come from those with narcissistic and antisocial tendencies, intentionally doing so as an ego boost. Those with negative trauma and/or childhood experiences such as violence, abuse or neglect will often need to fill this void by using this type of power and control that was once missing or out of reach. It may even be caused by having a personality disorder that leads to these behaviors. 

Not always the cause, but those who do gaslight are often very successful in doing so. 

Breadcrumbing somewhat does the same in which it has the same negative effects as gaslighting, but is portrayed differently.

Breadcrumbing – Is a term used in modernized dating that refers to someone sending inaccurate cues or messages that come off as unclear only to keep the other person interested, essentially tying them down to keep them around more. (It certainly is usually not followed with any serious intention of commitment or getting into a serious relationship)

This was a term I actually learned about this year, but it seems very relevant in today’s world on society and its views on relationships. 

Those who do breadcrumb are shown to give enough attention to reel in interest from the other person, but will not make further effort to sustain or develop the relationship further. 

Hence the term “breadcrumbing” as it can be related to leaving a trail of breadcrumbs essentially leading someone on a path of stringing them along with unanswered questions, confusions, and frustrations. 

Signs of breadcrumbing can vary, but the main things to notice are inconsistent communication, avoidant behavior, disregarding the feelings of others and/or lack clarity of them from the breadcrumber. Like gaslighting, breadcrumbing is known to be a type of narcissistic trait or a boasting ego personality style. It can also come with underlying insecurity due to a fragile self-esteem or a fear of emotional commitment. 

(Courtesy of The Pleasant Relationship)

It’s normal to have these feelings of uneasiness and uncertainty during the beginning stages of a relationship, but with honest and open communication, and the proper exchangement of needs from both parties in the relationship, it will help clear up any misunderstandings and/or false beliefs that can eventually grow in a relationship. 

It’s important to remember and identify these signs early on and enhance your emotional intelligence of these harmful tactics to avoid portraying and being victim to these dark manipulative behaviors. 

If you want a specific topic related to mental health covered, Daniella Mendez may be reached at dm3728@columbia.edu.

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