What is gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse where a person is being manipulated into questioning their own feelings, thoughts, and sanity. It is also a low form of brainwashing someone in order to gain more control over them.
A person experiencing gaslighting may become anxious, confused, unhappy, or even withdrawn. They may not realize they’re being manipulated because, gaslighting develops slowly, and is often misunderstood in the beginning.
Gaslighting is a tactic commonly used by abusers, narcissists, and dictators. But it is done slowly so that the victim will not realize they’re being manipulated. For example, denying something when there’s proof of that, blatantly lying to you and causing you to apologize, thinking that it is all your fault.
This form of emotional abuse is often misunderstood by the victims. Gaslighting can be seen in various relationships like; romantic relationships, family relationships, friendships, and workplaces.
The origin of the term “gaslighting”
The term “gaslighting” comes from the movie “Gas Light,” by Patrick Hamilton (1938), where a husband convinces his wife into believing that she is insane.
According to research, there are up to 35 types of gaslighting behaviors. Namely, unconscious gaslighting, cheater gaslighting, domestic gaslighting, etc. All these are the various ways in which a gaslighter deploys manipulative tactics in order to gain power and control over their victim.
How do you tell if someone is gaslighting you?
Most couples don’t realize that their partner is gaslighting them. The reason is that it starts slowly in the beginning until it manifests fully. It is only then that you will realize that you’ve been manipulated.
Below are the subtle signs of gaslighting.
Signs of Gaslighting in a Relationship
Below are the ways to tell if your partner is gaslighting you.
- You’re always apologizing
- You feel like you have lost your true self in the relationship
- You always wonder if you are over-reacting or being too sensitive
- Decrease in self-esteem
- Overthinking yourself in the relationship
- Feeling isolated from friends and family members
- You find it difficult to make decisions on your own
- Being over conscious of how you act around your partner
- Inability to explain exactly how you feel
- Always questioning your thoughts and perceptions
- Feeling vulnerable and insecure
- Feeling hopeless in the relationship
- Being totally confused
- You feel you are never good enough
- Lying to your family and friends in order not to reveal your true feelings
- You always feel it’s all your fault
- You wonder if anything is wrong with you.
Examples of Gaslighting
According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, the followings are the techniques a person may use to gaslight someone.
The abusive partner pretends not to understand or refuses to listen. For example, they use the following phrases; “I don’t want to hear this again,” or “You’re trying to confuse me.”
This manipulative technique is deployed to dismiss your complaint on that subject matter.
The abusive partner questions the victim’s perception of reality, even when the victim remembers them accurately. The phrases they use include; “You are too forgetful, you are wrong, you have a bad memory, you never remember things correctly, etc.
The abusive partner plays down on the victim by making them think their needs or feelings are unimportant. Examples of the phrases they use include; “You’re too sensitive, you always get angry over little things, is not a big deal.”
The abusive partner pretends to have forgotten what really happened or denies making promises to the victim. Examples of the phrases they use include; “I don’t know what you are talking about, I can’t remember saying such thing, you’re just exaggerating.”
The abusive partner changes the topic or subject, or questions the victim’s perception. Examples of the phrases they use include; “You’re imagining things, this must be a foolish idea you got from a friend or a family member.”
Effects of Gaslighting In A Romantic Relationship
A partner who continuously tells their significant other that they are being forgetful or too sensitive may end up making them start believing it is true. This in return, makes them distrust their perceptions or feelings, and they may even end up thinking they have a mental illness.
Another effect of gaslighting is that it causes anxiety, depression, and psychological trauma.
What is the motive of a gaslighter?
A gaslighter may accuse their partner of being irrational in order to undermine their confidence, isolate them, make them question their perceptions, and for them to be easier to control.
People gaslight because they want to gain power and control over someone else. This abusive behavior is often deployed when the abusive partner discovers their partner’s weaknesses. They now use this means to manipulate them.
Most couples gaslight their partner simply because they feel they are more important, or that their opinion is more significant than that of their significant other.
Gaslighting behavior is said to be associated with a personality disorder like; narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). And people with narcissistic personality disorder are said to have an exaggerated feeling of self-importance, an excessive craving for admiration, and struggles with empathy.
Can someone gaslight without knowing?
Whereas some gaslighting behaviors are intentional, a few numbers of them are unconscious gaslighting-a situation whereby an abusive partner is not fully aware of their manipulative behavior, or may deliberately refuse to acknowledge it.
Whether it is intentional or unintentional, it is never an excuse to abuse or controls your significant other.
Gaslighting phrases in a relationship
Below are the commonly used gaslighting phrases in romantic relationships.
- Stop dwelling in the past
- You’re being too emotional
- You’re being too sensitive
- Can we close this topic now?
- I don’t want to hear about this again
- Stop being so insecure
- That never happened
- You’ve just exaggerated the situation
- I’m just joking
- You’re just misunderstanding me
- That is not what I meant
- It’s all your fault
- You know you’re too forgetful
- You’re never happy at all
- Don’t blame me, it wasn’t my intention
- This must be a silly idea you got from someone, maybe your friends or family members
- If you loved me, you would…
- I’m doing this all because of you
- It’s your fault I cheated
- You will never find a caring partner like me
- This is why everyone is talking about you
- You’re always complaining
- This is not how you used to behave before
- You’re not showing me enough love.
How to respond to gaslighting
Below are the ways to talk to a gaslighter, how to deal with gaslighting, or how to protect yourself from a gaslighter.
How to talk to a gaslighter
1. Make sure is gaslighting
Before you jump to conclusion that your partner is gaslighting you, make sure you are already familiar with the gaslighting behaviors I mentioned above.
Does your partner use the following phrases on you?
- “That’s not what happened
- I think you’re becoming insane
- You’re just being insecure
- Stop being sensitive, I was just joking.
If you are already familiar with any of these terms, then it is gaslighting.
2. Give yourself some space
After confirming that your partner is a gaslighter, the next thing you should do is to give yourself some space.
Take some time alone to reflect and process your feelings. Write down those abusive behaviors you’ve noticed in your partner.
3. Speak up about the behavior
After taking note of the gaslighting behaviors in your significant other, the next thing to do is to speak up your mind. Be assertive and confront your partner about their manipulative scheme on you. Present your evidence of their gaslighting behavior and insist they change or you’re ending the relationship.
4. Practice self-love
Victims of gaslighting often experience depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. That is why you need to practice self-love if you are already a victim. Do not allow those feelings to weigh you down.
Do not stop visiting or associating with your friends, or even engage in the activities you love.
5. Seek professional help
If there is a need to invite a third party, consider seeking professional help. Visit a therapist or invite an expert to help you resolve this issue.
You can also call 1-800-799-7233 or chat with them online 24/7/365 to help you. Their advocates are there to support and listen to you.
How to protect yourself from a gaslighter
The best way to protect yourself from being gaslighted is to educate yourself about gaslighting behaviors. Pay attention to gaslighting signs, be assertive, and be ready to speak up anytime you observe those signs in your relationship.
Things to say when you're being gaslighted
1. Your intention may be to make a joke, but it was hurtful to me 2. Don’t be too callous to joke with my feelings 3. My opinions are as important as yours 4. If I’m being too sensitive, it’s all because of you 5. That I am bad at remembering things does not mean I have a mental illness that I can’t recall anything at all. 6. You are just trying to cover up, that’s all 7. You’re not being honest, and I know it. 8. I am not angry because you are lying, but because you never admit your mistakes
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