Gaslighting: Signs you need to know

Gaslighting: Signs you need to know
Last Updated: September 1, 2023

What is Gaslighting 

Gaslighting is a common method of manipulation in abusive relationships. Its a sort of covert emotional abuse in which the bully or abuser deceives the target by fabricating a story and making them doubt their own judgments and reality. After a while, the victim of gaslighting begins to doubt their own impressions of the world, sometimes questioning their own sanity.


Gaslighting is a process of emotional abuse in which a persons reality and reality, in general, are ignored. The gaslighting victim is portrayed as or told that they are \"mentally ill or not thinking clearly.\" According to psychology, the procedure is continued until the gaslighted person develops self-doubt, and bewilderment, and then \"simply falls in line unquestioningly with the gaslighter.\"

Gaslighting is most commonly seen in romantic relationships, although it can also happen in dominating friendships or among family members. People who gaslight others may suffer from mental illnesses like narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) or borderline personality disorder (BPD). They use emotional abuse to gain control over others and influence friends, family members, and even co-workers.


It is a hazardous type of coercive control – a form of emotional abuse – rather than merely a perplexing behaviour. Gaslighting is defined by Evan Stark, a sociologist and prominent authority on abuse patterns, as a behaviour in which the victim \"becomes caught in an unreal reality constructed by the abuser, entrapped in a world of confusion, contradiction, and terror.\"


One thing is unmistakable: gaslighting is a kind of abuse. Gaslighters resolve to make you feel useless, invalidated, or insane is one of their worst characteristics. They are continuously trying to pin the blame on you, regardless of whether it is justified.


At its foundation, gaslighting is always about self-preservation and maintaining power/control specifically, the power/control to construct a narrative that maintains the gaslighter in the right while their partner is in the wrong.


Gaslighting is a common indicator of an abusive relationship and can occur in love relationships, families, friendships, and even workplaces.


Gaslighting phrases


  • You take things a little too seriously. 

This is a common gaslighter notion that can reduce and invalidate your partners feelings, comparable to \"Youre too sensitive.\" A statement like that might sometimes be made by someone who realizes he or she has pushed the issue too far.


  • Im not upset; you are.

When you repeat this gaslighting statement, you may believe youre being sensible and even bringing some calm to the situation, but what youre really doing is making your partner question the world around them and driving them to go on the defensive, according to Koeppel.


  • Im not sure what I did wrong.

Many people use this term to justify their actions, even though they are well aware of what they did wrong.


  • Youre not capable of taking a joke

This is a frequent gaslighting technique in which the gaslighter says something unpleasant or disrespectful, then claims they were only joking when their partner confronts them. Its a tried-and-true strategy of denial and blame-shifting.


  • You must take a deep breath and relax

This sentiment may have a good intention behind it. You may be attempting to persuade your partner to take a deep breath and regain perspective. However, wording it this way may make it appear as if youre lecturing your partner as if theyre being frantic or crazy.


Gaslighting examples

  • Accusing someone of being overly sensitive is a common accusation.

\"They will say things like you are overly sensitive.\" \"Basically, it means you are not allowed to feel the way you are feeling, you cannot be unhappy about it, you cannot be furious about it,\" Emma explains. \"Its about making you doubt yourself and wonder, Well, maybe Im not furious, maybe Im feeling something different instead,\" she says.


  • Deflection

\"Another gaslighting strategy is deflection,\" Emma explains. \"So, if a victim starts talking about something [the perpetrator] did, they will deflect and start talking about something the victim did.\" For example, Do you recall when you did XYZ?


The victim is attempting to defend herself. They become so engrossed in the focus on themselves that they lose track of what theyre talking about. This occurs frequently. When a gaslighter does not want to talk about anything, they shift the focus on the other person.


To help you recognize and manage this very real kind of emotional abuse, here are six instances of common gaslighting scenarios.


  • That was never the case

Gaslighting frequently leads to the victims self-doubt. Someone will do or say something harmful and then deny that it happened, according to Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., a psychotherapist, and certified marriage and family therapist in private practice


  • You have a bad memory

Another typical remark used by gaslighters to make their victims doubt themselves is this one. Of course, everyone has problems remembering specific specifics, but Tessina claims that gaslighters will cause their victim to doubt their memory as a whole, in a variety of situations.


  • Youre insane, and others think so, too

Gaslighters may make their victims doubt their own sanity in addition to instilling doubt in them. The gaslighter may also attempt to persuade the victims family and friends that they are mentally ill in order to discredit any claims the victim makes.


  • You should have expected my reaction.

This is another tactic for an abuser to shift the blame to the victim. This can make the victim feel guilty or hurt about a scenario in which they did nothing wrong. Gaslighting entails manipulating facts in order to avoid taking personal responsibility for their actions. By telling the victim they should have known better, the gaslighter assigns guilt to the victim for not just their own actions, but also for the actions of others.


Gaslighting in relationships

Gaslighting is, at its core, emotional abuse \"Bergen explains. \"Its a strategy used by one partner to assert power over, gain control over, and cause emotional harm to the other.\" \"Gaslighting is such a nasty sort of emotional abuse because it drives you to question your experiences,\" Bergen says, \"that it can be difficult to see the warning signs.\"


The most common kind of gaslighting in relationships — romantic or otherwise – was discovered in a study published in the American Sociological Review. Gaslighting entails the use of subtle mind games that make it impossible to tell if youre being gaslighted, which is exactly the objective. In every case of gaslighting, you will observe that the gaslighter is avoiding taking responsibility for their own position in the relationship.


\"The individual will continuously doubt themselves.\" They also have difficulty making decisions for themselves since they are afraid of making the wrong choice. \"Whatever option they make, it will always be the incorrect one,\" Emma asserts.


The best course of action if you suspect you are being gaslighted in your love relationship is to end it. Trying to reason with a gaslighter, however, would just make them more accusatory and violent. Its critical to walk gently when you eventually decide to stop the relationship. Its not uncommon for gaslighting to progress from mental to physical assault, particularly if theyre losing control of you. Consult your loved ones or a therapist to choose the best course of action.


Once youve done that, youll need to create a no-contact rule for yourself, because the gaslighter will try to woo you back with presents and false promises. At the end of the day, your mental health and needs should come first. Because gaslighting is an attempt to undermine your self-worth, the only way to avoid it is to terminate the relationship, practice self-care, learn to trust your instincts, and reclaim your identity.


Why Is Gaslighting So Harmful in Relationships?

Gaslighting can be particularly destructive to a relationship since it detracts from the \"shared reality\" you have with your spouse, in addition to affecting the person on the receiving ends self-esteem and emotional stability. According to new research, having a common set of thoughts, feelings, and beliefs with an intimate partner is not only a crucial aspect of the bond, but it also motivates couples to reassert that shared reality when faced with possible threats and leads to relationship happiness.


Signs Youre Being Gaslighted

  • They make you question your perception of reality

\"Your partner questions your view of situations, of yourself, of your ideas, of your feelings, of their actions,\" Bergen notes as a big warning sign of gaslighting. \"One of the major warning indicators is a persistent feeling that you didnt see what you thought you did. And what youve gone through, youve written about


  • They Lie to You Consistently and Openly

\"Their lies are designed to be manipulative for control. If you suspect your partner of gaslighting you, Bergen recommends asking yourself questions like: Does my partner consistently make me doubt my own ideas and experiences? Do I catch them in the act of lying?


  • They break you down to make you feel insecure.

A gaslighter will harp on the gaslighteds anxieties in order to obtain control and authority. Bergen suggests asking yourself, \"Is this person saying things to make me feel bad?\" to help identify if your relationship is breaking you down. Is the degree of criticism ubiquitous in the sense that it is directed at the same object on a regular basis?


  • When you have proof, they lie about saying something.

The goal of gaslighting is to make the victim doubt their own reality and sanity. A gaslighter will frequently deny saying or doing something, treating the victim as if they were insane. Even if you have proof, the gaslighter will dispute the victims recall of an event, deny it ever happened, or pretend to forget what actually happened, which is known as \"countering.\" They will either dismiss or distort the truth of your proof.


Gaslighting entails undercutting a partners sentiments and perceptions in order to instill self-doubt or challenge their perspective of reality, regardless of how its done. \"Gaslighting is sneaky, \"it plays on our greatest fears, our most nervous thoughts, and our innermost need to be understood, respected, and loved.\" \"And we have even more trouble clinging to our own sense of reality when we idealize the gaslighter when we want to picture him as our lifes love.\"


Even if youve been gaslighted which is, without a doubt, a kind of abuse it doesnt imply things cant be fixed. For one thing, you can learn to validate yourself by increasing your emotional awareness and learning to recognize gaslighting. Ignore those who disagree with your viewpoint. In gaslighting, its the self-doubt thats so damaging.


You are the mastermind behind your own universe. The gaslight may be on if youre staring at the beams and walls and thinking to yourself, \"Wait, I know this isnt true.\"


This article was written by Trish Makiwa, a consultant at the Industrial Psychology Consultants. She can be contacted at 

Trish Makiwa
This article was written by Trish a Consultant at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd

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