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Gaslighting

Updated: Nov 1, 2023

Gaslighting is a form of manipulation and emotional abuse. It can cause a person to question their sanity and take on what’s happening around them. People use Gaslighting as a form of manipulation. It involves denying, questioning, purposefully forgetting and avoiding important topics. Over time, the person experiencing Gaslighting begins to question their feelings, perceptions and sanity. Many people associate Gaslighting with certain personality and mental health disorders, such as narcissism. While it can be a form of abuse a narcissistic person uses, anyone could gaslight another person, mixed and same sex. Gaslighting may be challenging to identify, particularly for the person experiencing Gaslighting. As with other forms of abuse, it can also look different in separate circumstances. Still, several common tactics and signs of Gaslighting exist that can help you identify abusive behaviours.

1. Trivializing Trivializing occurs when a person belittles or offhandedly dismisses your feelings. They may say something similar to “you take things too seriously,” “you’re overreacting” or “you’re too sensitive.” A trademark feature of Gaslighting is that the person attempts to make you believe your reality isn’t true. Examples of trivializing can include: Your partner says an outfit makes you “look fat.” You confront them about how it made you feel, and they tell you not to be “so sensitive,” and it’s just a poorly fitting shirt. Your spouse spends too much money at the store when rent is due. You confront them, and they respond “What’s the big deal? You can just pay it when you get paid”

2. Withholding Withholding occurs when a person either doesn’t want to listen to you or pretends to not understand what you’re saying. The tactic can make you start to second guess yourself and manipulate your feelings. This behaviour could look like: You confront a person about staying out late and they respond with “Not this again” and then walk away from the conversation. You ask them about some receipts you found and they respond with “I don’t know what you are talking about.”

3. Countering Countering involves a person calling your memory into question. Over time, you may begin to question whether you really do have a bad memory or question your sanity. Examples could include: “That’s not what happened, you have a really bad memory.” “That’s what you remember? That’s not what I said at all.” “I never said that! That was you!” 4. Denial or forgetting Denial or forgetting involves the person intentionally “forgetting” something they told you or promised or denying that it ever happened in the first place. Some examples of denial or forgetting can include: “I never told you that!” “You’re just making stuff up again to make me look bad.” “I don’t remember telling you I’d help with that” ‘I thought you didn’t want to ……… ‘ (after arrangements had been made) 5. Diverting or blocking A person who uses diverting or blocking calls to question your credibility or changes the subject when confronted. This can make it difficult or impossible to discuss topics important to you and, over time, may cause you to drop the topic altogether. Examples may include: “Is that another one of your [family member or friend] ’s ideas?” “That’s nothing more than nonsense you read on the Internet again. Someone needs to stay off social media for a while” 6. Stereotyping In a 2019 study, researchers sought to challenge the perception that Gaslighting is purely a psychological issue and may be a sociological phenomenon. They theorize that Gaslighting is rooted in social inequalities, such as gender or racial disparities. The researchers suggest that people who use Gaslighting use institutionalized inequalities to help create a false sense of reality for the person experiencing Gaslighting. How to respond to Gaslighting One of the first steps is to identify Gaslighting behaviour. Often, the person will use the same tactics over a variety of settings, but their words or actions will also make you doubt yourself or question your worth. Once identified, you can try to: · keep notes about important conversations · lean on trusted friends and family · create boundaries · engage in self-care

Gaslighting can take an emotional toll on a person. It can make you question your feelings, reality, memory and perceptions. It is a means to help the person gain some control over your actions and thoughts.

How to deal with Gaslighting depends on the situation and may include tactics like stepping away, setting boundaries and keeping a record.

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that can cause you to doubt your memory, opinions, and even your sanity. It’s a tactic some people use to gain power and control over others. Over a period of time, not dealing with Gaslighting can cause you to: · second-guess decisions to the point where it’s difficult to make choices without consulting others · continually question your mental health status · begin to withdraw from social situations and family events · find yourself frequently apologizing to the person Gaslighting you Gaslighting can cause so much self-doubt that you might rely on the person doing it to make more and more decisions for you. And this is often what they want. Romantic relationships aren’t the only situations where Gaslighting and other psychological games can occur. It can also happen: in a parent-child relationship in the workplace among ‘friends’ between family members

Research suggests that Gaslighting behaviours can be rooted in gender and social inequalities. It tends to be common in intimate relationships where there’s a power imbalance.

Gaslighting often happens gradually, as well. So you might not realize you’re dealing with Gaslighting until you begin to wonder why you’re experiencing so much confusion and self-doubt. If you’ve been experiencing Gaslighting for a while, you might start to deal with:


depression anxiety low self-esteem helplessness indecisiveness


One thing to remember in this cloud of confusion is that Gaslighting is a form of psychological and emotional abuse.

If someone is Gaslighting you, you’re not to blame for what’s happening. The person using this manipulation technique may be purposely trying to make you feel like everything is your fault.


How to deal with Gaslighting

Knowing how to deal with Gaslighting and what to say to a Gaslighter can help you navigate this web of confusion and find yourself again. Here are seven tips to handle the situation and how not to react to Gaslighting:


1. Recognize it as Gaslighting

Determining if you’re experiencing this type of abuse can be a challenge, as many Gaslighting tactics are very subtle. You may even wonder if Gaslighting can be unintentional.

A behaviour might be Gaslighting if the person’s words or behaviours:

· happen consistently and across situations

· make you doubt yourself

· negatively impact your feelings of self-worth


It can be helpful to know that a Gaslighter likely has a deep-seated need for control. Recognizing this is often the first step toward gaining understanding that can help you cope.


2. Take note of interactions

Questioning everything you say, do, or remember is a top goal of the person Gaslighting you, so keeping notes on conversations or interactions is an effective way to handle Gaslighting.

It can be intimidating to confront someone who’s been manipulating you. But having evidence ready could give you more confidence in your recollections of exchanges and events.


3. Lean on your support network

In the confusion of Gaslighting, it can be hard to know what the truth is. Building a support system made up of people who offer a realistic view of your abilities can counteract this self-doubt.

Talking with a mental health professional can also boost your confidence and help you create strategies to deal with Gaslighting.


4. Be kind to yourself

Dealing with Gaslighting can drain you both mentally and physically..

To help reduce the stress from experiencing Gaslighting, consider focusing on self-care activities like hobbies, learning new things and socializing with genuine friends. Even taking a walk to get away from the situation can be an act of self-care.

Caring for yourself might also include taking a close look at the relationship and deciding if it’s something you want to continue.


5. Create boundaries

Creating firm boundaries is essential in all relationships — but especially critical when dealing with Gaslighters.

You can try to limit your conversations with the person or walk away when they start to use phrases that make you feel doubt or anxiety.


6. Consider stepping away from debates

A person who engages in Gaslighting is unlikely to see the situation from your perspective. Attempting to prove that you’re right and they’re wrong will likely leave you frustrated and even more confused.

You can combat Gaslighting by stepping away from the discussion.


7. Distance yourself

No matter how hard you try, it’s doubtful that the person doing the Gaslighting will change their behaviours unless they choose to. Sometimes the only option left when trying to handle Gaslighting is to create distance between you and them, whether it’s temporary or permanent.


Examples of Gaslighting

How to deal with Gaslighting starts with identifying its signs. Although it’s not always easy, here are a few things a Gaslighter says:


“That’s not what I said. You don’t remember it right.”

“You’re too sensitive. It’s not a big deal.”

“I didn’t do that. You did.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. You just make this stuff up.”

“You’re overreacting.”

“I was only joking. You have no sense of humor.”

“You’re being very emotional about this.”


These examples are part of a pattern of words and behaviours that are meant to instill self-doubt and let the person gain control in the relationship.


What should I say to someone who’s Gaslighting me?

What to say or not to say to a Gaslighter can be challenging in some relationships, especially if you’ve experienced Gaslighting for a long time.

You may feel afraid to confront this person if they’re your romantic partner or worried you may lose your job if Gaslighting occurs at work. So if you choose not to say anything, that’s entirely understandable.

If you want to say something and feel it’s safe to do so, here are some responses to consider:


“If you continue to minimize my feelings or opinions, I can no longer continue this conversation.”

“Your viewpoint is different from mine, but I know I’m not imagining things.”

“Your feelings are valid and mine are equally valid.”

“I’m finding it difficult to discuss this with you. Let’s take a break and revisit this tomorrow.”

“Calling me names isn’t going to make me agree with you. Honest communication is a better way to help me understand your perspective.”


When responding to Gaslighting, it’s also helpful to speak in a calm voice with body language that exhibits confidence. This gives verbal and visible signs that you’re establishing boundaries.


What not to do when someone is Gaslighting you

When dealing with Gaslighting, sometimes how you say something can be just as important as what you say.


Some examples on how not to react to Gaslighting include:

Avoid using aggressive language or posturing. This can escalate the Gaslighting tactics as they try to sustain control over you and the situation.

Stay focused on your feelings — not so much on the situation. It may be easier for someone who’s manipulating you to dispute situational events than to disagree with what you are or aren’t feeling.

Although it might be difficult, try not to become visually upset. This may make the person manipulating you feel validated and cause them to double down their efforts — even though you have every right to be upset.

It’s important to remember that not everyone should try to argue with someone who’s Gaslighting them. In some cases, this could escalate to physical violence.

Sometimes, the best you can do is create distance between you and the person. If you find yourself being Gaslit, it’s not your responsibility to argue with this person. Whether you engage with a person who’s Gaslighting you is a personal choice. There’s no right or wrong answer.


If you’re dealing with Gaslighting, you’re not alone. This type of emotional abuse happens in all kinds of relationships. It’s not your fault, and there are ways to handle Gaslighting and heal from its effects.


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