You could be the victim of a gaslighter and not even realize it.
Gaslighting is quite an insidious form of manipulation and abuse, and it can have horrible consequences for you.
What, exactly, is gaslighting?
When we speak of gaslighting, we are really talking about manipulation. It’s a type of emotional abuse in which the abuser makes their victim question their reality and judgments, and even their sanity.
It’s a misconception to think that gaslighting only occurs in romantic relationships. It can occur in all types of relationships, such as co-worker relationships and friendships.
Here’s what to know about gaslighting and how to get help if it’s happening to you.
How Does Someone Gaslight You?
It’s important to know how gaslighting works.
You can tell that someone is gaslighting you by how you doubt yourself around them, thinking that your perceptions and memories aren’t real because the person has planted a seed of doubt in your mind.
You might also find that after you interact with the person who is gaslighting you, you feel dazed or confused. You might even think that you have a mental health problem.
There are various techniques that a gaslighter will use to try to unsettle you. Here’s a rundown of them.
They Lie To You
Lying to you is a common behavior of gaslighters. They will lie to your face, but sometimes they will also tell you that you’re lying.
This is usually done to cover their tracks, such as if you have confronted them about their lies.
They will lie until they turn blue in the face and be so stubborn about how they’re right and you’re wrong that you will start to doubt yourself and believe them.
They Discredit You
Sometimes the way someone can gaslight you is by telling others nasty, untrue rumours about you. This is known as discrediting.
While a gaslighter will pretend that they’re concerned about you, they will be telling other people that you’re crazy or mentally unfit.
To take this one step further to unsettle you, a gaslighter might tell you that other people share the belief they have of you, even though this might not be true.
They Put Down Your Feelings
A gaslighter will ridicule and belittle your feelings. This is to control you. So, they might tell you that you’re overreacting, acting crazy, or being too sensitive.
This is done so that you think you have a problem or that you’re guilty of being in the wrong.
By doing this, the gaslighter also makes it seem like they are not guilty of any wrongdoing. This is linked to how gaslighters don’t take responsibility for their actions.
They Reshape History
Another gaslighting tactic is to reshape history by retelling stories so that they can come out smelling like roses in all of them.
This can be quite unsettling, and could make you doubt your memory, especially if the person is adamant that how they’re retelling the story is the correct version.
Here’s an example of how a gaslighter will do this. If your romantic partner, who’s a gaslighter, once told you that you’re stupid, when you mention it to them they might change the story and tell you that they never said that or that you called yourself stupid and they told you that you weren’t.
Talk about mind games!
How To Expose A Gaslighter
Dealing with a gaslighter isn’t easy.
Not only is it difficult to realize that you’re being gaslighted, but you might start to believe what the person is saying about you – such as that you’re making up lies or crazy.
Here are some strategies of how to deal with someone who’s gaslighting you so you don’t feel that you’re losing the plot.
- You need to stick to your beliefs. The person who’s committing the gaslighting offence wants you to doubt yourself. This could help them feel that they don’t have to be accountable for what they’ve done. Believe in your feelings and thoughts, instead of letting the person sway you. During conversation with a gaslighter, it’s useful to be clear and firm, such as by saying, “I know what I saw/heard.”
- Keep a record of the facts. It’s a good idea to keep a record of things that happen so that you can return to your journal and confirm that you shouldn’t doubt yourself. It’s easy to forget the details of the facts, so this will help you tremendously when you’re faced with a gaslighter who’s trying to cloud your thinking. And this, in turn, will ensure you maintain your confidence and self-worth.
- Take a step back. Arguing with someone who’s gaslighting you can sometimes feel like you’re going around and around in circles. This is because the gaslighter will use techniques to deflect or make you doubt your perception. Give yourself permission to walk away from the argument so that you don’t get caught up in their toxic spiral. This will also show them that you have boundaries which you won’t allow to get crossed.
- Use powerful statements. Expose the gaslighter for what they really are and show them that you will not be hurt by them by using powerful statements. These affirm your self-worth and make it clear that they cannot turn you into a victim.
- “My feelings are valid. I don’t like you telling me that they’re not.”
- “Don’t tell me how to feel. I know what I feel.”
- “I am allowed to explore conversations with you and ask you about things – I am not being too sensitive or dramatic.”
- “I know what I heard/saw.”
- “I won’t continue this conversation if you minimize my feelings.”
Important Things To Do If You’re A Victim Of Gaslighting
While the above strategies can help you if you’re in a relationship with a gaslighter, you should ensure that you maintain a good support system.
This is because gaslighters want you to depend on them psychologically and emotionally. This puts them in control, but it makes you vulnerable.
You won’t have other people on which to lean, which can feel very isolating. You also won’t have other people to help you, which can make the gaslighter mess with your thoughts and feelings.
Since gaslighting is quite insidious and you might not realize it’s happening to you and affecting you, it’s therefore even more important for you to have the support you need.
Hearing the opinions of people who are outside of the relationship can help you to see things clearly. This also prevents the gaslighter from having an emotional hold on you.
While you can get out of a relationship with someone who’s a gaslighter to protect yourself, you might not always be able to cut off interactions with the gaslighter in your life.
For example, if the person is someone you work with. In that case, it helps to have support from other people while also distancing yourself from the person as much as possible.
A gaslighter won’t see that you’re right and they’re wrong, and won’t be open to changing their behavior. Creating a bit of distance will be good for your own sanity.
How To Help A Victim Of Gaslighting
If you know someone who is the victim of gaslighting, offering support is important so that the person doesn’t feel isolated.
It’s a good idea to give the victim an outsider’s perspective on what is happening to them so that they can see they are being manipulated by the gaslighter.
It’s also a good idea to show support by suggesting professional help.
There are many online therapy resources available that can help victims of gaslighting, such as BetterHelp and Talkspace.
These are useful for the person who wants to get some advice without making any huge decisions about their lives or future, especially if they can’t leave the toxic situation.
For example, if the gaslighter is their parent, sibling, or co-worker and they can’t merely walk away from them.
Can being the victim of gaslighting cause you to lie?
You might find that you lie to the person who’s gaslighting you so that you avoid having your feelings or thoughts put down. This, however, makes the situation worse and causes you to censor yourself.
Is gaslighting always intentional?
While gaslighting can be intentional and malicious, sometimes the gaslighter isn’t aware of their actions. This doesn’t mean that the gaslighting isn’t happening, though, which is important to bear in mind.
Gaslighting is a term that can be overused, but it’s a serious problem that can damage your self-esteem and drain you of joy.
In this article, we’ve looked at what gaslighting means, some common gaslighting techniques to be aware of, and how to protect yourself if you find yourself in a gaslighting situation.