Gaslighting is a dangerous form of psychological manipulation where the manipulator attempts to convince the victim that their perception of reality is inaccurate.
Have you ever been in a situation where another person – partner, friend, family member, colleague or acquaintance – tries to tell you how you perceive things or how you feel is wrong?
That ‘it’s just all in your head’ or words to that effect?
You might be a victim of “gaslighting” – a term coined to describe a particular type of emotional abuse that leaves its victims feeling minimised, crushed, smothered and second-guessing themselves. The victim will be left questioning their own feelings and instincts.
Sometimes, they can even feel as though they are going crazy.
What is gaslighting and how does it work?
Gaslighting is a term that refers to the manipulative behavior of someone who deliberately tries to “recreate another reality” to make the person feel guilty. The goal of gaslighting is to make the victim doubt their own reality, memory, and perception.
Gaslighting can be done in many different ways, but some common tactics include:
- Questioning the victim’s version of events
- Denying that something happened even though it did
- Making them question their sanity
- Manipulating their environment
- Telling the victim they are imagining things or making them doubt their own memories
Gaslighting can be damaging because it causes the victim to question their own sanity and reality. Unfortunately, gaslighting is often used as a tool of abuse, as it can be used to control and manipulate someone.
If you believe you are being gaslighted, it is important to reach out for help. There are many organizations and hotlines that can assist you in dealing with gaslighting and other forms of abuse.
How do you feel when you’ve been gaslit?
If you’re being gaslighted, you’ll probably find yourself being told things like “You’re crazy, it’s all in your head!” when you question something you are pretty sure is true. “You’re wrong, that never happened!” is another favourite. Or “What is wrong with you?”
This can leave you questioning your own perception of reality and even your own sanity. You were sure you were right…but the other person is so adamant you aren’t and that you are imagining things.
The term “gaslighting” was inspired by Gas Light – a 1938 play that was also made into a film in 1940 and 1944. The plot featured a husband systematically manipulating his wife whenever she saw that the gas lights in their house were being dimmed, he would try to make her feel crazy and tell her she was seeing things. He was actually dimming the lights so he could search for hidden jewels.
A gaslighter generally spins their harmful, destructive and negative behaviors in their favour. They deflect the blame for their behavior and point the finger at the other person. They’ll say that the victim is “overly sensitive” or “silly” or “paranoid” or “unhinged” or “mentally unstable”.
Gaslighting is also known as “crazy-making” – and is commonly adopted by narcissistic, sociopathic and psychopathic personality types. Their behavior is insidious and given enough time, they can completely erode their victim’s sense of self.
In a relationship, gaslighting usually happens gradually. The abusive partner’s actions can often seem harmless in the beginning, but over time, the patterns increase leaving the victim feeling confused, isolated, anxious and depressed. They can actually start to rely more and more on the abusive partner to define reality.
The abuser will do it to control their victim, and also to deflect their own terrible behavior because they cannot admit they are wrong. For example, if you confront someone you are certain has been unfaithful, and they throw it back at you that you are delusional, because they’ve actually been unfaithful, but can’t admit it. They’d rather throw your sanity under a bus.
Gaslighting is quite common in a romantic context, but you can find it in all sorts of other places, too.
If you’ve got a particularly toxic colleague who likes to play games with people, for example.
Cult leaders are often gas lighters too as they alienate their victims and get them to alter their perceptions of reality so they can manipulate them. Even lawyers use a spot of gaslighting as a tactic when cross-examining people in court.
How to spot gaslighting in your relationship
Do you sometimes feel like your partner is trying to manipulate you? If so, you may be a victim of gaslighting. Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse that can make you question your own sanity. Fortunately, there are some ways to spot gaslighting in your relationship and protect yourself from it. Keep reading to learn more.
The gaslighter makes you feel like you’re always wrong and they’re always right
If you’re in a relationship with a gaslighter, you might find yourself constantly apologizing for things that you don’t even remember doing. You might start to doubt your own memories and question your own judgment. The gaslighter will often deny things that you know happened, making you feel crazy and confused.
They twist your words to make you seem like the bad guy
Have you ever had someone tell you that you said something that you know you didn’t say? Or twist your words around to make it seem like you said something completely different? And now, you’re the bad guy in someones else’s story because of their version of you and themselves.
They use denial, projection, and diversion to avoid taking responsibility for their own actions
Gaslighters use diversion to avoid taking responsibility for their actions by deflecting blame onto someone else or something else. They gaslight their victims into thinking that the gaslighter is the victim and that they are the one who is actually gaslighting them. It’s all a means of avoiding taking responsibility for their own actions.
They try to control your every move and what you say
Gaslighters love to be in power and in control. They may tell you what to wear, how to do your hair, who you can see, and even what you can say. They may make you feel like you are going crazy or like you are the one who is doing something wrong. Gaslighters want you to doubt yourself so that they can have complete control over you.
They use manipulation and intimidation to get what they want
Gaslighters are skilled manipulatives and use intimidation to get what they want. If you’re not careful, they can easily take control of your life. Gaslighters are often very charming and easy to like, which makes their manipulation all the more effective. They may try to convince you that their way of doing things is the only way, or that you’re not good enough to do things on your own. They may also try to make you feel guilty or ashamed for things that are not your fault.
You feel like you can’t trust your own judgment or intuition
One of the most insidious things about gaslighting is that it makes you second-guess your own judgment and intuition. They may tell you that you’re “too sensitive” or “overreacting.” They may make you feel like you’re the one who’s crazy. As a result, you may start to question your own instincts and perceptions.
Everything feels like an uphill battle – conversations, relationships, etc.
Have you ever felt like you’re always fighting? That everything is an uphill battle? If so, you may be the victim of gaslighting. Gaslighters are manipulative people who make others feel like they’re always on the defensive. They make conversations feel like a battle, always disagreeing or finding fault. They make relationships feel suffocating as if you can’t breathe. And always, always, it feels like it’s your fault.
They use sarcasm and irony to make you feel like you’re being paranoid
If you’re feeling like you’re being gaslighted, pay attention to the sarcasm and irony. Gaslighters will often use these devices to make you feel like you’re being paranoid. For example, they might say something like “I’m only joking!” after making a critical remark. Or they might give a sarcastic response to a question you’ve asked. These comments can leave you feeling confused and second-guessing yourself.
They gaslight your friends and family too
Have you ever had a friend or family member who always managed to make you doubt yourself? Maybe they would tell stories about you that weren’t true, or they would accuse you of things that you know you didn’t do. Gaslighters are manipulative people who use gaslighting as a way to control and destroy their victims’ friends and family members. By making their victims doubt themselves, gaslighters are able to exert a frightening amount of control over them.
They play the victim when confronted
Gaslighters are experts at playing the victim when confronted. They will often act like they are the ones being attacked, even when they are the ones who started the argument. This allows them to avoid taking responsibility for their actions and makes it difficult for their victim to get validation or support from others.
Gaslighters may also use this tactic to gaslight their victim into believing that they are the one who is truly responsible for the conflict. This can be extremely confusing and frustrating for their victim, who is left feeling isolated and alone.
Have you ever been in a relationship where you feel like you’re constantly walking on eggshells?
Where you’re not quite sure what mood your partner is going to be in from one day to the next? If so, then it’s possible that you’re experiencing gaslighting.
Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse that can be very subtle and often goes unnoticed by the victim. Let’s discuss what gaslighting is, how to spot it in your relationship, and what steps you can take if you think you might be a victim.
If you recognise these signs and think you might be a victim of gaslighting, don’t be afraid to take a stand.
You are a valuable person and no other person has the right to tell you otherwise. You do not have to prove yourself to them. If someone is repeatedly telling you that you are crazy, know that they are a “crazy maker” and it’s not you who has a problem, it’s them. They have mega issues.
Normal, healthy people don’t go around trying to manipulate others by attempting to warp their sense of reality.