Gaslighting is a form of manipulation where one person tries to make another doubt their own thoughts, feelings, or reality. The term comes from a 1944 movie called “Gaslight,” in which a husband tries to drive his wife crazy by dimming the gaslights in their home and then denying that they’re dimmed. In other words, he’s trying to make her think she’s losing her mind.
Gaslighting is a form of emotional manipulation where someone tries to make you doubt your own reality, memory, or sanity. It allows the gaslighter to maintain power in a relationship or situation by making the other person doubt themselves. It can happen in personal relationships, at work, or even in larger societal context and is often used as a tool for control.
To help you identify when someone is gaslighting you, we’ll provide 20 clear examples in a straightforward and conversational tone, avoiding complex jargon.
- Denying What They Said: When they deny ever saying or doing something, despite clear evidence or your memory telling you otherwise, it’s a red flag.
- Shifting Blame: Gaslighters often divert blame for their actions or mistakes onto you, making you question your innocence.
- Trivializing Your Feelings: They may belittle your emotions, making you feel like you’re overreacting or being too sensitive.
- Projecting Their Behavior: Gaslighters accuse you of things they’re actually doing themselves, causing confusion and self-doubt.
- Withholding Information: They might withhold important details or conveniently “forget” to keep you in the dark.
- Countering Your Reality: They twist facts or change the narrative to make you doubt your own perception of events.
- Using Confusion Tactics: Gaslighters may throw a barrage of questions or conflicting statements at you to create chaos in your mind.
- Undermining Your Confidence: Constant criticism and undermining your self-esteem is a common tactic.
- Isolating You: They may try to isolate you from friends and family, leaving you more vulnerable to manipulation.
- Silent Treatment: Gaslighters often use silence as a weapon, leaving you to guess what you did wrong.
- Constantly Changing Rules: They frequently change the rules of engagement, leaving you feeling like you can’t do anything right.
- Playing the Victim: Gaslighters may play the victim to gain sympathy and make you feel guilty.
- Using Sarcasm and Mockery: Subtle insults and sarcasm are tools for eroding your self-worth.
- Making You Question Your Memory: They might say, “You must be imagining things,” causing you to doubt your own recollection.
- Overly Positive Reinforcement: At times, they may shower you with praise and affection to keep you off balance.
- Ignoring Boundaries: Gaslighters disregard your boundaries, making you feel like your needs are unimportant.
- Trivializing Your Achievements: They might belittle your accomplishments, making you feel like you’re not competent.
- Gaslighting by Proxy: Using others to deliver their manipulative messages, making you question your own sanity.
- Claiming You’re Too Sensitive: They’ll tell you that you’re too sensitive or that you’re taking things too seriously.
- Threats and Intimidation: In extreme cases, gaslighters resort to threats and intimidation to control you.
How to Spot Gaslighting:
Here are some signs to watch out for:
- Feeling like you’re always wrong, even when you’re sure you’re right.
- Second-guessing your memory or judgment.
- Frequently apologizing or feeling guilty, even when you’ve done nothing wrong.
- Isolation from friends and family as the gaslighter tries to control your support network.
- A constant feeling of confusion or like you’re walking on eggshells.
It’s important to trust your instincts. If you feel that something is off or that you’re being manipulated, take it seriously. Seek support from trusted friends, family members, or a therapist who can provide an objective perspective. Maintaining your sense of reality and mental well-being is essential, and you have the right to protect yourself from gaslighting and manipulative individuals.