“That never happened.”
“I only did it because you made me.”
Have you ever heard these phrases before? These are gaslighting examples in relationships.
The subtle escalation between these phrases is where gaslighting starts. Just like physical abuse rarely starts with a punch, gaslighting starts small and grows. Soon, you don’t even recognize yourself.
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The definition of gaslighting is the use of tactics to manipulate another individual’s reality.
It is a form of psychological manipulation and abuse. The goal of gaslighting is to foster and grow seeds of doubt in a person, making them question their own reality, memory, judgement, and perception. It has a high impact on someone's mental health and self-esteem.
The goal of gaslighting is to gain control over another person by making them doubt themselves and their perception of reality. When gaslighting someone, an abuser will make them feel like they can’t trust themselves.
Anyone can be a victim of gaslighting. It’s commonly used by abusers, dictators, and cult leaders in order to gain control or power over a person or group of people. It can also happen between family members.
While not every abuser who gaslights is a narcissist, sociopath or have another personality disorder, these folks tend to use gaslighting as way to get their own way. Gaslighting starts when there is an imbalance in the power dynamics between the individuals – because like all forms of abuse, gaslighting is about power and control.
The process of gaslighting is a slow distortion of reality — which is why it works. It plants the seeds of self-doubt and makes you question your own self-worth.
To define gaslighting, we must look at the origin of the phrase.
The term gaslighting originates from a 1938 stage play titled Gas Light.
In the play, the husband performs acts to distort his wife’s reality including slowly dimming the gas lights in their home throughout the performance. His goal is to manipulate her reality and have her believe she is going insane to gain power over her.
The term gaslighting has been used since the 1960’s to describe the manipulation of another person through distorting their reality.
Gaslighting is often seen in emotionally abusive relationships where the gaslighter wants to be in control and have power over their partner.
Some examples of early red flags in a relationship (which can lead to gaslighting in the future) include:
The three most common signs of gaslighting are:
Some other gaslighting techniques include:
Some gaslighting examples and signs include:
Gaslighters often project their own reality onto another individual. It’s likely that whatever they’re saying you did, they likely did. This is abusive behavior performed by abusive people. Gaslighting is not something to be taken lightly as it often leads to more serious forms of emotional and physical abuse.
You might even recognize some of these gaslighting phrases once you spot the pattern. Some gaslighting phrases include:
We could go on and on with gaslighting phrases, but we hope you get the point. These gaslighting phrases are designed to distort your reality and have you question everything about yourself, your opinions, and even facts. Taking what the gaslighter says seriously forces you to also take some, or often all, of the responsibility for whatever abuse has occurred. This is not okay and is a form of emotional and mental abuse.
First, you must recognize that you are being gaslit. Gaslighting is a form of abuse and, therefore, is domestic violence.
To understand if you’re being gaslit, ask yourself if the offender has made you feel any of the following ways:
It can be a scary realization when someone is gaslighting you. You realize that your whole world has been manipulated. It’s normal to feel scared, nervous, emotional, and even embarrassed. Do not blame yourself for the gaslighting — it is never your fault.
If you’re asking yourself how to stop gaslighting in a relationship, it’s likely that it’s gone so far that you can’t actually stop the other person’s behavior and actions.
If someone is trying to control you and your reality, it’s not a healthy relationship. In fact, gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse.
It’s likely that you’re experiencing other types of abuse in a relationship that uses gaslighting to control you. If you’re still not sure if this is happening to you, we recommend reaching out to a friend or domestic violence advocate about what’s been going on in your relationship. Telling someone you trust about the types of arguments you’ve been having with your partner might be less intimidating, and they can even call a hotline with you to help you create a safety plan if that’s a next step that you think will work for you.
In reality, you can’t stop someone from gaslighting. People who are gaslighters will likely never take responsibility for their actions and admit to their problems.
The safest thing to do is to come up with an exit strategy for the relationship and begin your healing journey.
Resources to help you understand your gaslighting experience and get assistance include:
While most people think about gaslighting in relationships, this experience can also happen in the workplace. You make encounter a gaslighter in the form of a bad boss, a condescending coworker, or even a disgruntled client or customer.
Another example of gaslighting in the workplace is a systemic presence of institutional bias and prejudice.
A gaslighter at work might:
Gaslighting in the workplace is a real issue. Whether it’s a systemic issue across the organization or one bad apple, it’s up to you on how to handle it.
You can try reporting to a supervisor or your boss and create a document of your experiences with dates and times. If you can, you can also choose to leave the job all together as you might be unable to change the overarching gaslighting occurring in the workplace.
Sadly, gaslighting can also occur in friendships — even with your best friend.
Gaslighting friends will do things like:
You might be asking...how do I deal with a gaslighting friend?
The easiest way to deal with a gaslighting friend is to completely cut them out of your life. You don’t need that kind of toxicity!
While it might feel like a crime is being committed because of the constant emotional manipulation by the gaslighter, whether gaslighting itself is illegal or not depends on where you live.
For example, in the UK patterns of coercive or controlling behavior can be punishable by up to five years in prison.
Gaslighting is often a sign of other forms of emotional abuse — which can be considered a crime. Gaslighting, and other forms of emotional abuse, are usually a much larger sign of other forms of abuse — like financial abuse (which occurs in 99% of abusive relationships) and potential physical violence.
Regardless of whether gaslighting is a crime, it is a form of abuse — whether it’s happening at work, in a friendship, or with an intimate partner.
There is help and support available to you if you are experiencing gaslighting in any type of relationship. Talk with trusted loved ones, a mental health professional, utilize hotlines like VictimConnect, and/or create a safety plan to escape the situation.
When you start questioning your own memory, your own sanity in a relationship, know that it is not likely a mental illness — it is you being gaslit by the other individual.
Still not sure if you're experiencing gaslighting? Take this quiz to help better understand what you're experiencing.
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