It’s often too late seeing signs you’re being gaslighted. Making someone question their own reality, emotions, and experiences of events is a sort of psychological manipulation known as gaslighting, which is done to keep control over the victim.
The phrase first appeared in a British drama where an abusive husband tried to make his wife doubt her reality by controlling the environment and occurrences.
According to Andrea Papin, RTC, and Jess Jackson, LMT, therapists at Trauma Aware Care, people utilize gaslighting to “get the upper hand and evade accountability.”
According to therapist Aki Rosenberg, LMFT, “Gaslighting is fundamentally always about self-preservation and the maintenance of power/control—specifically, the power/control to create a narrative that maintains the gaslighter in the ‘right’ and their partner in the ‘wrong’.”
* : psychological manipulation of a person usually over an extended period of time that causes the victim to question the validity of their own thoughts, perception of reality, or memories and typically leads to confusion, loss of confidence and self-esteem, uncertainty of one’s emotional or mental stability, and a dependency on the perpetrator
* : the act or practice of grossly misleading someone especially for one’s own advantage
Everyday examples of gaslighting
Gaslighting entails subtly employing mental tricks; this is done on purpose so that you may not even be aware that you are being gaslighted.
Alyssa “Lia” Mancao, LCSW, a certified therapist, lists the following instances of typical gaslighting expressions:
“You’re inventing things.“
“That never took place.“
“You’re being overly dramatic.“
“You’re exaggerating the situation.“
You’ll observe that the gaslighter avoids taking accountability for their own part in the relationship in every instance of gaslighting.
7 Signs you’re being gaslighted
You start to question your sanity
Every relationship has its difficulties, which occasionally requires dealing with your own habits. However, a big symptom of gaslighting is when you begin to doubt yourself to the extent that you feel like you’re “losing it.”
The hardest part about gaslighting, according to Rosenberg, is that it makes it hard to believe in yourself. It can take time for this to happen, making it difficult to spot right away, but if you find yourself questioning, “Am I losing it?” or “I’m not sure if what I’m experiencing is valid,” that’s a major sign that you’re being gaslighted.
They don’t want you to speak
When you’re having a disagreement with them, you can feel like they keep interrupting you and won’t let you fully express your viewpoint. “You’re undoubtedly suffering gaslighting,” Sutton continues, “if you find yourself recording your interactions or sending extensive letters to get your point through since you can never get a word in when you speak to a person.”
They never say sorry
When you tell your partner you’re hurt and they don’t show any sympathy, that raises suspicion. Gaslighting is evident, according to Rosenberg, “if your partner doesn’t apologize when you show hurt but convinces you that you shouldn’t think what you are thinking or feel how you are feeling.”
According to her, you are being gaslighted by your spouse if they never accept responsibility for their acts and “you exhaust yourself, attempting to rationalize your feelings in order for your partner to assess whether or not they are legitimate.”
Your partner shrugs off your emotions
Your partner can try to persuade you that you’re wrong or that you’re overthinking when you voice a worry or discuss your emotions. Your partner will pay attention to your worries and take action to solve them in the context of a healthy relationship.
According to clinical therapist Alexis Sutton, some partners who gaslight will even deny events occurred or say things like, “You’re overly sensitive,” or “You don’t have a right to feel that way.”
They will make you think you’re not trying hard enough
You can start to feel that you aren’t doing enough for your partner at some point in your relationship. When you’ve attempted to raise your worries with your partner, they’ve denied, downplayed, or given you the blame. This can lead you to internalize such messages over time to the point where you start to blame yourself.
Rosenberg points out that “this is objectively impossible.” If it’s always one-sided, it’s a sign that the relationship dynamic is structured around themes of power and control. “In a healthy relationship, both parties will make errors, and both partners will apologize when they are in the wrong.”
Your partner accuses you or passes the blame
A hallmark of gaslighting is when your partner frequently places the blame for conflicts on you or attributes their own behavior to outside forces.
Papin and Jackson note that some partners may go as far as criticizing you, calling you “too sensitive” as a method to avoid accepting blame for themselves. Sutton explains that persons who gaslight could “shift the discussion to something you have done instead of confronting what they have done.”
Your partner uses the Uno Reverse Card always
In your relationship, it could get to the point where it’s quite challenging to express any emotions. Mariel Buquè, Ph.D., a therapist, advises paying attention to whether you feel suppressed or “if you are feeling voiceless in your relationship,” as those are signs of being gaslighted. If the thought of bringing up a concern or sharing your true feelings starts making you feel guilty, she says, that’s a sign that “there is control at the center of your relationship, which is a key marker of gaslighting.”
How to avoid being gaslighted
Seek assistance to for validation
The therapists concurred that getting assistance from dependable individuals outside the relationship is essential to fostering a sense of validation and assurance regarding your experience. Reminders and empathy might feel particularly comforting because gaslighting is so manipulative and invalidating, according to Papin and Jackson. If you have access to one, consult a therapist or a trustworthy friend.
It’s possible that your partner is unaware that he or she is gaslighting. In this situation, according to Buquè, it can be beneficial to explain to them what gaslighting is, how they are using it, and how it makes you feel. Unfortunately, it puts the onus of proof and instruction on the victim of gaslighting, but she adds that it may genuinely influence their decision to change their behavior in order to end the relationship’s poisonous habits.
Build your self-esteem in order to have the guts to speak up here.
If the gaslighting continues, initiate the break up
Consider ending the relationship if the gaslighting is pervasive and speaking up to your partner is not an option. Sutton advises that you should seriously consider quitting the relationship if your partner grows irate while gaslighting you or puts you in danger. Although it might not be simple, taking this step might be essential to feeling protected.
If your partner is narcissistic, speaking up is no use
A toxic individual is reluctant to admit to controlling the relationship in order to feel in control. Sutton advises leaving the situation if you are currently being gaslighted: “Don’t engage. If feasible, exit the conversation. Gaslighters aren’t interested in your perspective or feelings,” and trying to persuade them otherwise would require extra effort and pain on your part.
Check for signs
No matter if you decide to stay or leave, Rosenberg advises that you understand your own attachment signs. “Sometimes we legitimately can’t see this conduct coming, but frequently, when we reflect on a disastrous relationship, we identify all the warning signs and gut feelings we disregarded in the hopes of finding love and connection.”
Gaslighting virtually never happens because of you and frequently happens because of a toxic partner.
Consult a therapist or other mental health expert if you believe that you or someone you know is being gaslighted to learn how to deal with the situation and determine the best course of action.