Posted on Monday, 9th Jan 2023
- What is gaslighting? What does gaslighting mean?
Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse or manipulation in which a person or group causes a person to question their own thought process and/or decision making. It is a distortion of the truth and can result in the person being gaslit to feel confused, anxious, and question their sense of reality, memory and more seriously examine their own sanity.
The term gaslighting is often used in the context of emotionally abusive relationships, such as romantic ones or amongst family members.
- Examples of gaslighting? What are gaslighting behaviours?
Here are some examples of gaslighting in a relationship.
‘I did that because I love you.’
‘That never happened.’(Discrediting: questioning the person’s ability to remember things correctly)
‘You must be crazy.’
‘You know I’d never do anything to hurt you.’
“That’s not what happened.’ (Countering: When a person question’s a person’s memory)
‘You’re overthinking it.’
‘You’re too emotional/sensitive.’ (Trivializing: When a person belittles or disregards how someone else feels.’)
‘It was meant as a joke.’
‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ (Withholding: This is when someone pretends that they don’t understand the conversation or refuses to listen or disregards how the other person might feel.)
- Are there signs you’re being gaslit? How do you tell if someone is gaslighting you?
Gaslighting may not be visible as with other forms of abuse, as it is more subtle but equally damaging. It can leave the person being gaslit to second guess themselves constantly, as well as feeling overwhelmed, confused and unconfident in their decision making. Other key signs are the urge to apologize all the time as they believe they must be in the wrong.
There are many signs that you are being gaslit, these might be feeling that you are walking on eggshells around your partner, fearful that you may do or say the wrong thing and create an argument which you will ultimately get the blame for.
Another example is when your feelings are dismissed and you are told how you are supposed to feel e.g.. ‘you should be happy, I did this for you!’ Telling a person how they should feel makes them question their gut reaction to things and lose their confidence and sense of reality in situations, which is the intention of the gaslighter in order that they can gain control.
- Who becomes a gaslighter? What causes gaslighting?
A gaslighter is often someone who needs to be right as it validates them as an individual and gives them a sense of control. When a gaslighter feels threatened with their version of the truth, they may lie or discredit the other person in their need to re-establish a sense of power and command, therefore they will convince the other person that their version of the truth is incorrect, this then supports their narrative. Gaslighter’s will manipulate someone else and result in the other person questioning their own reality, leaving the gaslighter feeling superior.
- How to respond to gaslighting? What can I do?
If you suspect, someone is gaslighting it’s a good idea to start and note down evidence as often situations get forgotten, and time can blur your memory of events as you saw them. At the time Once you feel more confident that you might be being gaslit, you can choose to call the behaviour out with the individual in an attempt to establish some clear boundaries such as, ‘If you call me crazy one more time, I’m going to leave the room.’ Sticking to boundaries is essential in regaining your power and control and not allowing the person that is trying to gaslight you to take that away and therefore undermine your sense of yourself and reality as you see it.
If the behaviour continues and you are still feeling unconfident with your suspicions then you should seek an outside opinion from someone you can trust, like a friend or family member or seek the professional support from a trained counsellor.
- Am I gaslighting?
We often think of gaslighters as having a well-defined plan to intentionally undermine and emotionally abuse another person. However, you may be the one who is gaslighting without intentionally meaning to. Here are some signs that you be an unintentional gaslighter:
You insist that other people must be wrong because they have a different opinion from yours. We all have different ways of thinking and acting, so why do you question someone when they differ from you? Do you often think you know better and need to express your opinion even if its hurtful or nasty towards the other person?
You often lie and don’t see any harm in doing so. Perhaps you’ve been called out for something that you’ve done like using someone’s stuff in your home and they’ve noticed that its gone down quicker than usual. You lie and be defensive and even become overly emoti0onal or aggressive so that the person backs off and questions whether they were right in the first place. So you won the argument but did so by being dishonest and overbearing forcing the other person to doubt themselves.
You brush off an argument or disagreement about something with your partner or work colleague, refusing to apologise or discuss what happened even if they do. By doing so, you are disregarding the person’s emotional, and processing needs by silencing them which not only allows you to get away with bad behaviour but over time results in the other person thinking they may have been too sensitive or wrong to challenge, undermining their self-confidence and validity of their own feelings.
If you recognise yourself acting out in this manner, then seeking help to change your behaviour is available through a suitably qualified therapist who will support you with developing your sense of awareness and teach you new strategies in dealing with conflict in order to improve not only the relationship you have with others but increase your own self-esteem and confidence.
- Where can gaslighting take place? Is it only in a romantic relationship or can it be in other areas, such as a friendship or work?
Gaslighting doesn’t just happen in abusive relationships, it can also occur in families and workplace relationships. In families it can be in the form of parents who may contradict the child’s version of reality, by claiming it never happened, or inconsistent behaviour whereby rules are changed and one day the child is praised for doing something and the next criticized, this can be very upsetting and confusing for the child as they don’t know what or who to trust.
In a workplace situation it can occur in the form of bullying, this can be done by a person in authority, such as a line manager who may abuse their status to achieve more power, or a co-worker who wants to manipulate the outcome of the situation to their benefit.
Power games are often played out, whereby an employee will be undermined or deemed as not credible, they may be excluded from conversations or meetings.
The end result is unfortunately devastating for the individual in either of these examples as and all too often damages the person’s self-esteem and self-confidence, impacting their ability to form trusting other relationships as they often feel vulnerable and guarded.
- Love bombing and gaslighting. What is lovebombing?
Lovebombing is when a the gaslighter will ‘love bomb’ a person with affection, attention and gifts, as a way of gaining control and trust. Once the person being gaslit starts to feel attached and fall in love with them, the gaslighter will start to pick apart and criticise them.
- What advice would you give if someone is being gaslit?
As a counsellor I would offer support and an unbiased perspective on gaslighting alongside with compassionate guidance on improving the person’s self-worth and confidence.
In conjunction, I would also help the person work through some painful and unwanted emotions as they may be feeling fragile and vulnerable in their sense of themselves. It is important to establish that this was not their fault or did they deserve this to happen to them. It would also be very important to explore and set healthier boundaries so that the person felt they had some ‘safety nets’ in place, should it happen to them again. Finally, conflict is often a common occurrence in any relationship, therefore it would be helpful to work with the person and discuss how better to handle conflict more productively.