What is gaslighting? This is a term we see a lot on TV shows, online, and even hear in our everyday lives. But, surprisingly, a lot of people don’t actually know what it means nor how to spot gaslighting in their lives.
Gaslighting is a form of manipulation in which one person makes the other feel they are crazy and their feelings are invalid. This is something that is so common in all relationships from familial to friendships, and of course, most often in romantic relationships.
It is a cruel way of convincing someone that how they are feeling is wrong, invalid, and even insane. In the simplest terms, it is telling someone they’re overreacting when all they are doing is reacting.
Sadly, this practice is so common and can be so subtle that a lot of people don’t even realize when it’s happening to them. But that’s what I’m going to help you with today.
[Read: Understanding gaslighting and how it is a smokescreen]
How to spot gaslighting
Being gaslighted is never a good feeling. It is confusing, but so subtle we often don’t pick up on it, especially in the midst of a romantic or intense argument.
In a past relationship, my boyfriend often gaslighted me to my ignorance. I would ask him who he was texting or why I heard something suspicious about him. Instead of calming my inquests, he told me I was jealous, overbearing, and crazy.
He even went as far as to flip the situation onto me for not trusting him when he was in fact cheating. His gaslighting gave him power over me. He made me question not just the truth but made me question my own judgment.
[Read: 13 ways toxic love can harm you permanently and how to get out]
This is a tactic used by abusers as well as dictators and cult leaders. It is a power grab that makes you trust the person gaslighting you more than you trust yourself.
There are so many more signs of gaslighting to open your eyes to, so that next time you spot it, you can stop it. If someone does these things, they are gaslighting you.
#1 They lie… a lot. This is a huge red flag. When someone gaslights you, they lie all the time. They lie so much that you can’t tell the difference between what is the truth and what isn’t. And they are so good at it.
They say things that deep down you know are lies, but somehow sort of believe because why would someone lie about something so obviously false? [Read: Here’s how to spot a compulsive liar]
#2 Their promises don’t come to fruition. Gaslighting is all about making you question what is real. They make promises and say a lot of things, but their actions never align. Maybe they cheated and promised never to do it again but then they do.
They then figure a way out of that and continue to promise to be loyal without backing up their lies or false promises with any proof.
#3 They attack what’s most important to you. A gaslighter will hit below the belt. They will attack your job. They will tell you you’ll never make it in your field or call you a bad parent. They will tell you you’ll never succeed. Then, they will take the parts of you that you hold most dear and make you feel insecure about them. [Read: How do narcissists control you so subtly? And why you allow them]
#4 They make you believe they have the power. Not only will they confuse you to gain power, but they will make you believe that not believing them will be bad for you. If they treat you badly and you say you’ll tell someone or leave, they’ll reinforce that they have a loyal group of friends at the police station or that your family likes them more than you.
They want to take away your ability to go outside of them for comfort or help.
#5 They gradually lower your confidence. The reason gaslighting can be so difficult to spot is that it isn’t sudden. Gaslighting happens over time. This person will lower your self-confidence so subtly that you don’t notice until you feel horrible about yourself.
They will pick at small things at first like your cooking, style, or body. But they will work their way up to your talent, your ability, and finish with your character. [Read: The scary signs you’re in a toxic relationship that is breaking you]
#6 They praise you. What really helps spot gaslighting is the confusion. Someone gaslighting you always wants you to take off guard. They not only tear you down but lift you up. They want to be the person that offers you both praise and disgust; then, build you up and break you down.
#7 They argue facts. Gaslighting isn’t just about making you confused but about making you question all reality. They will lie about things you have proof of. Maybe you have text messages to prove they’re cheating, but they will still claim it isn’t true.
#8 They make you feel unstable. Gaslighting is about taking away your safety. They don’t want you to feel secure so that they can always hold something over you. They want you to be nervous and unsure of what’s happening, so you lean on them for your security. [Read: Controlling vs Caring – A thin line controlling people love to cross]
#9 They accuse you of things they’re doing. Learning how to spot gaslighting is about flipping things. A gaslighter will accuse you of things they’re doing. So if they’re cheating, they’ll accuse you of cheating. If they lost all their money to gambling, they’ll accuse you of wasting your money.
#10 They call you crazy. This is the simplest and most basic form of gaslighting. If you say you feel unloved or like you aren’t getting enough attention, instead of listening and validating your feelings they will call you crazy. This seems so small but over time can cause someone to retreat into themselves and not share their feelings or question themselves indefinitely.
#11 Their lies are ridiculous. When you want to spot gaslighting, look for ridiculousness. They won’t just lie about something simple but go above and beyond to lie about something so incredible you have to believe it because how could someone be so bold to make that up?
They will tell you your friends are lying, your family is out to get you, and that your boss is going to fire you. Even if you rationally know the things aren’t true, a gaslighter can make you question your rational side. [Read: Subtle signs you’re being manipulated by your lover]
How to stop gaslighting
Once you’ve learned to spot gaslighting, you want to stop it. Your first instinct may be to fight back. If someone is lying, you tell them they’re lying. If you have proof, you shove it in their face. You stand up for yourself.
That all sounds good, but gaslighting is irrational. It is impossible to have a rational, adult, or calm conversation with someone who depends on gaslighting as their form of control. The best way to fight gaslighting is to disengage. Do not respond. Do not give them the satisfaction of your thoughts, feelings, or anger. [Read: 14 common traits of controlling people and how to deal with them]
Their intent is to get a rise out of you. They want you to feel unhinged and crazy. If you stand back and disengage from the situation, they will have lost control. After a few attempts and no response, they will have to give up.
Now, if someone is gaslighting you, I would suggest ending that relationship. This is a behavior that is unlikely to quit without intensive therapy that most people who choose to gaslight will never commit to or even consider.
Gaslighting is unhealthy for your mental health and should never be tolerated.
[Read: 16 gaslighting signs that your lover is messing with your mind]
Once you learn how to spot gaslighting, you can stop it in its tracks and take your power back.
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