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What Is Gaslighting: Real Examples and How to Respond

Did you know that gaslighting is a form of abuse? Gaslighting occurs when someone tries to make you feel like you’re crazy for things that others can see. You may start to doubt your actions and incorrectly feel like you aren’t a victim but the cause of the problem.

If a person frequently crosses the line, lies, or puts you down, they may be doing it on purpose. It may be hard to see it in yourself, but some signs show up well before even small changes occur.

In this post, we’ll define gaslighting, show a few examples of how it’s used in everyday life, and provide best practices and tips for recognizing it and how to deal with it.

What is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a descriptive term used when a person (the victim) in a relationship is manipulated by another person (the abuser) to doubt their own sanity and perceptions. The victim believes that their judgments, beliefs, or actions are wrong when this isn’t the case at all

Once the abuser succeeds at making the victim doubt themselves and their own perceptions of a situation, it becomes harder to tell what’s real and not. The victim begins to mistrust what they believe about themselves, other people, and the world around them. In the worst cases, the victim is led to think they are the abuser, and the gaslighter ends up playing the victim’s role.

The term is drawn from the wartime movie Gaslight. A husband tries to convince his wife she’s losing her mind and that the things she sees (such as the gas lights dimming and brightening) are not actually happening.

Warning Signs and How to Spot Gaslighting

Gaslighting doesn’t always occur in the privacy of the home between adults. It exists in relationships amongst parent-child relationships, friends, and even in the workplace in many cases. The latter, in particular, is a grave problem when someone begins abusing their position of authority and manipulating someone with less power.

How Do I Know I Am Being Gaslit?

Many people who are being abused may not always realize it, especially in children or vulnerable adults. However, there are signs to watch out for and some things you can do to protect yourself and your mental health from gaslighting.

  • The abuser continually criticizes you and tells you that your feelings are wrong or too intense.
  • You feel like you can’t do anything right in the eyes of the abuser.
  • Even though you know things aren’t going according to plan, the abuser says that they are and then criticizes you for not following through on what he or she expected.
  • The abuser blames you or puts the blame on you for something that’s not your fault.
  • The abuser makes fun of you in front of other people.
  • You feel like the wrong person because of how the abuser treats you and what they say about you to other people.

Once someone is aware that someone is gaslighting them, they can protect themselves from future abuse. Knowing what signs to keep an eye on and ways to exit the situation can prevent future abusive behavior and allow the victim a way out.

What Is The Best Way To Handle Gaslighting?

It’s difficult to know where to turn if you’ve found yourself in a situation with someone who seems to be gaslighting you or your friend. In the first instance, it’s important to note that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution and that ultimately how you deal with things is up to you.

The best thing is to talk about what’s going on with someone who won’t judge you or try and tell you how to feel. It’s important to remember that gaslighting isn’t your fault and that it should be something that you talk about and find ways of coping with. Don’t be afraid to speak out against any kind of abuse, including gaslighting, and seek professional help.

Should I Tell My Partner That They Are Gaslighting Or Try To Fix It?

Suppose you’re in a close relationship with the person who is doing the gaslighting. Chances are you want to try and bring things back into perspective for them, to show them how their behavior is wrong. Although you may be coming from a place of love and good intentions, confronting your partner about their behavior is not always the best idea.

If you’ve tried pointing this out to them in the past and it hasn’t worked, then take a step back. Your partner likely knows that what they are doing is wrong, and trying to make them see the error of their ways, probably won’t help anyone in the long run. In some cases, you might end up putting yourself in more danger, especially if your partner has a history of physical abuse as well as emotional.

Your safety is paramount in any abuse cases, so it’s vital you don’t ever put yourself in a position more harmful than the one you’re already in. Couples counselling is a good option for those who believe their relationship is fractured rather than broken.

What To Do If A Friend or Family Member Is Being Gaslighted

Suppose a friend or family member who you think might be experiencing gaslighting is struggling. In that case, you can help them by simply being a good listener. In the meantime, if you’ve reason to believe a friend or family member is being gaslighted by their spouse or partner, there are some things you can do to help them heal.

If you’re speaking to the victim of the abuse, reassure them that their self-doubt is not a sign of madness but their body’s way of telling them something’s wrong. People can have very different perceptions of situations, and one person’s reality is another person’s truth. It’s good to check in with them about how they’re regularly doing, lend a sympathetic ear, and reach out as much as possible.

Keep them in the loop about any happenings in their lives. It’s vital for the victim of gaslighting to have an outside perspective and support network. Consider going with them to some counseling sessions if they’re up for it.

Remember that if you wish to take specific action against a person who is gaslighting a loved one and isn’t directly involved, you must back up your claims with evidence. As we’ve discussed, in some cases, visible gaslighting is a double bluff by the real abuser that, when uncovered, is a role-reversal. So speaking out against something that could be just a misunderstanding is not recommended.

What If I'm The Gaslighter?

If the above examples have you wondering if you’re the gaslighter, the first thing you must do is ask yourself if this is a double bluff? Has your partner turned their behaviors on you to make you believe that you are the abuser and they are the victim?

This is vital to distinguish and is more common than you would think. If this sounds like your position, you should bring this up with a professional who can mediate and facilitate the root cause.

If, on the other hand, you’re sure you are the gaslighter and don’t feel like you have been gaslit, then you must stop immediately. Whatever the root cause of your issues, you must seek professional help straight away to avoid any further damage to yourself, and more importantly, those who are innocent.

The first step in rehabilitation is acceptance and admission. By seeking help immediately, you are improving the quality of life for those you love and care about, as well as yourself. Everyone’s life improves without further damage caused by your actions.

Is Gaslighting Abuse?

Yes, Gaslighting is a form of abuse. It is a gradual form of manipulation that can make you question your own feelings and reality. Many would argue that due to its hidden, coercive nature gaslighting can enable other types of abuse.

Remember, you are not alone. Even though it won’t feel like it at the time, trained professionals are always available and can support you and offer further advice. Our website has more information to help you through the daily struggles and understand what it’s like to be a victim of abuse, no matter how severe.

Book in with us for a consultation today. Let us help rebuild your confidence and help you on the road to recovery from your gaslighting experience.

Picture of Pareen Sehat MC, RCC

Pareen Sehat MC, RCC

Pareen’s career began in Behaviour Therapy, this is where she developed a passion for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy approaches. Following a Bachelor of Arts with a major in Psychology she pursued a Master of Counselling. Pareen is a Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) with the BC Association of Clinical Counsellors. She specializes in CBT and Lifespan Integrations approaches to anxiety and trauma. She has been published on major online publications such as - Yahoo, MSN, AskMen, PsychCentral, Best Life Online, and more.

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