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What Is Gaslighting? Recognize the Signs and Effects

By now, "gaslighting" is a word you've probably heard a few times from a friend, colleague, or social media platform. You've heard it enough times to research the term, or maybe something hits close to home in the little snippets you've gathered.

Look no further; I'll tell you more about this insidious act.

Gaslighting is incredibly damaging and is usually done by narcissists. Luckily, there are ways and means to deal with a narcissist and tips to respond to gaslighting.

Red gas container above matchsticks

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Signs and Effects Of Gaslighting


1. What Is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a form of manipulation. It can occur in any relationship - friendship, family, colleague, boss, and most typically, in romantic relationships.

It's the psychological manipulation of a person over an extended period. It causes you to question your perception of reality and your memories. You start to wonder if what you're thinking is true and what you remember is correct.

Gaslighting typically leads to confusion and uncertainty about your emotional or mental stability. In addition, it often wears down your self-esteem and self-confidence, leaving you dependent on the person gaslighting you.

There are many good books on gaslighting, and they're great resources for understanding and recovering from gaslighting.


2. What Does Gaslighting Look Like?

When someone is gaslighting you, they are twisting reality to suit their needs.

They would spin a story so convincingly that you may second-guess yourself, your memories, recent events, and perceptions.

You feel hella confused after dealing with a gaslighter. "What just happened?" or "Did that just happen?" are words often uttered after such interactions.

It's shocking how blatant the lies and manipulation are when you're away from the gaslighter and can think logically about the situation. But let me tell you, when you're in the thick of it; it somehow makes sense what they're saying.


3. Someone Who Gaslights Might:

  • Lie to you - insist you said or did things you know you didn't do, convince you that they didn't do something.

  • Rewrite history - deny or scoff at your recollection of events.

  • Discredit you - express doubts to others about your feelings, behavior, and state of mind.

  • Shift blame - twisting or retelling events to shift blame to you.

  • Deny wrongdoing - insist they're right and refuse to consider facts or your perspective.

  • Distract you - change the subject by asking a question instead of responding to the issue.

  • Minimize your thoughts and feelings - trivializing your emotions to gain power over you.

  • Use compassionate words as weapons - use kind and loving words to smooth over the situation and convince you to let them off the hook.

  • Try to keep you small.


4. Words Often Used by Gaslighters:

  • That never happened

  • You're too sensitive

  • You're so dramatic

  • It's not a big deal

  • I didn't mean it like that

  • Don't get upset over stupid things

  • I was just joking

  • You remember things wrong

  • Are you sure? You have such a bad memory

  • You're crazy

  • Everyone thinks you're crazy

  • Nobody likes you

  • Stop feeling sorry for yourself

  • I'm sorry you think that I hurt you

  • I wouldn't have done that to you

  • You should have known how I would react

  • It's your fault I did XYZ

  • YOU did XYZ, not me

  • Why can't you get over it?

  • What about your issues?

  • What more do you want from me?


5. How Does It Feel Being Gaslighted?

Being subjected to gaslighting is extremely harmful. No matter how strong and brave you are, gaslighting can cause anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns, including addiction and thoughts of suicide.

  • You doubt your feelings and reality.

  • You try to convince yourself that your treatment is not bad or that you are too sensitive.

  • You question your judgment and perceptions.

  • You are afraid of speaking up or expressing your emotions. You have learned that sharing your opinion makes you feel worse, so stay silent.

  • You feel vulnerable and insecure.

  • You often feel like you "walk on eggshells" around your partner, friend, or family member.

  • You also feel on edge and lack self-esteem.

  • You feel alone and powerless.

  • You are convinced that everyone around you thinks you are "strange," "crazy," or "unstable," just like the person who is gaslighting you says you are.

  • You feel trapped and isolated.

  • You wonder if you are what they say you are - wrong, unintelligent, inadequate, or insane.

  • You are disappointed in yourself and who you have become.

  • You feel like you are weak and passive and that you used to be more decisive and assertive.

  • You feel confused.

  • You worry that you are too sensitive.

  • You have a sense of impending doom.

  • You feel like something terrible is about to happen when you are around this person.

  • You spend a lot of time apologizing.

  • You feel like you're never "good enough."

  • You second-guess yourself.

  • You frequently wonder if you accurately remember the details of past events.

  • You assume others are disappointed in you.

  • You wonder what's wrong with you.

  • You struggle to make decisions because you distrust yourself.

  • You feel completely drained and exhausted around this person.


6. Why Does Gaslighting Work?

"I used to be such a strong person; why does gaslighting work?"

Because you want to trust the person gaslighting you.

Gaslighting happens when there's a relationship between you and the other person. And relationships form around trust. You want to have faith in your doctor, parents, best friend, boss, or partner. Why in the world would they lie to you? So, you believe what they tell you. Plus, gaslighting isn't always obvious or extreme. Often, it's disguised as an attempt to "look out for you."

The number one thing to remember is there's NOTHING wrong with you, and it's not your fault. Many smart, successful, intelligent people have been fooled by gaslighting. It's not always easy to spot, and you're not dumb or weak to have become a victim of gaslighting.


The Bottom Line

Anyone can fall victim to gaslighting, and sometimes you only figure out what's happening while it's been going on for a while. If possible, end the relationship, cut all contact, or limit your interactions with this person as much as possible. Don't be afraid to ask for help - you can regain control and become yourself again.


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