Gaslighting: Definition, Signs, Causes, & Tips for Dealing with It
Often, it is difficult to know if you are a victim of gaslighting. This form of emotional manipulation and abuse is quite subtle, making it easy to ignore despite its significant damaging impact.
Fortunately, it becomes easy to identify gaslighting instances and deal with them effectively if you have a good understanding of the concept.
This article explores the concept of gaslighting in-depth, providing its definition, highlighting the signs and causes. Importantly, it offers advice for dealing with gaslighting and tells you how online therapy can enable you to take charge of your life.
Let’s get started!
What Is Gaslighting?
What is gaslighting? It is a form of psychological manipulation where a person or group of people makes you question your perception of reality, memories, judgments, feelings, or sanity.
Gaslighting starts subtly, with the gaslighter/abuser simply correcting, dismissing, or contradicting what you express. This trend goes on until you start doubting your feelings, memories, perceptions, etc.
When someone gaslights you, they intend to disorient you and make you doubtful such that it becomes easier to agree to what they want. The gaslighter wants you to question your reality, making you dependent on them.
They gain control over you by doing the following things:
- Making you distrust yourself
- Making you vulnerable or scared
- Neutralizing your capability to stand up against them
Gaslighting can occur in many types of relationships. For example:
- Intimate partner relationships
- Child-parent relationships
- Medical gaslighting
- Racial gaslighting
- Political gaslighting
- Institutional gaslighting
It is most common among romantic partners. Still, some friendships also display cases of gaslighting. All genders can fall victim.
What makes gaslighting different from other types of abuses?
It differs from other abuses given that an abuser’s goal is your accepting and believing that you are unstable, ill, or irrational. Only when you conform to this, you become dependent on the gaslighter.
How to Recognize Gaslighting
When gaslighting is left unchecked, it leaves you at the risk of developing various mental issues, e.g., anxiety, PTSD, depression, low self-esteem, distorted self-image, etc.
How to identify gaslighting? Below are some common signs of gaslighting.
You’re Doubtful of Your Feelings and Reality
If you doubt your feelings or reality and always find a way to “defend” and explain the bad treatment, you are probably a victim. Victims tend to convince themselves that they are wrong to conform to the abuser’s suggestions or statements.
You Know Vulnerability and Insecurity Too Well
Do you feel like you are walking on eggshells whenever you are around someone, whether your partner or friend? It is an indicator of gaslighting. Feeling insecure and struggling with self-esteem also point to gaslighting.
You Feel Lonely and Powerless
If you feel that other people think you are mentally ill just as your partner-abuser has led you to believe, you are probably a victim of gaslighting. You might even find yourself saying these things in your head.
You Think That You’re Oversensitive
Do you think that you are too sensitive? A gaslighter might lead you to believe that you are by always downplaying their abuse. They will say things such as “It was just a joke, you are too sensitive.”
You Are Always Apologizing
You can tell that you are a victim of gaslighting if you always feel the need to constantly apologize for your actions, contributions, or expressions. It’s like you are always sorry for being yourself.
What Are the Causes of Gaslighting?
Gaslighting happens because a person or group wants to control another person or people. For example, gaslighting in the workplace occurs because someone wants to have power over another person. An employer might gaslight you to ignore your views or feelings about the job. This way, you become dependent on them and their guidance at work.
Gaslighters often learn this habit from others. They think that they are right to control those around them or that their ideas hold the most weight.
Gaslighting in relationships may occur when your partner has some mental health issues. For example, narcissistic personality disorder or borderline personality disorder.
As mentioned earlier, no matter the cause, gaslighting can lead to serious problems. You can recover from it by getting online therapy help and using the tips highlighted below.
How to Respond to Gaslighting?
Want to learn how to deal with gaslighting? Several tips can help you deal with gaslighting and the abuser.
Step Away from the Situation
Gaslighting is emotionally draining. To know how to resist gaslighting, start by maintaining a level head when you’re feeling angry, worried, frustrated, sad, etc. By remaining calm throughout, you will see the reality of events won’t be swayed by the manipulator’s lies.
You may also need to step away mentally or physically to clear your mind. Do so and talk about the matter later. You could try taking a walk by yourself or just stepping outside for some time. If physical escape isn’t possible, you can also try:
- Deep breathing techniques
- Grounding techniques like counting, visualization, etc.
If you suspect that someone is gaslighting you, start documenting every interaction you have with them. You can revise the evidence you collected to confirm the truth when the abuser tries to twist or deny something that happened.
Some ways to gather proof include:
- Screenshotting and storing message conversations on your phone
- Taking pictures
- Taking notes
- Using a journal to note down conversations in brief
- Recording phone calls that you have with them
Call Them Out on Their Behavior
You can stop gaslighting by calling out the perpetrator on their behavior. In most cases, a will gaslight you to confuse you, control, or kill your self-confidence. But when they see that their behavior doesn’t result in the desired effect, they give up.
By calling out their behavior, you show that their negative comments, insults, and lies don’t affect you.
Trust Your Memory
The way you recall something may not always be exactly how someone else remembers them. For this reason, you may start distrusting yourself.
People typically forget smaller details. So, if you recollect something clearly, say it confidently and provide any evidence you have.
If the person continues to gaslight you by contradicting you, stand by your truth and refuse to engage in an argument. You can avoid a possible argument by talking about something else or leaving the interaction physically.
Prioritize Your Wellness
While self-care isn’t a direct solution for gaslighting, it can do a lot in improving your mental health. Prioritizing self-care can help you in recovering from gaslighting effects such as self-doubt and low self-confidence.
Some self-care tips you should consider are:
- Relaxation techniques: yoga, tai chi, meditation, deep breathing, etc.
- Practicing positive internal dialogue to cope with stress and anxiety.
- Creating time to do the things you love.
- Writing down your feelings in a journal.
- Physical workouts to relieve tension and promote rest.
- Nurturing self-love.
Sharing your experience on gaslighting from a partner, colleague, parent, or friend can be challenging. However, getting another person’s view on the matter can assure you that you aren’t mad or have no memory gaps.
So, build a support system around you to help you get feedback from a non-involved party.
If a person within your work is gaslighting you, keep direct contact with them to a minimum. But if you have to interact with them, tag along a trusted person to observe the situation independently. If you’re in abusive relationships, leave them safely.
Seek Professional Help
Gaslighting can escalate quickly and cause psychological and even physical harm to the victim. When you are exposed to prolonged gaslighting, you may start to believe that something is wrong with you, even though it’s not true.
Therapy is a great step to take when you are combating the long-term effects of gaslighting. It gives you a safe space to talk about your troubles and get support.
Online therapy provides mental health guidance and the help you need to overcome emotional struggles from wherever you are. The Calmerry online therapy platform is one such place you can visit to get matched with an e-therapist.
Gaslighting is a type of emotional abuse that starts with small things and is often hard to recognize at first. Before you know it, you begin second-guessing your memory, thoughts, and feelings. If you suspect someone is gaslighting you, take action immediately to protect your own well-being.
Don’t keep it to yourself, but rather, stop gaslighting. Find a confidant and mental health professional. Consider online therapy to get the support you need to recover from gaslighting or any mental health problem arising from it.
If you’re in a life-threatening situation, get immediate help.
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