ven though the term “gaslighting” might feel new, the act of gaslighting has been around for quite some time. Even so, the concept can feel a bit abstract—it’s normal to look up the meaning of gaslighting and ask yourself, “What is gaslighting?” Because until it happens to you, it may feel like a foreign concept.
To make matters even more complicated, gaslighting can take many different forms. Hearing phrases like “that never happened,” or “you’re overreacting,” can be signs of gaslighting. And it’s important to know when it’s happening to establish healthy relationships.
Ultimately, gaslighting can happen to anyone. It’s often “used as a way to gain or maintain control over someone else,” says Sari Chait Ph.D., a clinical psychologist. But how do you know if someone is gaslighting you? Experts share what you need to know about the form of psychological manipulation.
What is gaslighting?
Gaslighting is the act or practice of misleading someone especially for one’s own advantage, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. It can happen in just about any situation, from personal relationships to the workplace. Erin Wiley, M.A., L.P.C.C. executive director of The Willow Center, describes gaslighting as “a psychological strategy to create confusion in a person so that they end up feeling as if they are to blame for problems in a relationship. You may have recognized gaslighting behavior but never knew the signs. This form of manipulation may leave you feeling weary about your own thoughts and feelings. “Gaslighting happens continually over time,” explains Chait. “So the victim typically starts to doubt themselves, believe an alternative truth, and even wonder if they are losing their mind.”
How do you know if someone is gaslighting you?
Recognizing gaslighting is difficult because it is typically done by someone you trust—like a partner, Chait says.
It’s a sign that someone is gaslighting you if they are:
- Constantly minimizing or invalidating your feelings
- Avoiding taking responsibility for their actions
- Regularly recalling events differently than you
- Using words like paranoid, overreactive, dramatic, overly sensitive, or crazy
- Experiencing self-doubt
- Don’t feel seen or heard
Examples of gaslighting
Gaslighting can occur in many different scenarios. It’s important to be aware of the common phrases or signs of gaslighting. Wiely says gaslighting examples include:
Alienating you from supportive friends and family
Example: “They only tell you we should break up because they are jealous of how close we are. They don’t have your best interests at heart.”
Telling you that your perceptions are wrong
Example: “I wasn’t being critical; I was just trying to help you see how other people see you.”
Invalidating your feelings
Example: “You are too sensitive for your own good. You always think I’m hurting your feelings and no one else would think my words are hurtful but you!”
Downplaying your concerns
Example: “No one else gets worked up about things like that—only you. You are so over the top!”
Making you feel like you’re losing your memory
Example: “That’s not at all how it actually happened—you clearly aren’t remembering it correctly.”
Accusing you of being the manipulator
Example: “That’s not at all how it happened—you are putting a spin on that situation, so you look good and I look awful.”
What to do if someone is gaslighting you
If you find someone is gaslighting you, it’s important that you take steps to protect your wellbeing. There are several ways to take action when in a situation where someone is gaslighting you. Here’s what the experts suggest:
Confront the individual
People will always have different points of view. Learning to respect them and address this in a healthy way can help build communication and connection. You can also talk to someone outside the relationship to get their impression of the situation, Wiley suggests.
Find a support system
It’s crucial to remember that you are never alone in this. Finding a strong support system, as Chait suggests, whether it’s friends, coworkers, or family members is important. Being able to build connections and gain perspective can help.
Putting yourself first doesn’t make you selfish—and can be particularly important in situations of gaslighting. Wiley suggests developing tactics and coping skills to help manage when it happens to you and how to proceed in the future.
As Chait recommends, a therapist can help you manage your feelings after the relationship with the gaslighter ends.
Originally published on prevention.com here. Written by