What is Gaslighting?

Do you think that someone might be gaslighting you? If you don’t use manipulation to get people to do what you want, you’re not likely to even be aware that it’s happening to you without knowing what to look for.

As an empath or a highly sensitive person, you may be more susceptible to gaslighting tactics, so I’m going to give you the information you need to empower and protect yourself from this type of emotional abuse.

First of all, it’s important to know what gaslighting is. I’ll start with a definition. According to dictionary.com, “Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse or psychological manipulation involving distorting the truth to confuse or instill doubt in another person to the point they question their sanity or reality.”

You may wonder why on earth someone would do something like that to you or to anyone for that matter. It all boils down to power and control. Gaslighters want to have greater power over you so that they can have more control over your thinking, your feelings, your sanity, and your reality,

There are several tactics that gaslighters can use to make you question what is real and what is not, eventually causing you to believe that you’re losing your mind.

At this point, you must depend on them to know what you should think, feel, and believe. They’re always right, and once they’ve completely undermined your ability to trust yourself, you’re always wrong. This makes you completely dependent upon them.

All of the weapons in the arsenal of gaslighters can be summed up as some form of lying. Whether outright or through covert methods, the goal is to get you to believe what they decide is the truth by planting seeds of doubt in what you know to be true.

When it comes to telling lies, they’re experts. They’ll stand firm in whatever deception they’ve painted even if you have proof to the contrary. Their consistency is a large part of what makes their lies effective, so you eventually begin to doubt yourself.

Deflecting blame is another way that they’ll confuse you. Either they’ll turn the situation around to avoid a confrontation, or they’ll blame you for what they did.

The gaslighter is so persuasive that they can get you to believe that their bad behavior was caused by something that you said or did. They may even get you to think that they didn’t do anything wrong, to begin with.

To avoid a disagreement or to shift your attention, gaslighters will use your emotions against you. Professing their love for you and their desire for what’s best for you is what you want to hear, and they’re willing to give you that.

Even if their words don’t match up with their actions, you may likely cling to what they say because even a little bit of validation is more than they’ve been giving you by this point.

Gaslighters will use your sensitivity and empathy against you. By minimizing your feelings and your thoughts, they’ll convince you that you’re overreacting. When your thoughts and feelings are never validated, you find it difficult to believe yourself.

Even your memories of past situations are fair game to gaslighters. They’ll twist the reality until you believe events either didn’t occur or didn’t happen the way you remember them. When you can’t trust your memory, it’s hard to know what’s real and what isn’t.

Finally, these abusers will use others against you. They’ll tell those close to you lies about your mental stability, or they may tell you that others are questioning your sanity. This is how they can isolate you from those that might somehow get you out of the situation. Then you’re all alone with only your abuser to depend on for their version of the truth.

Let’s look at some examples of what gaslighting may look like in some of your relationships. This form of abuse isn’t obvious, In fact, it can be so subtle that each instance taken alone may not even be worth questioning. It’s when these types of interactions occur more consistently that they begin to make you wonder about your sanity.

Someone has a better chance of gaslighting you when you’re willing to give up some of your power to keep from losing the relationship or upsetting that person in some way.

If you’re in a relationship, your significant other might be gaslighting you. You and your husband work different shifts. You ask him to do the dishes before he goes to work as you head out the door. When you get home, the dishes are still not washed. After grabbing a light supper, you wash the dishes and head to bed. When you are having breakfast the next morning, you ask why he didn’t do the dishes. He answers, “I did the dishes before I went to work.” You insist that you did them. He replies, “You must remember another time you washed dishes because I did them yesterday. You know you have a bad memory.” Not only is he making you question an event that happened, but he’s also reinforcing the point that your poor memory is to blame, making you wonder if you remember the event as it truly occurred.

If you always hear from your partner that you’re too insecure, too sensitive, or overreacting, you’re probably being gaslighted.

Family members can be gaslighters too. You and your sister are making plans for the weekend. The two of you decide what movie you’re going to see. However, when the day comes, she informs you, “You know I don’t like [actor’s name]. Why would I agree to see a movie that they’re in?”

You remember the conversation clearly. You remember her saying in the past that she likes [actor’s name]. But she’s so insistent and believable now that you question if you heard her right or if you’re thinking about another person who likes that actor.

As children, we’ve probably all heard the phrase from one of our parents, “You can’t be hungry; you just ate lunch.” While this might seem like a reasonable statement, it’s still gaslighting for the fact that it invalidates your feelings of hunger. Although this is just a small example, statements like this can be applied to other events, further invalidating feelings or thoughts you may have.

Perhaps out of anger one time, your dad said, “I told you to put the bag of salt in the garage, not on the porch. You never get anything right!”

You distinctly remembered him telling you to put it on the porch so that he could salt the walkway that afternoon, but now he has you questioning if you heard what he told you right.

Not only that, you’re more likely to believe him because he has “reminded” you that all you do is mess things up.

Friendships aren’t immune to gaslighting. You have a friend over for dinner. As soon as you get in the house, you take off the necklace your mom gave you and set it on the corner table.

After dinner, you go to get the necklace to put it away, and it’s not there. You ask your friend if he’s seen it, and he says, “I didn’t take anything. You’re just being paranoid.

Why do you have to be so dramatic and make things up whenever we’re trying to have a good time?” You know you put the necklace there, and he was the only other person in the house before it went missing.

Also, you never came out and accused him; you simply asked him if he’d seen it. Not only that, he’s making you believe that you always “act out” to ruin any time the two of you spend together.

Gaslighting can occur in the workplace as well. Maybe you have a really competitive coworker looking for ways to impress the boss while undermining your contributions.

You’ve finished your work, so you offer to help her finish her project. Later on, you hear your boss praising your coworker, and there’s no way that you can prove you did the actual work.

The next time you see your coworker, you confront her about it. She responds by saying, “It’s no big deal.” Not only is she refusing to acknowledge the problem, but she’s invalidating your efforts and your feelings.

Because she knows you’re angry, the next day, she tells you what a great job you did and how much she appreciates what you did to help her. You want to keep your things flowing smoothly in the office, so you forgive her based on her kind words.

Your boss specifically asks you to update the client information list. It takes you some time, but you finally get it done. When you take the document to your boss to let him know you’ve finished, he responds by saying, “Why did you spend all afternoon on that? I wanted you to reschedule my appointment for the 18th.”

You know very well what he asked you to get done, but in an effort to confuse you, your boss wants you to believe he told you something else entirely. You let it go and get to work on rescheduling his appointments because you don’t want to lose your job. Yet, you still question yourself on what’s going on and if you really could have mixed up what your boss wanted.

Again, these examples may not seem like much if they’re isolated incidents. But when these and similar events happen over and over again, it wears you down to the point that you don’t know what to believe.

Eventually, you feel like you can only believe the gaslighter because they’re so confident in what they tell you, and you can no longer trust your memory, how you think, or how you feel.

If you feel like a different person from when you first began a relationship, it’s likely your are being gaslighted. Your self-esteem is probably the lowest it’s ever been in your life.

All you can see is the flaws pointed out by your abuser. You only stick around because you feel lucky to have that person in your life because who else would want you if you’re so terrible?

You may be disappointed at how passive you’ve become. You may also feel like others are disappointed in you, so you’re always apologizing for something you might have done or even for who you are as an imperfect person.

Confusion is a common. You may second-guess whether you completed a task properly or remembered something the right way, causing you to double-check or question everything.

It becomes hard to make decisions on your own, so you need to look to your abuser to tell you what to do. The behavior of your gaslighter may also confuse you, so you feel like you’re walking on eggshells to avoid setting off that person.

Doubting your own feelings, you begin to believe that you’re just too sensitive or exaggerating the severity of the situation. You’ll stop expressing your opinions since it only leads to a confrontation with the gaslighter that will make you feel worse afterward.

You really start to question your own reality and your sanity. Maybe you are crazy like you think everyone else believes. You work harder to meet the expectations of the gaslighter even though you never feel good enough. Because you question your worth, you may feel more alone and isolated than ever.

To avoid confrontation with your abuser or those around you, you may lie to yourself and to others, often excusing the gaslighter’s behavior. Since any disagreements always leave you feeling defeated, you might find yourself agreeing to things with your abuser that go against your values.

Deep down, you may just “know” that something is wrong in the relationship, but every time you try to analyze it in your mind, you can’t seem to shake the thoughts that it’s you who’s to blame.

Whenever the gaslighter is present, you may notice that you tense up or have a sense of impending doom. Eventually, you may be resigned to your fate. Feeling hopeless and worthless, you won’t see any way out of your situation.

Can a gifted therapist help you too?

If you struggle with anxiety, depression, high-stress levels, relationship issues, or other specific challenges, one-on-one support from a therapist can help a lot.

You don’t need to go through this alone. There’s no shame in getting help!

Thousands of people get tailor-made support from a kind, empathetic, helpful therapist when faced with difficult life situations.

I recommend BetterHelp, which is a sponsor of Personality Unleashed.

It’s private, affordable, and takes place in the comfort of your own home.

Plus, you can talk to your therapist however you feel comfortable, whether through video, phone, or messaging.

Are you ready to break the negativity cycle?

Personality Unleashed readers get 10% off their first month. Click here to learn more.

Similar Posts