All You Need to Know about Gaslighting, Its Examples, Signs, and Preventive Measures
Introduction to Gaslighting
Gaslighting is a kind of psychological abuse that makes an individual doubt their sanity and rationale. Victims of this malicious abuse often suffer from depression, anxiety, and other psychological diseases.
In this article, I will cover the subject of gaslighting in detail.
The first part of the article covers gaslighting definition and its common types. Later, I will discuss signs of gaslighting that will help you identify this abuse if it happens to you or your loved ones. I have also included some real-life stories of people who faced such manipulation. It will help you understand what gaslighting experience is. The last part includes some useful ways to save yourself from this emotional abuse.
What is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting refers to a psychological manipulation through which the perpetrator controls his victim by twisting their sense of reality. A gaslighter clouds their victim’s reality by consistently presenting a false narrative and denying the actual truth.
In the beginning, the victim knows reality and tries to explain his perception to the abuser. Over time, the person on the receiving end becomes increasingly confused and drowns in self-doubt. He starts feeling that he can’t trust his perception or judgment, and ultimately he becomes dependent on the abuser.
Who is a Gaslighter?
A gaslighter is a person who attempts to gain control over others by making them feel crazy. They induce a sense in their victims that their perception of reality is not only mistaken but baseless and absurd.
They do this by sidestepping evidence that supports the victim’s testimony. This mean activity can be as simple as putting the keys in someone’s purse and insisting they put them themselves. Such incidents will affect the victim’s mental health if they occur repeatedly.
Anyone can do gaslighting, but people with narcissistic or borderline personality disorder normally exhibit this manipulative behavior. They keep playing mind games on their victims until they start questioning their self-worth.
Examples of Gaslighting
Gaslighting can happen in seemingly perfect romantic relationships, professional work environments, and even to children. No matter what the dynamic of this malicious practice is, there are always some common tactics used to make the other person doubt his sanity.
Here are a few examples of gaslighting tactics:
The gaslighter negates the victim’s memory of past events. Theyinsist that either the victim’s memory is flawed or he is just making up stories on purpose. The person being gaslit is left baffled and confused because he was telling the truth.
2. Pretending to Forget
The gaslighter pretends to have forgotten what happened when the victim brings up an abuse incident.
The perpetrator might verbally abuse the victim and later act as if they don’t remember at all. The victim nervously exclaims, “how can you forget that!” but the abuser stays firm on his ground. They may even take a step further and say something like, if it had happened, I would have remembered that.
3. Dismissing Emotions
This situation involves making the victim feel that his negative emotions, like sadness, fear, or regret, are pointless and absurd. A gaslighter tells the victim that they are too sensitive and over-emotional.
When subjected to this behavior repeatedly, the victim is forced to hide his emotions and suffer in silence.
The abuser blatantly refuses to listen to the victim’s viewpoint when confronted. Sometimes the gaslighter acts like they are caught up in a confusing conversation where nothing makes sense. Thus, implying that the victim is perplexing them on purpose.
The abuser uses this tactic to save themselves from confrontation. Diverting is an attempt to change the subject when the victim brings something up.
They hijack the conversation by stressing over the credibility of what someone is saying rather than the content.
Examples of Gaslighting
Most Common Types of Gaslighting Scenarios
Gaslighting can occur in many different scenarios. Usually, it occurs within a vulnerable group of people or with an individual. Sweet (2019) states that gaslighting techniques often use stereotypes to attack specific vulnerabilities.
A gaslighter will make the victim question his self-worth by making statements like women are irrational, black women are aggressive, etc.
Here are some common types of gaslighting scenarios:
1. Gaslighting in Intimate Relationships
This situation commonly happens in heterosexual relationships where aman gaslights a woman. He uses common gender stereotypes to strengthen his claims about his partner’s sanity. The gaslighter often makes statements like women can’t handle pressure or are irrational.
2. Gaslighting and Gender
Gender-based gaslighting can be seen not only in homes but also in the legal system, healthcare system, and other social scenarios. Some examples of gender-based gaslighting are as follows:
· Gaslighting in Healthcare
Some women are gaslit by doctors who insist they exaggerate or imagine their symptoms. Women coming to the doctor’s office with legitimate symptoms are labeled hypochondriacs because the doctor believes that women are generally irrational and hysterical.
This leads to the worsening of symptoms dismissed by the healthcare professional and ultimately causes extreme complications.
I believe that the modern-day US is far from things like gender bias and stereotypes against women, but the truth is far from that.
· Gaslighting in Legal System
Gender-based gaslighting is commonly seen in sexual assault and child custody cases. The abuser might use gender stereotypes as their testimony against the woman. Police officers and judges often find this testimony credible enough to dismiss a woman.
· Collective Gaslighting
Collective gaslighting occurs when many women fall prey to the gaslight effect because of a statement or opinion of a public figure or media personality. If a celebrity sympathizes with an abuser and sides with him, this will make many people second-guess their stance on the issue at hand.
Cynthia A. Stark, Ph.D., has discussed public gaslighting in her paper, “Gaslighting, Misogyny and Psychological Oppression.” She gave the example of a CNN reporter who tried to put the rapists of a 16-year-old in a good light by talking about their football achievements and academic excellence.
· At Educational Institutes
A common example of gaslighting in school is the attempt of educators to undermine or deny the ongoing impact of racism in society. They might say that we should not keep dwelling in the past. Slavery is a past event and doesn’t impact present-day generations.
· Family and Friends
Racial gaslighting by friends and romantic partners can be as simple as making a racist joke and then insisting that it was just for laughs and should not be personalized.
When such behavior is repeated multiple times, the victim starts thinking they may be more tolerant towards such comments and jokes.
3. Gaslighting in Politics
Politicians use gaslighting to shift the public’s viewpoint about an issue or event in their favor.
The world has seen political gaslighting at a large scale during the Covid-19 pandemic. Some leaders gave statements declaring the deadly disease to be a conspiracy. Others downplayed the severity of the situation. Some tried to manipulate people’s minds by claiming there were no deaths because of oxygen shortage when the reality was quite the opposite.
Political gaslighters actively confuse and manipulate the masses to establish authority and gain control.
10 Signs of Gaslighting You Must Know to Avoid Miserable Situations
Gaslighting is a dangerous form of emotional abuse. The term gaslighting was first coined in 1940, but this practice has been ruining people’s lives for ages. It is very important to educate oneself about the signs of gaslighting to spot it early on and save yourself from long-lasting damage.
Here are 10 signs of gaslighting you must know.
1. Black Lies
The abuser tells big lies, deliberately misrepresenting the facts to confuse or deceive the victim. You might be shocked to see the absurdity of falsehood they claim to be true.
Since the gaslighters keep insisting that they are right, you would be forced to reconsider your side of the story and make space for theirs.
2. Saving Themselves by Denying the Situation
When confronted, the gaslighters deny everything. They accuse you of blaming them without grounds. This situation is especially common when they make a hurtful comment or say something bad about your dear ones. When you bring up the subject, they will look into your eyes and say you are mistaken.
Statements like, you always forget my words or it’s okay you don’t remember what happened to you, confuse you and leave you disoriented.
If the gaslighter is your partner, you may feel your feelings are denied, rejected, or dismissed whenever you want to tell them how badly you are hurt. They will tell you time and time again that you are oversensitive and you should stop feeling that way.
If you feel scared that they are plotting against you, they will say you imagine things. If you tell them you are sad because of a snarky comment they made about you, they will label you “overly sensitive” or too weak to handle light humor.
A gaslighter can dismiss every negative emotion you feel towards them. If your partner never apologizes for their mistakes and tries to shift the blame on you, it is a big red flag.
A gaslighter doesn’t accept their wrongdoings. Instead, they will do everything in their power to shift the blame to you. A simple example of projection is breaking something accidentally and then insisting that you are the reason for that damage. Sometimes they use an indirect approach and say something like, it is your fault because you placed it there.
If you suspect that your partner is cheating on you, they will respond by saying that you are the one who is cheating. Alternatively, they might accept their mistake but insist it was your fault.
5. They Can’t See You Happy
The goal of a gaslighter is to gain control over you and make you miserable. They will find issues with your lovely things. If you have children who make you feel complete, they will say things like; you don’t get enough time for yourself because of the kids. Slowly and gradually, they will make you think that they are right.
If you tell them that you love your job, they will point out that your salary needs to improve. This other person works half the number of hours and makes more money than you.
6. They Use Confusion as a Control Tactic
A confused person is neither confident nor happy. A gaslighter wants to do the same to you. If you are in a relationship with a gaslighter, he will not leave any opportunity to confuse you. In addition to questioning your memory of past events, the abuser also makes his personality confusing for you.
They will keep you in ambiguity about the status of your relationship. You will need help to conclude the sincerity of your partner.
7. Buttering up
A gaslighter will butter you up before cutting you. As a part of the manipulation game, they shower love and affection, bring gifts, and give nice compliments. This love bombing will make you think they are not that bad. But before you know it, they will start belittling and harassing you.
This pattern will leave you disoriented about the reality of your life partner. The occasional extravagant display of affection also makes you minimize the abusive behavior or make room for it.
8. Altering Your Physical Environment
Altering the physical environment can take a toll on a person’s mental health. Imagine you come back from work and see a big massage chair in the lounge. You use it every day for a week, and one day it disappears. When you ask your partner about it, they say we never had a massage chair. You know for a fact that it was there but had nothing to prove that. Ultimately, you will start thinking that maybe you were so tired that you imagined being in a massage chair every day.
9. Attempting to Destroy Your Credibility
Your partner will express concern about your mental health to your family and friends. They might tell silly stories about your behavior to make their claims more believable. Hence, they will make your loved ones believe that.
- They are genuinely concerned about you.
- Your words can’t be trusted because your mental health is compromised.
This leaves you in this trap where everyone tells you; your partner is a good person, and you should continue the relationship. Moreover, if you tell your friends about his abusive behavior, they will find it hard to believe you. They will think you have gone crazy and keep making things up.
10. Making you dependent and lonely
The abuser will tell you stories about the people you trust to make you believe they are not sincere with you. They will instill in your mind that the people you hold so close to your heart hate you. This will eventually leave you in a foggy situation where you can’t figure out who can be trusted. They might encourage you to distance yourself from your friends and family. Ultimately, you will get lonelier than ever and stuck with the manipulator.
Worrying Effects of Gaslighting
The following effects of gaslighting will give you a clear understanding of how gaslighting affects your well-being.
1. Immediate Effects
These effects are emotional in nature and do not take a lot of time to appear. The constant denial of the reality of the situation makes you confused and disoriented.
Due to gaslighting tactics, you may lose confidence and seek validation from others. You start questioning your self-worth and have low self-esteem.
Also, you will be seen as perplexed and sad.
One of the biggest effects of gaslighting is hopelessness. Being constantly ridiculed and undermined will result in losing hope in yourself and your relationships.
2. Long-Term Effects:
Over time, this malicious manipulation develops psychological effects. Common long-term effects of gaslighting are:
- PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
In extreme cases gaslighting leads to suicide.
You must consider these effects of gaslighting for prevention.
Real-Life Stories of People who Faced Gaslighting
1) 14 Years of Psychological Abuse
A woman stayed with a gaslighter for more than a decade!
Her husband would not spare a chance to lie to her. He was so good at lying that she could hardly suspect it. She had no choice but to give him the benefit of the doubt.
He was habitual of teasing and calling her names. In the beginning, she defended him in front of her relatives, saying he was trying to be funny. Later, she realized that he was trying to tear her down.
That gaslighter was such a control freak that he would harm his son to scare his wife. She said her husband was jealous of his son because she loved him so much.
Gaslighting meaning in a relationship is a lot more than infidelity. The wife reported that her husband would cheat on her repeatedly. He strategically distanced her from her family and friends so that he could cheat on her without getting caught. He would treat her nicely whenever he cheated on her to win her trust again. Sadly, he succeeded every single time.
He told her friends that she had lost her mind and could not be trusted. She found out that his family referred to her as “crazy.” After 14 years of manipulation and abuse, she decided to cut ties with her abusive husband.
She moved to the farthest corner of the state with her children. She said it would take her a lot of time to recover. She found that traveling and sightseeing had a therapeutic effect on her. She travels frequently and is working on getting her confidence back.
2) Gaslighting to Cover up Infidelity
Sacha Sinclair was 3 months pregnant when she discovered her boyfriend was cheating on her. She was getting ready for the hospital to get her ultrasound done. This was the first time she would see her baby on the screen, so she was very excited but also a little disappointed because her boyfriend had to go to work at the last minute.
The boyfriend pocket-dialed her accidentally, and she heard his conversation with a colleague. He told him he had been seeing this other woman for a few weeks. He bragged that his girlfriend was clueless about the affair and treated him well.
Sacha was in tears and waited impatiently for her boyfriend to confront him. When she told him about the discourse she had overheard, he denied it completely. He told her that she should seek treatment for her mental condition because she keeps making things up. He said she was probably accusing him of infidelity because she was mad that he couldn’t go to the hospital with her. In fact, the problem was a lot bigger than that.
She reached out to the work colleague the boyfriend was talking to and asked him about the conversation. To her surprise, he denied it too! The gaslighter kept calling her psycho for making things up. She had to get rid of him to find peace.
Her husband gaslighted her for two reasons:
- To keep her from complaining about his infidelity
- To force her to continue the relationship with him.
When she discovered he was sleeping with other women, she told him she would divorce him. He called her insane and ruined her image by telling all her friends and family that she was crazy. At that time, they saw a marriage counselor make things work. Julie’s husband told her friends she saw a shrink for her psychological issues.
He played tricks like whispering her wife’s name. Another example is that she sold her car and saw someone driving it. She pointed and said, Look! That’s my car. He tried to confuse her by saying, “You never owned that car. What’s wrong with you?”
He made everyone believe that she was crazy. Thankfully, Julie was strong enough to know that she wasn’t.
Once she met her husband’s business partner at a gathering. He loudly said, “I am so happy to hear you are getting mental health care.” Everyone started staring at her, and she got embarrassed. Once, he whispered in her ear, “If you promise not to divorce me, I will stop telling everyone that you are crazy.”
These examples of gaslighting show how a gaslighter tries to take control of their victim. Julie took a stand for herself and divorced the narcissist as soon as she could. She is glad that she got out of that mess.
4) Gaslighting Shattered Her Confidence: Random Woman
This woman was dating a guy who made her feel like a princess. He always had good things to say about her appearance. He complimented her hair and fashion sense and even said he loved her manicure. After a brief period of love-bombing, he started making small jabs at her appearance. He resented her for not making the right changes in her appearance. He suggested that she should lose weight, have a better fashion sense, and wax her body hair. It felt like all of a sudden, nothing was beautiful about her.
She felt like he only looked at her to find flaws. It seemed that he was plotting to lower her self-esteem. Constant criticism impacted her self-worth. She started feeling guilty and insecure.
One day, a mutual friend asked him what he liked about his girlfriend. He pretended to think but had nothing to say. Hence, she decided to cut ties with him.
5) Gaslighting over Finances: Random Victim
This man gaslighted his girlfriend, who was paying for all his expenses. She was making a lot less than him but had to pay for everything because he was too stingy. One day, she confronted him, saying that this was unfair. To her surprise, he totally denied that this was the case. He called her ungrateful and accused her of lying.
She was extremely shocked and frustrated and decided to gather evidence to prove him wrong. She began writing down all transactions. A few days later, she confronted him again. He called her crazy again. So she showed him the record she had been keeping. Upon seeing the proof, he immediately tried to change the subject.
How to Prevent Gaslighting? 10 Ways to Counter Gaslighting
These strategies will help you understand how to overcome the effects of gaslighting.
1. Don’t Jump to Conclusions
It takes time to spot gaslighting. It starts slow and reaches a problematic level over time. Just because your partner holds a different view than you doesn’t necessarily mean he is gaslighting you. Sometimes we all avoid certain conversations. It would be unfair to label someone a gaslighter for that.
Before jumping to a conclusion, you must take your time to understand whether you are living with a gaslighter or not. Get a clear understanding of the gaslighting definition and compare it with what you are experiencing.
A simple rule is to focus on what you are feeling and not so much on just their actions. The following feelings are persistent with being gaslit.
- Repeatedly second-guessing yourself
- Thinking you might be over-sensitive
- Feeling guilty and apologizing very often
- Feeling like you are losing your past self
- Lacking clarity
- Becoming antisocial because you can’t tell people about your situation
2. Keep Your Calm
A person who makes you feel crazy would be happy to see you frustrated and shouting like a maniac. You can handle any situation more effectively if you don’t react immediately. The best way to do this is to move away from the situation, either physically or mentally.
- You can go for a walk to move to a different location than the gaslighter. Alternatively, you can do breathing exercises, repeat an affirming mantra or slowly count to 10.
- Grounding techniques are effective in clearing your mind. Try grounding yourself with a visualization exercise or an object.
3. Write Things down
Journaling is a great way to have clarity on past and present events. If you write things as they are happening, you will not fall prey to the gaslighter’s mind games.
Review your writings regularly to bring yourself out of the fog your abuser loves to put you in.
This practice will wear-off uncertainty and allow you to communicate with your abuser more confidently.
4. Gather Evidence
The biggest challenge faced by victims of this psychological manipulation is proving that there is abuse. Since the gaslighter tells everyone that their victim is insane, people are less likely to believe you.
You should actively gather the evidence before sharing your story with anyone. Here is what you can do:
- Take photos of your bruises if there is physical violence.
- Take screenshots of texts and emails.
- Note down conversations if you can.
- Alternatively, you can record conversations if possible.
5. Take a Stand for Yourself
Tolerance gives confidence to the gaslighter. Send a clear message to your abuser that you will not tolerate belittling comments and ridicule.
Don’t let them cover up by saying it was just for laughs. Ask them what about the joke makes them feel that it is funny. Digging deep this way will make them realize that they can’t mock you.
Speaking up is more effective in the case of workplace gaslighting. They can’t deny making a mean joke that other people have heard. In intimate relations, however, the abuser normally denies making bad comments. Since you are the only witness, they can conveniently come clean.
6. Understand How They Try to Dominate Conversations
A gaslighter tries to confuse you by complicating the conversation. They would try to distract you from the subject by blaming or insulting you. They might try to shift the narrative using a made-up story. If you fully understand their tactics, you will be in a better position to take charge of the conversation and come to an agreement.
You should have a clear understanding of your goals for a particular conversation. Watch out for the manipulative tactics a gaslighter uses to confuse you.
Try to keep the conversation simple. If the conversation gets circular and unfair, it is time to move away from it gracefully.
7. Trust Your Memory
The abuser will try to convince you that you don’t remember things correctly because your memory is bad. Do the same as he does to prevent them from making you feel stupid. They tell a distorted version of a past event and insist it is the truth. In that situation, you can avoid gaslighting by sticking to your version of events.
You can say, “we remember things differently,” if they insist you are wrong.
This strategy will create a situation where both of you have a 50% chance of being wrong. Gaslighters hate this. They want to prove that they are 100% correct and you are completely wrong. This situation can only happen with you distrusting your memory.
8. Practice Self-Care
Self-care is probably not a direct answer for how to stop gaslighting. However, it relaxes the mind and makes you better equipped to deal with negative emotions.
It is as simple as taking out 30 minutes for yourself. You can practice self-care by:
- Talking to family and friends
- Doing yoga or meditation
- Engaging in a hobby
- Focusing on skin and hair care
- Prioritize sleep
9. Share Your Experience with Others
Build a support network by sharing your experience with empathic people. Your support network may have your family, friends, and others who sympathize with you. Research has shown that social support can work wonders in countering gaslighting.
It is very important to tell your loved one the truth about the situation. Otherwise, they might buy the made-up stories told by the gaslighter.
10. Seek Professional Support
The long-term effects of gaslighting ruin your mental health. It is important to resort to therapy before the symptoms worsen. Some people might need a lot of time to get their confidence back.
If you have low self-esteem or trouble trusting your memory, you must see a shrink—some effects of gaslighting need medical intervention, e.g., PTSD, anxiety, and depression.
Gaslighting is an abusive practice that makes a person doubt his sanity. Narcissists commonly exhibit such behavior.
This emotional abuse devastates a person’s confidence, self-esteem, and mental health. Usually, it occurs in intimate relations but is not limited to that. It can also be seen in workplaces, politics, and schools. Gaslighting by parents is also a common instance.
If you feel you are being gaslit, you should immediately take these preventive steps to save yourself.
Importance of Understanding Gaslighting and Life Coaching
Gaslighting is a menace. Therefore, you need to get rid of it. However, you may only counter it effectively with proper counseling. Therefore, consulting a life coach and counselor is one of the essential strategies to counter gaslighting effects. As a professional life coach, I understand the adverse effects of gaslighting on your personality. Therefore, I help my clients relieve gaslighting signs and effects.
Are you facing gaslighting effects from an emotional or psychological abuser?
Let’s have a free consultation to moderate your personality from the itching effects of gaslighting.