Gaslighting is a term that has been thrown around many times but what does it actually look and feel like?
The first thing to know is it’s a serious form of mental and emotional abuse that makes you question your reality and sanity.
In other words, gaslighters use manipulation and control tactics to distort your perception, feelings, and self-worth.
And gaslighting can happen in any type of relationship — from romantic ones to those between family members, friends, and coworkers.
So, how do you know if this type of abuse is already happening to you? In this article, we’ll talk about the top warning signs you need to look out for and what you can do if you’re being gaslit.
Let’s get started.
1) They persistently and blatantly lie
One of the scariest things about gaslighters is they always deny the truth, no matter what.
And they do it with great conviction that it gets to a point where you start questioning yourself and can’t tell what’s true anymore.
Even if you saw their behavior or heard what they said, they will lie straight to your face and pretend like it never happened.
For example, you’re sure they said ‘yes’ to doing you a favor, and they’ll tell you they never agreed to that.
It can get worse: They’ll get upset, divert the conversation, or accuse you of making things up.
2) They play the blame game
Gaslighters never take accountability for their actions.
Think about this for a minute: Does the person ….
- Always find a way to shift the blame anytime you communicate your feelings or bring up something that is not working for you?
- Blame you for being “too sensitive or irrational” or for never being able to “take a joke?”
- Make you feel at fault for every disagreement or argument?
- Make you feel guilty for something you didn’t say or do?
If you said yes to any of this, it’s a sign of gaslighting. It’s meant to make you question your behavior or reaction and deflect any responsibility for the pain they’ve caused.
3) They belittle you
If you constantly find yourself at the receiving end of unfounded criticisms from a person, it’s a red flag that reveals gaslighting behavior.
Gaslighters harness the power of words to control, demean, and harm you.
These rude comments and insults attack your character and make you feel small and helpless.
They’ll take things to a very personal level to keep you exposed and vulnerable. That’s how they take the upper hand and play with your perception of reality.
This brings me to my next point….
4) They make you question your self-worth
Do you always doubt yourself and feel like you’re never good enough? Do you always wonder if you’re being too unreasonable? Do you feel like you can’t trust your thoughts or instincts?
Here’s the deal: To gain control and power, a gaslighter will always put you down and make you feel insecure.
No matter what you say or do, they’ll always pinpoint how ineffective and wrong you are.
They’ll use any perceived flaw, weakness, or insecurity to keep you feeling unworthy and as off-balance as possible.
5) They trivialize your emotions
“You’re just paranoid.”
These are just some phrases that gaslighters use to convince you that you’re wrong and that you’re making a big deal out of nothing.
They will downplay, dismiss, and invalidate your feelings and experiences to further undermine your reality.
It gets to a point where you start questioning your feelings and even feel foolish for trying to stand up for yourself.
That’s the thing with gaslighters, they thrive on doubt and insecurity.
When you can’t trust your perceptions and feelings and believe what the gaslighter says, that’s when you’re more likely to put up with the abuse and fail to hold them accountable for their behavior.
6) They make you feel like you’re crazy
One of the most dismissive and manipulative tools of a gaslighter is making you believe that you’re losing your mind.
They’ll tell you that you’re misremembering or imagining things or that you’re paranoid when you see signs of dishonesty or inconsistency.
It’s how they divert the attention away from their bad actions. They may even ask you to seek help for your mental health as a way to deceive you into thinking that you’re going crazy.
You see, a gaslighter’s lies and distortions of reality make you legitimately question your own sanity. The reality is, it’s another way of saying “These problems are your fault, not mine.”
7) They isolate you
And it gets worse: A gaslighter will create a distance between you and your loved ones and discredit you to others by spreading rumors suggesting that you’re unstable.
Never underestimate a gaslighter’s ability to always put their best foot forward and earn the trust of your family and friends. They’ll use this connection to easily bend reality and turn your loved ones against you.
The goal is to separate you from people who can give you the support you need to prove the gaslighter wrong.
8) They refuse to listen
When you’re confronting this person, do you often feel like you’re saying the same thing over and over and you’re still not being heard?
Does this person often deflect from the topic and bring something else up to make you look like a culprit, and them the victim?
These are all signs of gaslighting. Gaslighters will never acknowledge your perspective. They’ll insist that you’re completely wrong all the time.
9) They’re inconsistent
One of the hallmarks of gaslighting behavior is that their actions don’t match their words.
They can offer you the moon and the stars but they wouldn’t keep even the smallest promises. When you try to remind them of anything they’ve promised, they would deny it outright.
Plus, if you find that a person’s behavior always confuses you, it’s a gaslighting red flag.
Do they criticize and hurt you one minute and then shower you with kind words the next?
This shift from blame to praise is another ploy to keep you under their control and make you think that they’re not so bad after all.
How to deal with gaslighting
Now that you know what to look out for, the next question is: What should you do if you recognize that someone is gaslighting you?
Gaslighting has its way of alienating us from our thoughts and feelings. That’s why it’s crucial to pay attention to your gut and give yourself permission to feel what you feel.
Don’t ignore those emotional cues telling you that something’s off. Recognizing and naming tactics like denial, invalidation, and blame-shifting is the first step toward regaining your sense of reality.
If it’s safe to do so, call out the abusive behavior when it happens.
For example, you might say “I feel uncomfortable when you talk to me that way” or “I don’t like how you’re invalidating my feelings right now.”
Determine the kind of behaviors you’re willing and unwilling to tolerate. More importantly, be clear in communicating your needs and consistently assert your boundaries.
Lean on your family members, friends, and people you can trust. Tell them what you’re going through. Build a strong inner circle that can help you navigate this unhealthy dynamic.
It’s best to consider professional help so you can effectively deal with gaslighting. Professionals can guide you as you heal from trauma and work on being more self-aware.
Be kind to yourself
Learning how to let go of toxic people and relationships is one of the best ways to show compassion for yourself.
It can be very challenging, especially when the gaslighter is someone you truly care about. But if they’re unwilling to change no matter how you try to reason with them, then it’s time to prioritize your well-being.
Someone who undermines your reality to manipulate and control you is never worth it. Protect yourself by saying ‘no’ to any form of abuse.