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Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a victim’s mind, causing them to question their sanity and memories. It is a dangerous form of abuse that can leave victims confused, isolated, and alone.
What is gaslighting, and how does it work?
Gaslighting is emotional abuse that can be difficult to identify and even harder to recover. The term “gaslighting” comes from the 1944 film Gaslight, in which a husband tries to make his wife think she is losing her mind by dimming the lights and denying that anything has changed. In a relationship, gaslighting can take many forms, but the goal always creates doubts and insecurity in the other person.
For example, a gaslighter might constantly criticize their partner’s appearance or abilities to make them question their worth. They might also lie about things large and small or withhold information to control the flow of information in the relationship.
The signs of gaslighting in relationships
If you’re in a relationship, you expect your partner to be honest with you. But what if they start lying to you instead? And not just little white lies, but big ones that make you question your reality?
Another sign of gaslighting is if your partner constantly tries to make you doubt yourself. Often, gaslighting occurs in relationships where one person is trying to exert control over the other.
They may do this by questioning your memories or telling you that you’re misremembering things that happened. They might also accuse you of being too sensitive or overreacting to things.
Another sign is if your partner tries to control your behavior. They might tell you what to wear or who you can talk to. They might try to isolate you from your friends and family.
Other signs include feeling like you’re constantly second-guessing yourself, feeling paranoid or anxious for no reason, and feeling like your partner is constantly putting you down.
Common Phrases of Someone Who is Gaslighting
Some everyday things that people say when gaslighting in a relationship include:
- You’re overreacting.
- You’re being too sensitive.
- You are so dramatic.
- I never said that. Where do you get these things?!
- You’re imagining things.
- You’re just making things up.
- It was just a joke. Calm down.
- Are you sure that you’re not just being paranoid?
- You must be making this up – I would never do something like that!
Pretty much anything in which the perpetrator intentionally causes their victim to doubt their perceptions and reality. Gaslighters can control and manipulate their victims by planting seeds of doubt and confusion.
How to deal with gaslighting in a relationship
Gaslighting is a form of manipulation, and it’s not your fault. If you have children together, the stakes are even higher.
You will need to take steps to protect yourself both emotionally and mentally.
1. Talk to someone you trust: When you’re being gaslighted, it’s easy to start doubting yourself and your version of events. Talking to someone you trust – whether a friend, family member, therapist or hotline – can help you validate your experiences and feelings.
2. Create (or join) a support group: Often, groups are available to help people dealing with emotional abuse. A support group can provide a space to share your experiences and feel supported by others who understand what you’re going through.
3. Keep documentation: If possible, keep logs or journals detailing the incidents of gaslighting that occur in your relationship. Documentation can be helpful if you decide to take legal action against your partner or if you need to prove the effects of the gaslighting for custody purposes.
4. Seek professional help: Often, gaslighting relationships can benefit from professional counseling or therapy. Therapy can help both partners understand the relationship’s dynamics and work on healthy coping mechanisms.
5. Plan for safety: If you’re in an abusive relationship, create a safety plan in case of an emergency. Your plan may include packed bags at a friend’s house, staying at a domestic violence shelter, or having a relative on call who can pick up the kids if necessary.
Single moms are often targeted by gaslighting partners because they may be more vulnerable and isolated. If you’re a single mom, be aware of the signs of gaslighting and have a support system to help you through the tough times.
Resources for victims of gaslighting
If you’re a victim of gaslighting, you know how difficult it can be to maintain your sense of reality and self-confidence. But, several resources are available if you’re ready to get help.
Local support groups often are available to help victims of gaslighting share their experiences and get emotional support from others who understand what they’re going through. If there are no local groups available, there are also online support groups that can be helpful.
Therapy can be a beneficial resource if you feel like you’re struggling to cope with the aftermath of gaslighting. A therapist can help you work through your experiences and develop healthy coping mechanisms.
If you need someone to talk to outside of therapy or a support group, several hotlines can help.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline. This hotline provides 24/7 support for victims of domestic violence, including gaslighting.
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network). RAINN offers support and resources for victims of sexual assault, including gaslighting.
Books and articles
There are also several books and articles available on the topic of gaslighting. Reading about other people’s experiences can often help you feel less alone and understand what you’re going through.
The Gaslighting Effect by Robin Stern. This book offers helpful information on how to recognize and deal with gaslighting.
Gaslighting & Narcissistic Abuse Recovery: Recover from Emotional Abuse, Recognize Narcissists & Manipulators, and Break Free Once and for All by Don Barlow. This book provides an in-depth look at gaslighting and narcissism and how to get out of a relationship that is toxic in this way.
Further Research: YouTube Videos
The videos below provide valuable information on gaslighting. They’re short and offer helpful insights into gaslighting.
“What Is Gaslighting? Signs You’re Being Gaslit” by clinical psychologist Dr. Ramani Durvasula walks viewers through what gaslighting is and how to spot the signs that you may be a victim of it.
Still unsure of the signs or if you’ve been a victim of gaslighting? “10 Warning Signs of Gaslighting” is a must-watch to understand the warning signs.
If you’re in a relationship and you feel like your partner is constantly making you question your sanity, there’s a good chance you’re experiencing gaslighting. This manipulative form of abuse can damage your mental health and self-confidence.
If you think you may be a victim of gaslighting, getting help from a therapist or support group is essential. You can also call one of the hotlines listed above for emotional support. Know that you are not alone and there is help available.