Gaslighting – are you familiar with the term? Have you experienced it? What is it?! I see a lot of people referencing it on social media so I wanted to share my own thoughts having experienced it recently from those who were friends and also because of a particular Narcissist I attracted into my friendship circle a few months ago.
What is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a term given to a behaviour that aims to manipulate someone into doubting their own sanity. At its ugliest, it’s a form of mental and emotional abuse. A way to plant seeds of self-doubt, getting you to question your reality, who you are and your mental state.
The term “to gas light” comes from a 1944 film called “Gas Light” starring Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman where Bergman is manipulated into questioning her own state of mind and reality.
Gaslighting can happen with anyone and is very subtle manipulation that can last months or even years without the victim being aware of what is happening.
It can happen amongst:
What Does Gaslighting Look Like?
Gaslighting is very subtle manipulation. For those who know that they’ve experienced gaslighting, they will tell you that they weren’t aware for a long time. The longer it went on, the longer they questioned themselves, their own sanity, their reality – believing that perhaps they really were mentally unstable as the manipulator would like them to think.
It’s a way of controlling someone and is very common amongst narcissists as a way to exert control over someone.
Perhaps, though, you aren’t aware of it. I know I wasn’t for a long long time and now that I’ve become more aware and more educated on what it is, I can now seeing it clearly in certain areas of my life with different people. But, as I always say, knowledge is power and just being more aware of what it is allows me to spot it again when someone tries it with me. I don’t tolerate that bullshit anymore.
Here are some examples of what Gaslighting sounds like:
- “I was just joking…don’t be so sensitive”
- “You always make stuff up in your head…I never said that”
- “You’re just imagining things…I never said/did that”
- “You need mental help!! You’re not right in the head!”
- “You’re a fucking loony! A nutcase!”
- “You’re always twisting things…what’s your problem?”
- “Nobody likes you anyway, you’re just a loner/loser and have no friends”
- “It’s your fault…why do you always do this??”
- “You’re crazy…you must be bipolar”
- “There’s always something up with you…you don’t trust me, you’ve always got an issue with me”
Do any of these sound familiar?
If you aren’t aware that you have been subjected to gaslighting then perhaps these statements may come as a shock. You’ve been subjected to so much emotional/mental/verbal abuse that it’s hard to see these as manipulative statements…as way of exerting control over you, manipulating your mind and getting you to question your very reality.
I know someone who told me recently that the gaslighting got so bad that she actually questioned if she had a learning difficulty because of how bad it was and how much she was manipulated. Can you actually imagine that?!
Nobody should be made to question who they are and their own sanity. Narcissists (typical gaslighters) are clever with this…planting those seeds slowly and over time so that you eventually do question if perhaps you are mentally unstable, perhaps there’s something wrong with you, perhaps everything always is your fault, perhaps you are just too fucking sensitive, perhaps maybe you did get the wrong end of the stick over and over and over again, perhaps you do imagine a lot of things.
Or…perhaps you are the victim of mental/verbal/emotional abuse and perhaps it has eaten away at you for so long that you have started to question your own reality and not know who you are anymore.
What Does Gaslighting Look Like
As well as the examples of phrases I’ve listed above, here are some examples of what gaslighting can look like to help you to become more aware of spotting it. Whilst gaslighting, they may:
- Tell lies – you know in your mind that it’s a completely blatant lie, but they speak it with such conviction in themselves that you end up questioning if maybe they are telling the truth. An example could be if you suspect your partner of cheating (which they are) and they say something like: “Are you accusing me of cheating? Do you not trust me?! You know I’m 100% faithful to you and would never cheat on you…ever. I’m upset you think that about me”
- They deny saying something even though there’s so much evidence that they did. An example being: “I never said that. I can’t believe you said that about me. You know full well I never said that. Are you twisting my words?”
- They confuse you…over and over again – this is a way of undermining your stability and throwing you off your tracks. No matter what you say to them, they’ll end up confusing you and changing the conversation or directing you to something else to take attention off the matter at hand. An example of this is: “Why are you saying that about XYZ? That’s not what we agreed. You know we didn’t. Why are we still discussing this? Are you sure you’re right in the head? You’re always imagining things and making me out to be the bad person”
- They project – this is a biggie with gaslighting. Projection is when someone accuses you of the very thing they are doing…but by accusing you and projecting onto you, it takes the attention off of them. An example of projection is: “Are you cheating on me?! Where were you the other night? Who is this guy/girl you are talking about/texting?! Why are you going out dressed like that…are you seeing someone else?!”
- They tell you that you are crazy or tell others about your craziness. This is a great manipulative tool especially when telling others about your crazy ways because when they start questioning your sanity they know others will also do so too because of the lies they’ve been tellin. An example of this is: “She/He’s a nutcase…a fucking lunatic. I’m sure she/he’s bipolar or has some personality disorder. I’ve tried to help her/him but I think they need support. They are completely crazy and unstable!”.
How To Overcome Gaslighting
Gaslighting can be very subtle manipulation over time especially amongst those who spend a lot of time together:
- family members
In these situations, it really can develop over a longer period of time.
In other circumstances, it can also happen sporadically with people when they aren’t liking what you are saying so try to put it back to you in order to deflect attention from them. It can be a way of hiding the truth from others by deflecting that attention because they feel the need to be defensive constantly and so put the blame onto you.
In order to overcome gaslighting, you have to understand that you are being manipulated and gaslighted. Easier said than done if you’ve experienced this manipulation over a long period of time. The very act of you questioning if this is manipulation is the very thing that the gaslighting is getting you to question – your own reality, your perception of the truth and your sanity.
But, when you start to spot the signs and realise that this is gaslighting (a form of abuse), when you can finally put the jigsaw puzzle pieces together and see it for what it is, manipulation, this allows you to take back control in your life. You are more aware of the red flags and can choose how to deal with the situation. For some, this will be saying no more to this kind of treatment and cutting those people out of your life. For others, it will be working with the maniupulator to get them to see how they have been manipulating you (if they are willing to see themselves as being in this role). Most times, when people become wise to it, they choose to make adjustments in their life such as changing jobs, setting boundaries with family members or leaving a relationship.
Do what is right for you. By recognising it and taking the necessary steps to overcome it, you are standing in your power and taking back control of your life to embrace your Authentic Self.
Everyone is different and everyone will deal with the effects of gaslighting differently. Personally, I’m better prepared to recognise gaslighting now thanks to certain people who were in my friendship circle and the red flags, so when someone starts throwing shade or projecting (aka deflecting) I can spot it better and choose how to move forwards with this connection.
I hope you have found this blog post insightful and would love to hear from you (if you are happy to comment) and how you experienced gaslighting and/or how you recognised it for the manipulation that it is.