Understanding Gaslighting: Unmasking Manipulation and Recognizing Its Signs

June 22, 2023 Kelli Hughart

Introduction: In today’s complex world of relationships, it’s important to be aware of various forms of manipulation that can take place. Gaslighting, a subtle yet insidious form of psychological manipulation, has gained attention in recent years. This blog aims to shed light on gaslighting, exploring its definition, tactics, and the signs that can help identify its presence in your life. I have many personal stories on this as a victim of narcissistic abuse, but for the purpose of this blog I will keep it short.

What is Gaslighting? Gaslighting refers to a form of emotional abuse where one person manipulates another to doubt their own perceptions, memories, and sanity. The term originated from the 1938 play “Gas Light,” later adapted into movies, depicting a husband’s deliberate attempts to make his wife question her reality by dimming the gas lights in their home.

Gaslighting Tactics: Gaslighting often involves a gradual erosion of someone’s self-confidence and self-trust. Here are some common tactics employed by gaslighters:

  1. Denial and Invalidating: Gaslighters deny or dismiss the experiences and feelings of their victims, making them question their own reality. They may say things like, “You’re overreacting,” or “That never happened.” One day I told a story and a friend of ours was there and my ex said, no you’re wrong it happened like this and repeated the same sequence, when our mutual friend called him out on the gaslighting, I was the bad guy and later chastised after we got home.
  2. Creating Doubt: Gaslighters manipulate situations to make their victims doubt their memory or perception. They might say, “You’re remembering it wrong,” or “You’re making things up.”
  3. Blaming and Shifting Responsibility: Gaslighters often shift blame onto their victims, making them feel guilty or responsible for the gaslighter’s actions. They might say, “You’re the reason this happened,” or “If only you had done things differently.” I was told that I was the reason he had affairs even though he later denied having affairs.
  4. Isolation: Gaslighters isolate their victims from friends, family, and support systems, making it harder for them to seek validation or find a reality check. I was divided against the most important person in my life for years because of this manipulation
  5. Projection: Gaslighters project their own faults and insecurities onto their victims, making the victims question their own behavior. They might say, “You’re the one who is always lying,” or “You’re the crazy one.” I was told I was the one having an affair, even though I was always the faithful and loyal one.

Signs of Gaslighting: Recognizing the signs of gaslighting is crucial to protect your mental and emotional well-being. Here are some red flags to watch out for:

  1. Constantly feeling confused or doubting your own memory and perception.
  2. Feeling as though you can’t make decisions without seeking approval or validation from the gaslighter.
  3. Frequent feelings of guilt, even for things that aren’t your fault.
  4. Isolation from friends, family, and support systems.
  5. Loss of self-confidence and self-esteem.
  6. Emotional rollercoaster: experiencing intense highs and lows depending on the gaslighter’s approval or validation.
  7. Feeling like you’re walking on eggshells around the gaslighter, fearing their reactions. I always feared what didn’t I do right this time. It was a nightmare and literally I had nightmares for many years due to the abuse.

Coping with Gaslighting: If you suspect you’re being gaslit, it’s important to take steps to protect yourself:

  1. Trust your instincts: Recognize and validate your own feelings and experiences. Trust your intuition when something feels off.
  2. Seek support: Reach out to trusted friends, family, or professionals who can provide validation and support during this challenging time.
  3. Document incidents: Keep a record of incidents, conversations, and gaslighting tactics employed, as this can help validate your experiences and serve as evidence if needed.
  4. Set boundaries: Establish clear boundaries and assertively communicate your needs and feelings to the gaslighter.
  5. Prioritize self-care: Engage in activities that promote self-care and self-esteem. Practice mindfulness, exercise, and surround yourself with positive influences.

Conclusion: As someone who has experience this type of abuse and have come out the other side and helped others, I can empathize on how hard this is! Gaslighting is a destructive form of emotional abuse that can have long-lasting effects on a person’s mental and emotional well-being. By understanding the signs and tactics of gaslighting, you can empower yourself to recognize and confront this manipulation. Remember, you deserve to be treated with respect and have your experiences validated. Trust your own reality, seek support, and prioritize your well-being above all else.