How to Identify Gaslighting in Your Relationships
Maybe you have heard the word ‘gaslighting’ brought up in conversation, and you have never been truly sure what it means. While gaslighting may not be as easily recognized as other forms of abuse, it is gaining recognition as a form of manipulation that causes tremendous damage.
Throughout this article, we will look at what the term ‘gaslighting’ truly means, how to identify this toxic behavior in your relationships, and what to do if you think you’re being gaslighted.
What is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a type of emotional abuse that causes someone to question their own perceptions, feelings and even their sanity. It is a tactic used to exert power and control over another person. Through employing various manipulative tactics, an individual must become increasingly dependent on the gaslighter to define reality.
This type of abuse can take various forms including belittling or dismissing another person’s feelings, claiming the other person is overreacting or being ‘too sensitive’, or denying previous events or comments leading someone to question their memory. Several remarks that embody gaslighting include ‘You’re just making that up’ or ‘You are wrong- that never happened.’
Gaslighting is not limited to intimate partnerships, as these abusive patterns can take place in the context of a family relationship, friendship, and in the workplace as well.
Warning Signs of Gaslighting
It can be difficult to identify the presence of gaslighting, as it typically causes the victim to question themselves or feel like they must be doing something wrong. Recognizing the signs of gaslighting is the first step in being able to acknowledge yourself as a victim in abusive patterns that are not your fault.
Signs that you may be a victim of gaslighting include:
- Increased anxiety and confusion within the relationship
- Constantly feeling like you’re doing something wrong
- Second guessing yourself and finding it difficult to make decisions
- Repeatedly making excuses for the other person’s actions
- Frequently apologizing
- Feelings of hopelessness and loss of interest in usual activities
- Increased isolation from others
- An overall sense that something is not right
What to Do If You’re Being Gaslighted
If you feel as though you are being gaslighted, it is crucial to reach out for support from a licensed mental health professional. A therapist or counselor can help you to process what you are experiencing and support you in deciding how to proceed. If you are planning to leave an abusive relationship, they can assist you in creating a safety plan. There are other resources for emotional abuse such as the National Domestic Violence Hotline that can be reached at 1-800-799-7233 or thehotline.org.
The bottom line
While it might not be as obvious as physical abuse, it is important to acknowledge that gaslighting is serious – and it is abuse. Becoming aware of what gaslighting can look like and the warning signs can help you to more easily recognize this form of manipulation and take action when you see it playing out.