You don’t know what you’re talking about.
I didn’t say that!
For years you’ve heard these things, and it’s felt wrong and made you doubt yourself, but you’ve never known what is truly happening.
Did I really just imagine him saying that?
Wait, am I confused and don’t actually know what I’m saying?
The things they say cut deep, but you love them, so you just deal with whatever they say. They’re just words, right?
Without realizing it, you may be the victim of gaslighting from your partner, your parent or guardian, or even your coworker.
Because of this gaslighting, your mental health has been put in a very dangerous place. It’s important to learn more about the possibilities of gaslighting and the danger it can create.
Gaslighting is a form of manipulation of a person by an individual in order to gain an upper hand in their relationship. Manipulation means managing someone skillfully and especially with the intent to deceive.
The goal of a gaslighter is to make a person doubt themself by feeding them lies and using their own position to cause mental health harm.
The term gaslighting, or gaslighter, comes from a play from the late 1930s, according to Britannica. The play, which was eventually adapted into a film, is titled “Gas Light,” and it follows the story of a romantic relationship in which one partner drives the other to near insanity with manipulation.
The exact term refers to the partner convincing the other that the gas lights in the house are not dimming when they indeed are.
It’s not clear why, but it wasn’t until the 1960s that the term truly became part of the American vocabulary.
In many instances, gaslighting is done by a person who has developed an inflated opinion of themself. For many who do it, the reason is to assert dominance over another person.
In doing it, they’re making the other person feel lesser about themself, giving the gaslighter the appearance of power.
Gaslighters sometimes know what they are doing and do it with purpose. Other times, it isn’t purposeful and is a lack of awareness of what they are doing. Regardless of intention, or lack thereof, gaslighting is very traumatizing to those on the receiving end.
A word often used to describe someone who gaslights another is a narcissist.
By definition, a narcissist is someone who has an inflated interest in oneself. The medical definition of the disorder of narcissism, narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), is a person with an excessive need for admiration while lacking empathy for others.
A narcissist will do whatever it takes to avoid something damaging occurring to themself. Hence the use of lying and deceit.
A narcissistic person over time can become increasingly more convincing as they’ve been working on defending themselves and their personal image for many years.
In the end, many narcissistic people are simply looking for power over another. This fulfills their desire to be admired by someone else as much as they admire themselves.
Gaslighting can take many forms. You’ll hear phrases that are pretty universally used:
I didn’t say that.
You’re so sensitive.
Stop acting crazy.
And the classic…
I was just joking.
Ultimately, all of these phrases are creating an illusion for the victim and causing them to doubt themself.
While most examples can be rooted in direct lying, here are some more pointed examples of how a gaslighter lies:
In abusive relationships, a gaslighter does their best to manipulate their partner in order to scratch their itch to hold power over someone else.
Often a gaslighter will do a few things to cause insecurity and stress for their partner.
In many cases, the gaslighter will get defensive about their actions and claim they do it out of love.
I only do it because I love you.
By saying this, they’re making their victim feel as if their love for the gaslighter is less than what they’re receiving in return. This causes confusion and tightens the grip the gaslighter has over their partner.
Gaslighting in relationships also comes with accusations of paranoia (fear someone is trying to hurt you). In relationships with cheating, the gaslighter often will deflect and turn blame to their partner to make the situation not reflect negatively upon themselves.
They will say things like:
Why are you so paranoid?
Or . . .
You’re just insecure!
Finally, a partner who is gaslighting their significant other will criticize and demean their partner with the use of words like dramatic, hysterical, ungrateful, or crazy to make their victim question their sanity.
After hearing so many critical comments, the victim can start to believe what is said is true.
While gaslighting is often thought of as a situation that occurs in romantic relationships, it can also occur in familial relationships. At times, parents can be accused of gaslighting their children to get them to obey.
Using many of the same methods as a partner in a romantic relationship, a parent can gain control and power.
A few signs of gaslighting by parents or guardians is the use of playing the victim and criticizing the child/teen.
I give so much to you and you repay me by getting a C in your class.
You’re such a bad student.
You should’ve listened to your mother/father.
These are common phrases gaslighting parents might say.
Gaslighting in the workplace is a form of manipulation often used by some. Many times played off as someone just trying to get the upper hand for the next possible promotion or raise, what is actually happening is gaslighting.
With always working to gain power for themself, it makes sense that a gaslighter would try to find power positions in their career field or workplace.
The most common way a gaslighter will try to gain dominance in the workplace is by using their own story and judgment instead of facts. By creating a negative story about a peer, they are gaining control.
Often the stories created are not directly spoken to their victim. The narcissist will use workplace gossip to their advantage to spread degrading thoughts about their victim. Such gossip can become very dangerous.
Bosses also may gaslight. When they’ve already gained power over a group of people, they will turn to more demeaning language to strengthen their dominance.
A good example of this is a boss using something to the tune of . . .
Sorry you don’t like how I talk to you, but who else would hire you?
This asserts power and makes their victim doubt themself.
It’s incredibly hard to recognize firsthand when someone is being gaslighted. Often because of the mental and emotional trauma involved, a person can go without noticing the trends of gaslighting for years.
This is true even when those around you are sharing concerns.
The best thing you can do is learn ways to spot a gaslighter. While this isn’t a full list of the possibilities a victim may be facing, it does describe the most widely used tactics of a gaslighter to watch for:
While this final note isn’t about what the gaslighter will do, it’s still important to have in mind when trying to spot gaslighting:
When a victim is being gaslit, they will feel the need to apologize even when it isn’t necessary. The fear they have done wrong and the lack of confidence they have in themself because of the damage done emotionally will shine through with constant apologies.
There isn’t one singular answer to stopping a gaslighter. When their victim battles back, a gaslighter will take risks and turn up the dial on their tactics to fight back for control.
The best thing to do when trying to escape a gaslighter is to lean on those around you who have witnessed the damage done firsthand. With their support, you can begin to rebuild your confidence and independence.
The second thing to do is create distance between yourself and the narcissist. Without a consistent line of communication, the gaslighter’s power weakens.
Another important step is taking your experiences and talking about them. The emotional and mental trauma caused by being gaslit for any period of time is challenging to overcome alone.
By speaking with professional therapists and psychiatrists, you can better understand what happened and how to turn those experiences into positives for your future.
At Sun Behavioral, we have seen many cases of gaslighting causing great mental and emotional damage. If you have any questions about how we can help, don’t hesitate to call us at 859-429-5188.
What is an example of gaslighting?
Gaslighting is the mental manipulation of a person by another to achieve power and domination over them.
Commonly, a gaslighter will use many different tactics to achieve this power, including using some of these phrases you may have heard from them before:
Gaslighting in a relationship is about power, domination, and often fear of losing control.
Often a gaslighter will use some of the following tactics to maintain control over their partner:
A person who gaslights another is a person looking for dominance and power. Often the person is looking to fulfill their desire to be admired. They lack empathy for others, and their gaslighting can cause danger to their victims both mentally and emotionally.
Commonly, a gaslighter has a condition known as a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). They have admiration for themselves over others and will do whatever it takes to put themselves in control.
What are gaslighting tactics?
A gaslighter will do some of the following to cause emotional and mental distress to their victim: