Has someone recently accused you of overreacting or acting crazy after calling them out for their behavior?
If you have, then someone might have been gaslighting you.
Gaslighting is a form of manipulative behavior that typically occurs in abusive relationships.
A gaslighting person would often emotionally abuse their partner by provoking feelings of self-doubt and confusion.
This form of manipulative behavior gives the gaslighting person a sense of control and power over another person. They know they can influence one's decisions and actions by distorting reality in their favor.
While the term is often associated with romantic relationships, this emotional abuse can occur in almost all kinds of relationships, even among friends and family members.
Related: Love bombing
Gaslighting behavior is detrimental to a person's emotional and mental health. If not addressed immediately, it can damage how a person functions in life in general.
Origin of the term Gaslighting
Although the term "gaslighting" has only gained popularity in the recent decade, its origin can be traced back to the 1930s.
Apparently, the term "gaslight" was taken from a play originally entitled Angel Street, but was later adapted into a movie under the name "Gaslight."
Similar to how the word is typically used today, the movie's plot follows a man who manipulates his wife into believing she is going insane to steal her money.
But you would wonder, where does the term "gaslight" come from? In the story, as the man was stealing his wife's jewelry in the attic, the wife saw gas lights dim downstairs.
Upon telling her husband, he made her think that what she saw was a product of her imagination. Eventually, this leads her to question how she perceives reality and doubt her memories.
Related: What Is Breadcrumbing
How to tell if someone is gaslighting you?
Here are telltale signs that someone is gaslighting you.
- They are refusing to admit the lie at all costs.
A gaslighting person will try their best to deny their act of lying, no matter how many sound proofs and arguments you hold in their face.
- Trying to make you believe that an event or behavior didn't really happen.
When you try to call them out for their unwanted behavior, they tend to deny that such a thing happened. They would even go as far as crafting an entirely different story to distort reality and find their way out of their mess.
- They Incite fake news about you or tell other people are spreading rumors about you.
Gaslighting people are typical gossipmonger people who relish the idea of spreading rumors about you. Moreover, they also find pleasure in letting other people know false news about you behind your back.
- Avoiding confrontations for their negative behavior.
Just as with any abusive partner, a gaslighting person will try their best to avoid confrontations, especially ones that call out their despicable behavior. Either they will change the subject or try to blame you.
- Quick to say you're just overreacting upon calling them out.
Another sign that a person is gaslighting you is that they will be overly defensive when they realize their undesirable behavior is being called out.
Part of their defense mechanism is by blatantly telling you that you are just overreacting. This will then make you question whether what they said was right and that you are just being too sensitive and critical of them.
- Puts you at fault for their negative treatment of you.
Whenever they treat you badly, and you try to voice your concerns, they would immediately put the blame on you for being negatively treated in the first place.
He'll point out things where you are lacking, such as not giving them enough attention, being so annoying all the time, and perhaps even being too chatty about what happened in your day.
- Over showers you with promises and compliments that don't reflect in their actions.
The sincerity of a person's words is reflected in their actions. This is something gaslighting people are incapable of doing.
Do not get easily swayed by their compliments and shallow flatteries. You must remember that most of the things that come out of their mouth are merely for their deceptive plans to work.
- Twisting facts about what happened to make it seem their abusive behavior is not at fault.
Aside from distorting reality to avoid confrontation, a gaslighting person may also try to twist facts in order to make it seem like their abusive behavior is not at fault for what happened.
- They claim their abusive behavior is "just a joke" and blames you for being too sensitive.
This gaslighting behavior may often occur outside the context of a romantic relationship. Typically, these people will make you feel bad and overly sensitive for simply reacting to a bad thing they did or said.
People who display offensive and rude behavior and then claim it was just a joke as soon as you take offense to it are considered gaslighting people.
- They isolate you from friends and family members who might go against their abusive behavior.
A gaslighting person will isolate you from people close to you, such as family members or friends, as soon as they sense that they may help you.
Gaslighting Abuse at Work and in Society
Recognizing gaslighting behavior at work is just as equally important as recognizing it in a romantic relationship.
Gaslighting at work can happen in instances where the gaslighting person will act in a way that negatively affects one's perception of the truth, as well as undermines their self-confidence.
This can either be through clearing themself of any blame or fault for a mistake they personally committed at work or taking all of the credit for the success of a collaborative effort.
A specific form of emotional abuse can occur in the workplace, often referred to as "whistle-blower gaslighting."
This type of gaslighting behavior happens when a person in the workplace who speaks up or reports harassment or misconduct at work is shamed for doing so.
Often, they are told that they are being too sensitive or that they falsely remembered or interpreted the events that transpired.
Unfortunately, gaslighting can also be evident in the social context, in cases such as a gaslighting person dismissing or denying one's identity and experiences. This continues to plague society because there is an unequal distribution of social, political, and economic power among the population.
Related: Are you dating a selfish man?
How does Gaslighting Abuse affect one's Mental Health
Just like any other type of emotional abuse in relationships, being constantly gaslighted by a person can be detrimental to your mental health.
Being emotionally manipulated for so long may cause you to question your own reality and beliefs. This will leave you feeling isolated and powerless, leading to lower self-esteem and frequently questioning your self-worth.
If not addressed properly, the negative impacts of being emotionally manipulated on your mental health can damage aspects of your life, such as how you function at work or how you socialize with others.
Gaslighting Signs that can affect your Mental Health
- Having a hard time deciding on your own.
- Excusing your partner's gaslighting behavior.
- Being unsure of yourself most of the time.
- Believing that you were at fault why they treated you poorly.
- Trying to justify their behavior and looking at it in a more positive light.
- Always being too careful around your partner.
- Believing that you are overly sensitive.
- Doubting your opinion, judgment, feelings, etc.
- Questioning your sanity and memory.
- Refraining from expressing your opinion.
- Always feeling scared and threatened.
- Feeling isolated.
- Crashing self-esteem and constantly feeling disappointed in yourself.
- Always apologizing for every move.
How to counter the effects of Gaslighting abuse
- Refrain from keeping things to yourself.
After experiencing emotional abuse from a gaslighter, the last thing you should be doing is keeping it all to yourself. Do not let gaslighters isolate you from friends and family members.
You can always confide in your family members or friends. Do not hesitate to openly express your feelings with them, especially upon the first encounter with gaslighting abuse.
- Check if their words are reflected in their actions.
Being the manipulative being they are, gaslighters will give their best to woo you again with paper promises. The best way to tell whether someone is being sincere or not is if their words are genuinely reflected in their actions.
- Do not blame yourself for being gaslighted.
You have to believe that there was nothing you could have done that would have avoided a person's gaslighting behavior towards you.
Emotionally manipulating and abusing you is a gaslighter's choice; do not ever feel the need to share the blame for it.
- Do not waste time arguing with a gaslighter.
Arguing with a gaslighter is surely a waste of time because no matter how sound your arguments are, they will always fail to see the logic in it.
Do not even expect that they will apologize for their behavior as well because they will surely deny it at all cost.
- Build trust in yourself again.
Being constantly manipulated to question reality and what you perceive to be true, you may take time to build your trust in yourself again. Free your mind of the picture the gaslighter painted of you.
Gaslighting behavior is inexcusable, and it should not be tolerated, be it in a romantic relationship or a societal context. Immediately call for help from friends and family members at the first instance of emotional abuse in the relationship.
Nicole Graham is a relationship expert at Womenio.com. She is helping women grow into their best selves so they can be confident and bring more love, passion, and purpose to their lives. Nicole enjoys studying the psychology of love and is passionate about writing on them. She offers helpful tips and advice to help overcome any relationship issue, whether you’re single or already in a relationship.