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Gaslighting: How to Spot this Toxic Behavior 

You voted on which relationship topic you wanted to hear about and the clear winner was gaslighting. We’ve seen this topic become even more popular recently because of Katie Thurston’s season of the Bachelorette. Katie’s fight with contestant Greg Grippo sparked debate on social media about who was in the wrong and did Greg really gaslight Katie?

In this post we’ll go over what gaslighting is, where the term came from and our tips for how to spot this toxic behavior. 

What is Gaslighting? 

Basically, gaslighting is when someone makes you question your own reality or recollection of events. Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse used to manipulate people and cause them to doubt themselves.  

You don’t need to be in a romantic relationship to be gaslit. This can be done by family members, friends and coworkers. Laura from Laura’s Books and Blogs gave us an example of gaslighting in the workplace. “My boss was dying of cancer. I caught wind that our office would close after her death. When I brought this up to other bosses, I was shamed and told this wouldn’t happen. Three months later, my boss was dead, and I was told an hour before her funeral that our office would close.” The other bosses clearly lied to Laura, letting her believe that her job was safe.

From the above example, it’s obvious that anyone can gaslight another person. However, it’s most common to see gaslighting in romantic relationships. The gaslighter might have narcissistic personality disorder or might be using gaslighting as a tool to control their partner. The main reason someone gaslights another person is to gain power over them. 

Where Did the Term Come From?

The term gaslighting actually came from 1944 movies called Gaslight, where a husband tries to manipulate his wife into thinking that she is mentally unstable. However, the word has only become popular in recent years. With Katie Thurston’s season of the Bachelorette, the word has been used a lot more and people have questioned what constitutes as gaslighting. 

How to Spot this Toxic Behavior 

Below, you’ll find eight ways to know if someone may be gaslighting you. This is not an exhaustive list. It’s the traits we’ve seen that most gaslighters have in common. 

If you feel like you’re currently a victim of gaslighting and would like help, please seek the assistance of a licensed therapist or visit Crisis Text Line to learn more about emotional abuse and their resources.

1. They tell you that you said or did something that you didn’t 

Have you ever had a conversation with someone and then you reminded them of something from the past? Then, they responded with “you never said/did/reminded me of that.” This is the first red flag. The other side of this is someone telling you that you said or did something that never actually happened. 

If it doesn’t happen often, the person you’re speaking with might have forgotten something or misremembered an event. However, if this is a frequent occurrence, the person might be trying to gaslight you. Part of gaslighting is changing the narrative of what happened in the past.  

2. They make you doubt yourself 

Did that really even happen or did I imagine it? If you’re asking yourself this question because of what someone said, be careful. If you’ve ever left a conversation with them feeling convinced that you are now misremembering an event because they told you it happened differently, take a few minutes to reflect on the conversation. There’s a big difference between disagreeing over small details and having someone tell you everything about your reflection of what happened is wrong. 

Start by writing down your account of what happened and then what the other person said. Are there any other witnesses that can help you with recollection? This could be helpful to make sure you don’t doubt what happened. Also, think about whether this is a common occurrence. if you frequently doubt yourself because of one single person, you’re being gaslighted. 

3.  They make you feel like your emotions aren’t valid 

This aspect is especially important in romantic relationships. If you’ve ever told them how you were feeling and they responded either “no you don’t” or “you don’t have any reason to feel that way,” you have a reason to be concerned.

We can’t always control how we feel. That’s why it’s important to know that your emotions are valid. If someone makes you feel that way, then they probably aren’t a healthy person to be around.

But remember, that doesn’t mean it’s okay to yell/scream/belittle someone because you’re upset. Share your emotions calmly. If the person still acts out against you and refuses to accept your feelings, you’re being gaslighted.  

4. They constantly make you feel the need to apologize

Do you constantly feel like you’re doing something wrong around them? Do you feel the need to walk on eggshells? If you have ever had to make up something wrong that you’ve done just so you can feel you have a reason to apologize, then you’ve fallen into this trap. If you apologize for doing nothing wrong at all, then you’ve fallen into this trap. If you feel horrible for the slightest bit of inconvenience for the other person, then you’ve fallen into this trap.

This can be shown in many different ways. They get angry that they don’t know where you are at all times. They flip out for you doing something minor, like not greeting them immediately when they get home. Or they ask you to apologize just for existing. 

5. They lower your self-esteem 

One key sign of manipulation is that the person you’re with makes you feel bad about yourself, to the point that you don’t think anyone else could love you. That’s why you stay. Stephen Chbosky said it best in The Perks of Being a Wallflower: “We accept the love we think we deserve.”

If you ever feel this way, please seek the help of a family member, friend or mental health professional because this is clear emotional abuse. 

6. They make you feel as if you’re losing your mind

If you feel like you might be losing your mind, that means the person is taking gaslighting to an extreme. They do this by constantly attacking your very rational way of thinking and will make up reasons to convince you it isn’t okay. It’s the main theme in the movie Gaslight, where the husband does everything he can to make his wife lose her mind in order to gain control over her. If this is happening, the person is doing it for power over you and your life. 

7. They normalize their own behavior 

They’re acting perfectly normal and rational…you’re the one acting strange. They point out the fact that they have always acted this way. They may even make up examples of times you have acted out to make you think that you’re the one whose behavior is out of line.

This is a clear manipulation tactic in order for you to question why you are so different and how this person is the norm. Normalizing toxic behavior is dangerous, because you might think that everyone will treat you this way, including future partners, friends and others. 

Note: If your gut is telling you that not everyone would treat you this way, you’re probably right.

8. They always play the victim

If you ever try to discuss their behavior, they will turn it around on you. If you try talking to them about something they did behind your back they will ask why you’re invading their privacy. The moral of the story is that to gaslighters, they can do no wrong and every bad thing that happens to them is the fault of others. They truly believe this and have no concept of accountability. 

Please know that you cannot change a person like this. Things will not get better if you stick around longer. And these people don’t understand healthy boundaries. If you’re afraid you’re a victim of gaslighting and emotional abuse, please seek help because it is not your fault!!!

28 thoughts on “Gaslighting: How to Spot this Toxic Behavior 

  1. Thanks for featuring my story! It’s no fun to question your reality, and I feel like I’m good about seeing multiple sides of an issue beyond my own views. But manipulative people can take advantage of that and use it against me. And even when your suspicions have been correct, you often don’t feel any better because it proves that you’ve been tricked rather than validated.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us! We’re hoping victims of gaslighting see that it’s not their fault. Gaslighters enjoy taking advantage of people and can be very skilled at it. It can be so hard to spot in the moment.

      Like

  2. My mum does this so effortlessly, I’m not even sure if she’s aware that she’s doing it. My childhood was full of racist abuse at school and emotional neglect at home, and although my mental health is still in the toilet due to what happened, my mum believes I had a good children

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Gaslighting feels awful to be on the end of; it’s a level of emotional manipulation that definitely can (and does) cross a line into toxic behaviour and in some cases into abuse. I’ve experienced it and it really does dent your self-esteem. Thanks for sharing this!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I was in a relationship with someone who gaslight me & so many of these things happened. If I talked about my feelings, they would tell me “no you don’t feel that way” & then they would turn the situation around on them & how I made them feel bad. They were also constantly bringing up things I supposedly said or did that I know I never did.
    Anyways thank you for sharing this post & hopefully others will recognize the signs of someone trying to gaslight them!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I definitely needed to read this. I’ve always thought that gaslighting only happens in romantic relationships until I realised it was happening in some of my oldest friendships. While we are no longer friends, the damage lingers,but at least I’m on the right path to healing. Such a great post!

    Lauren //www.cko-coolkidsonly.blogspot.com

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for reading and sharing your experience! It can be even harder to spot in close friendships because we always want to give them the benefit of the doubt. We’re glad you distanced yourself.

      Like

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