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!!!