Gaslighting is a serious form of emotional abuse and control. Abusers use gaslighting to tip the balance of power in their favor by making the victim question their very reality. Gaslighting isn’t limited to intimate relationships, either. You can be gaslighted by a parent, a child, a co-worker, or even a close friend. Knowing the warning signs can help you identify this behavior before it does irreparable damage to your psyche.
Here, we’ll cover seven of the most common warning signs of gaslighting. Pay close attention to your suspected gaslighter. This isn’t an accusation you want to throw around lightly, but you should also take it seriously if you find you’re a victim of the behavior. Gaslighting is a form of abuse, period.
Gaslighters will lie to protect themselves and make you question your own ideas, beliefs, and memories. They’ll lie about anything, great or small. A lie can make you feel vulnerable, upset, or even angry, and that’s where a gaslighter prevails. They’ll use those emotions to better control you and make you feel like you’re doing something wrong.
When you suspect a lie, don’t be afraid to confront that person. If you feel like confrontation could lead to physical violence, don’t risk it; but work to get yourself out of that situation. You’re already in the throes of abuse at that point.
When you confront a gaslighter about their lies, they’ll deny it until the bitter end. If you have to take notes, pictures, videos, or record certain events in order to reinforce what’s really true, do so! Irrefutable evidence may not sway a gaslighter, but it will help you maintain your sanity.
2. You’re Always Wrong
Even when you’re right, you’re wrong in the eyes of a gaslighter. Why? Because they’re in control. They have the power, and their reality is the only reality that you should believe. They’ll make you question every decision, thought, or belief. They’ll make you second-guess your own value at every turn. Essentially, you’ll never be right, because only they can be right.
What does this do for your self-esteem? I’m sure you can imagine. Think about how you would feel if you were always wrong. If everything you did was met with horrible criticism, name-calling, and bashing. Would you feel confident?
Guilt is an emotion that can cause people to act for good purposes or keep people stagnant. Guilt-tripping is a favorite weapon of gaslighters because it’s easy to make a person feel guilty about something they’ve done wrong. The more you driver the guilt home, the more of an effect it has on the victim, and from there, the gaslighter can maintain their control.
It’s easy to identify guilt-tripping if you look closer. That guilt you’re feeling is natural, but when someone says or does things to amplify that feeling, they’re guilt-tripping you.
4. Your Emotions Become A Weapon Of Control
Aside from guilt, gaslighters use other emotions to control your state of mind. If you love your children, they’ll find a way to use them against you. If you’re passionate about your career, it becomes an item of blackmail. Suddenly, your emotions are no longer just yours, they belong to your abuser as well, and become weaponized against you.
Take a close look at how your suspected abuser reacts to your emotions. Do they empathize, offer compassion, or try to understand your perspective? Or do they react with their own emotions, prioritize how your emotions make them feel, or throw them in your face?
5. You’ll Get Some Reinforcement Now And Then
Your gaslighter just tore you down to your foundations, but now they’re praising something you’ve done. What’s happening? This is a classic method of control. Emotional abusers don’t want you to catch on to the fact that they’re controlling you, so some positive reinforcement here and there keeps you guessing. You’ll continue to make excuses because after all, they just praised your quality of work, your looks, or your personality; so that means they care, right?
This is simply another way to control you via confusion. Tearing you down allows the abuser to rebuild you on their terms. Your only value is what they say it is.
6. Using Friends and Family
Don’t make the mistake of thinking the gaslighter will keep the abuse inside your relationship. Friends, family, and other co-workers can become a gaslighter’s allies. Often, gaslighters are charismatic, allowing them to easily convince people of certain “facts.”
You might find that your friends and family are suddenly against you because the gaslighter has gotten in their heads and made them believe you’re the problem.
If a gaslighter isn’t using friends and family against you, they’re likely isolating you from them. Without outside support, you’re all alone against the power of an abusive person. Most of us aren’t equipped to deal with constant emotional abuse, and it’s ten times more difficult without a support system.
If you notice any of these signs of gaslighting in a personal relationship, you’ll want to take action to address the abuse and/or remove yourself from the situation. After all, gaslighting is nothing less than abuse.