5 Signs Someone Is Gaslighting You


Written by In Sight

Gaslighting is a subtle but potent form of psychological manipulation where the manipulator attempts to make the victim doubt their perceptions, memories, or even sanity. This tactic can be employed by anyone—a partner, a friend, a boss, or even a parent. We’ve seen many examples of gaslighting and even self-gaslighting in previous episodes of the podcast, such as the listener’s husband in Episode 57. Recognising gaslighting is the first step towards reclaiming your reality and putting steps in place to protect yourself from toxic relationships. Here are five signs that someone might be gaslighting you.

1. They Make You Question Your Memory

One of the most common gaslighting tactics is making you doubt your own memory. This can happen through repeated denials, despite clear evidence to the contrary. For example, you might recall a specific event or conversation, but the gaslighter will insist that it never happened or that you’re remembering it incorrectly. This tactic is designed to make you second-guess your memory, leaving you unsure of what’s real and what’s not. It often starts with small every-day examples, but can quickly escalate.

Imagine this scenario: You distinctly remember your partner promising to handle the grocery shopping. But when you bring it up, they flat-out deny ever having that conversation. Over time, these small but persistent denials can make you question your ability to remember anything correctly.

2. They Discredit Your Feelings

A gaslighter will often minimise or dismiss your feelings to make you feel irrational or overly sensitive. They might say things like, “You’re overreacting,” or “You’re being too emotional,” whenever you try to express your concerns or frustrations. By doing this, they invalidate your feelings and make you doubt your emotional responses.

In the context of a narcissistic parent, this can be especially damaging. Narcissistic parents are notorious for belittling their children’s emotions. If you tell them you’re hurt by something they said, they might respond with, “You’re just too sensitive,” or, “You always take things the wrong way”. Over time, this constant invalidation can lead to a deep-seated distrust in your own feelings and perceptions.

3. They Shift Blame

Gaslighters rarely take responsibility for their actions. Instead, they twist situations to make you feel at fault. If you confront them about their behaviour, they might say things like, “You’re the one causing problems,” or, “If you weren’t so difficult, this wouldn’t happen.” This blame-shifting tactic serves to deflect attention from their own wrongdoings and place it squarely on your shoulders.

Consider a work scenario where your boss misses an important deadline. When you bring it up, they accuse you of not providing the necessary information, even though you know you did. This deflection is designed to protect their image while making you feel responsible for their mistakes.

4. They Isolate You

Isolation is a powerful tool in the gaslighter’s arsenal. By cutting you off from friends, family, or any support network, they can gain more control over you. They might achieve this by sowing seeds of doubt about others’ intentions or by convincing you that no one else cares about you like they do. The result is that you become more dependent on the gaslighter for validation and support.

In romantic relationships, this can look like a partner constantly criticising your friends and family, suggesting that they don’t have your best interests at heart. Over time, you might find yourself distancing from loved ones, further entrenching you in the gaslighter’s manipulative grip.

5. They Use Positive Reinforcement to Confuse You

Not all gaslighting tactics are overtly negative. Sometimes, a gaslighter will use praise and affection to keep you off balance. This inconsistency creates a cycle of emotional highs and lows that can be confusing and destabilising. One moment they’re showering you with love and compliments, and the next, they’re dismissive or cruel. This unpredictability makes you work harder to regain their approval and keeps you tethered to the relationship.

For instance, a friend might alternate between being incredibly supportive and then suddenly criticising you harshly. This push-pull dynamic makes it difficult to see the pattern of manipulation because you’re always hoping for the positive reinforcement to return.

The Golden Rule

Gaslighting is a pernicious form of emotional abuse that can erode your confidence and sense of reality. By understanding and recognising these five signs, you can begin to protect yourself and seek the support you need. Seeking professional help, such as therapy, can also be a valuable step towards healing and regaining your sense of self, as well as finding your identity. Knowing how to unlock and honour your own values and knowing the behaviour you won’t accept is a solid start in your healing journey.

Remember the golden rule: trust your perceptions and feelings. If something feels off, it probably is!

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