Gaslighting essentially means manipulating someone into doubting their own memory and credibility. It comes from the 1938 play Gaslight where a man named Jack used gas powered lights to try to convince his wife that she was crazy so that he could have her committed to an asylum and take her inheritance. It's pretty likely that we’ve all been gaslighted at one time or another, either on purpose or by accident. Having bad intent isn’t necessarily a character trait of gaslighters because the perpetrator could very well just doubt your experiences. Unfortunately, it tends to lead to the same negative results and when this happens to you, you lose confidence in your mind’s ability to recall events correctly. Once that happens, you’ll depend solely on their abuser's version of what happened and that's dangerous territory. Thankfully, it’s easy to figure out if someone is gaslighting you. Keep reading for 15 signs that you might be being gaslighted.
15 You Second Guess Yourself
Your most powerful weapon against a gaslighter is a confident and credible mind. A person who stands firm in their beliefs is better able to thwart a gaslighter’s attack. If they can destroy your confidence in your memory, then they’ve already won half of the battle. That's why they work so hard to attack your mind. An example of this would be someone telling you that you don’t remember things correctly or that you misplaced things that you haven’t. Or, they might make you promises but then insist that the conversation never took place. In the early stages, these things might not seem like a big deal. Everyone has slips of the mind, after all. But eventually, you’ll start to not trust your own mind and rely solely on their word. If you know for a fact that you’re recalling events correctly but are always being told that you’re wrong, you might have a gaslighter in your proximity.
14 You’re Always Apologizing
You can never satisfy a gaslighter, no matter how you try to accommodate their needs. It’s just not possible because they literally have nothing to complain or talk about. Even if you’ve done a great job, they’ll complain that you’re never doing things fast enough or precise enough for them. Over time, the complaints will turn into insults and verbal abuse. Eventually, you will become conditioned to apologize to them in the hopes that you can avoid confrontation. From the moment that they open their mouth to complain, you offer an apology. Sometimes, you may even apologize for things that haven’t happened yet. But, trust, nothing will ever be good enough. They’ll find a way to twist your apology in their favor and further the notion that you're wrong, or too little, or too much---whatever they’re feeling in that moment. They see themselves above reproach so all of the blame gets placed on you.
13 You Get Confused
Relationships with gaslighters are emotionally taxing. They are masters of deception and double-talk, so even when you think you’re on the same page, they will flip the script at a moment's notice. It’s not easy to keep up with their constant insults and accusations. Every situation that you’re in, they’re questioning your memory and ability to recall facts. If this goes on long enough, you might give up on your own memory altogether and rely completely on your abuser. That’s the worst thing that you could ever do. Once you give up on yourself, you’re at their mercy and they can further manipulate you any way that they see fit. It can take years to undo this kind of emotional abuse, which is why it needs to be cut off at the head. If you find yourself constantly forgetting things, start writing things down in a journal that they don’t have access to. And after a conflict happens, you can rely on your written word to reinforce your memories.
12 They Never Admit When They're Wrong
Humans, by nature, are flawed individuals. We make mistakes, experience mood fluctuations and sometimes offend and hurt the people that we love. Yet somehow, gaslighters never make any mistakes and never apologize. It does not matter if you actually catch them stealing, or in a lie, they will vehemently deny their wrongdoing. And things that you did not actively witness, you might as well not bring up because they will question your credibility. If they have made a habit of gaslighting you, they will use past arguments where they manipulated you in their favor. “Remember when you were wrong last time?” “Oh, you are just over exaggerating again.” Nothing is ever their fault. Things are only done to them, not by them. This is probably one of the easiest gaslighting signs to identify because we know that everyone makes mistakes. So, someone who thinks that they’re perfect could be gaslighting you.
11 You Apologize For Their Behavior
Have you ever had an argument with someone who was clearly in the wrong... and ended up apologizing to them for the way that they treated you? This is a sign that there is definitely something wrong in your relationship. Gaslighters are great at making you feel responsible for all of the fault... especially theirs. They might have yelled at you, but it's your fault for making angry and getting them out of character. You made them say those horrible things and it's your responsibility to make sure that it doesn't happen again. Another thing that victims of gaslighting do is apologize for the other person's actions to everyone else. Outsiders are always able to see abuse before the person in the relationship and they might bring it up to you. Because you're so used to shouldering all of the blame, you make excuses for them and apologize for their crappy behavior.
10 You’re Unhappy But Don’t Know Why
Are you always unhappy? Gaslighting can be so subtle that you don’t realize what’s happening to you. On the surface, it may seem that you have it all together but inside you’re being shredded to pieces and constantly trying to figure out why you don’t feel normal. This is because this crazy person is always telling you that you’re wrong, but you can’t see what’s so bad about yourself. Because, well you’re not really the problem. They are. And it’s hard to question what they’re saying, because they’re assertive and, in some cases, make you feel that they’re pointing out your “flaws” to help you. It’s some next level trickery, for sure and can lead to extended bouts of depression. Relationships go through highs and lows, but if you’re constantly sad, that’s a warning sign that something may be wrong. Even if they're not gaslighting you, it's still a sign that they’re someone who is not adding to your life in a positive way.
9 They Don't Answer Your Questions
Gaslighters, as you know, are also narcissists. Narcs don’t like to be confronted and they can’t handle the fact they might not be right all of the time. Accountability is a word that isn't in their vocabulary and they will go to great lengths to prove that you are wrong and they are right. Anyone who confronts a gaslighter will be met with swift denials. While it’s entirely possible that they don’t even realize that they’re gaslighting you, it doesn't negate the fact that it’s still harmful. If you're not sure about what scenario you're dealing with, pay attention to the way that they respond to your questions. Gaslighters will see any kind of challenge as an attack on their false sense of self and will hit back. They will spin anything that you say to put it back on you. If you keep pushing, their insults will get meaner and they’ll resort to low blows, like using your secrets against you.
8 They Don't Care About Your Emotions
“You’re overreacting.” “ You’re too uptight.” “ You’re crazy.” “ You don't remember stuff correctly.” “I can’t believe that you’re bringing this up again.” "I can't talk to you when you’re emotional.” These are just a few of a gaslighter’s favorite lines. Anytime you present them with a complaint they will, without a doubt, shoot you down before you can even get your point across. They can’t acknowledge that your feelings are warranted because that would mean that they’d have to admit that they’re part of the problem. Or---the problem itself. Narcissists never are the problem, in their own mind, so the only thing they can do is place the blame on you. You must remember that you’re feelings, perceptions are entirely yours and that you don’t need them to validate them. Where there’s smoke, there's fire. So, if you’re constantly feeling a certain way, it’s because something is wrong. Trust your instincts and don’t let them silence you.
7 You Don’t Feel Good Enough
Prolonged gaslighting can be detrimental to your mental health. When someone constantly puts you down and tell you that you're wrong, you start to question your ability to make sound judgments. You might start to wonder if you can be of any use to anyone. Or, you may even feel like a burden to your partner. So, you work overtime to try to do things just right to please them. But gaslighting is often about power, so they can't win if you're thriving. The more that you try to please them, the more that they will tear you down because they can't win if you're thriving. Which, just reinforces that notion that you can’t do anything right. This is horrible for your mental and emotional state and health because it is belittling someone in a way to control them and get them to do what you want them to do.
6 You Lie To Avoid Arguments
There's a saying that goes, "You can either be right or you can be happy." When you choose to be happy, you might start to tell little lies to avoid arguments with the people that you love. An example of this would be if you ask your boyfriend if he thought that the waitress was cute, he might say "of course not!" to avoid hurting your feelings. Or a girl might tell her boyfriend that she enjoys his cooking even though it's pretty much inedible. That's pretty standard relationship behavior that's harmless when used in moderation. A more extreme form of this, however, occurs when little lies become big lies and you're telling them so frequently because you're always being interrogated and picked apart. That's when it becomes dangerous. On top of questioning your own reality, you're also creating an alternate one which will only lead to more confusion and distress for yourself.
5 You Hide Things From Your Family
Families, for most of us, are our support systems. They're the people who we can lean on no matter what and who won't judge when we make mistakes. Ideally, they would be the first people that someone who is being gaslighted would lean on, but that's often not the case. When you've been gaslighted, you usually end up ruining important relationships because you're too embarrassed with how you're being treated. They don't want their family to see them as weak, so they don't tell them what's really going on. By alienating their support system, they have no one to lean on but their abuser. And if by chance, their family is perceptive enough to figure out what's going on, an abuse victim might go to great lengths to cover for their abuser. If you think that you might be getting gaslighted, don't be afraid to confide in someone you trust. It will only help you.
4 They Flip Flop
Think back to when you first met your boyfriend. They probably seemed perfectly normal, right? Yup. You wouldn’t have given your trust to someone who treated you bad from the jump. At that stage, you haven’t yet formed an emotional bond with them, so they don’t have any kind of influence over you. So, they have to gain your trust. To get in, they start off caring, sweet and charming. In fact, they may seem a little too perfect to be real. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. While it’s natural to put your best foot forward when you first meet someone, it’s not realistic that a person will have no flaws. This is a warning sign that they might be trying to win you over for their own selfish gain. Or that they’re overcompensating for less than desirable character traits. Which you probably already know about deep down if you're honest.
3 They Use Your Secrets Against You
What kinds or arguments do you have? Are they normal or does your partner constantly take low blows? Gaslighters use your weakness and shortcomings against you during arguments for their own gain. They usually reserve this for when they feel that they are losing their influence over you. It is their way of reestablishing dominance and is a major power move. If you ever actually threaten to leave them, they might say, “Oh, so you are actually going to end up alone,” or “No one else will love you like this.” Of course, their statements will vary based on what your unique fears are. No one who loves and respects you will wave your fears over your head. A gaslighter will. That’s why it’s best to get out as soon as you notice the warning signs. You can’t reason with narcissistic people; so you just have to leave them.
2 You’re Super Defensive
Are you always on high alert? Do you feel that you can never let your guard down? It is hard not to get defensive when your credibility is constantly being attacked. No one likes feeling backed against a wall and sometimes the mind games and constant threats can get to be too much. You might find that you are lashing out more than usual and turning into an entirely different person. Even during rare moments when your abuser isn’t attacking you, you’re mentally preparing for the moment that you’ll have to defend your actions. This leads to feelings of anxiety and a loss of peace. It’s not just with your boyfriend, though. You might have your guard with everyone you encounter because if the person that’s closest to you would treat you that way, surely everyone else will. At least that's what you think but of course, you're totally wrong.
1 You’re Alone
There truly is strength in numbers and that's why when your BF is gaslighting you, he wants to make sure that his psychological warfare is the only influence that they have over you. If you have outside forces, their threats and insults will take longer to erode your sense of self. And it’s possible that the person might point out what they’re doing and their cover will be blown. That’s why they get you as far away from your friends and family as they can. They might even put seeds of doubt in your mind about whether they even care about you and manufacture fake drama. That way, when you have an argument, you don’t have anyone to turn to and have to rely on him to console you. It’s not only related to isolating yours from people. They might also get you to let go of your passions and interests so that they have all of your attention. This is a really awful situation to be in so hopefully if you can tell that you've been gaslighted, you can get out ASAP and be happy again.