Are You A Victim of Gaslighting? Watch Out For These Phrases

The word “gaslight” originated in 1944 after the movie Gaslight was released. 

Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman star in the psychological drama that centers around a husband who persuades his wife she’s going mad by controlling the gas lights in their house. 

 
 
 
 
 
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Today the term has taken on a broader meaning.

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Gaslighting is an informal term that is defined as making someone question their own reality. 

 
 
 
 
 
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We talked to psychotherapist Katherine S.T. Jackson, LPC, to find out all about gaslighting. 


What Is Gaslighting?

Jackson defined gaslighting as a form of emotional abuse where a person manipulates by asserting that the other party is wrong, regardless of the evidence. 

The dynamic can be found in any relationship between two people. 

Sometimes, well-intentioned folks may find themselves accidentally gaslighting when they invalidate another person’s perception of an interaction. 

 
 
 
 
 
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“Gaslighting can be subtle or egregious,” says Jackson. “An egregious example is asserting you love someone while you continue to physically assault them. 

“A subtle example is if a person notices their partner being distant and the partner denies any change in their behavior and asserts that the person is being needy.”


How To Know If You’re Being Gaslit

“If someone makes you feel misunderstood and you question your perception of life, it’s possible you’re being gaslit,” says Jackson. 

 
 
 
 
 
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“We can even gaslight ourselves especially if we were raised by narcissistic parents.”


Classic Phrases/Examples Of Gaslighting 

Jackson says that a common technique of abusive men is to accuse their partner that they’re cheating.

“The accusations often occur after innocent interactions with another man,” she says. “This can cause the partner to question how they interact with other men.”

The abusive man will accuse their partner of being sexual or flirtatious when they are having a simple friendly interaction. 

The abused partner will start to question their personality and desires, which makes them easier to control.  

 
 
 
 
 
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“A big red flag for anyone is someone telling you that you’re crazy,” Jackson adds. “If your partner tells you you’re crazy during arguments, that’s a form of gaslighting.” 

In a healthy relationship, there is room for disagreements and mutual respect. 

Invalidating a concern by defaming the other person’s mental health is classic gaslighting.

“As I mentioned above, we sometimes do it to ourselves if we’ve been raised by emotionally immature or narcissistic parents,” she says. 

 
 
 
 
 
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An example of self-gaslighting is when you ignore your urges and feelings because they are not aligned with what you were raised to believe. 

For example: You are self gaslighting if you say “I have a good job, healthy kids, a nice home, a hardworking husband, I can’t be unhappy. I have everything I need.”


Are There Lesser-Known Forms Of Gaslighting?

Jackson says her example above IS a subtle example — accusing women of being needy is a cultural gaslight. 

“I think it’s likely more common in relationships than people want to realize,” she says. “ Anytime a partner invalidates their loved one’s experience of living, there is an issue.”

 
 
 
 
 
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When a partner is in active addiction gaslighting is a very common tool. 

The person may say, “No, I’m not drunk. You’re an asshole to accuse me of that. You always think I’m drunk.” 

The addict may not be able to admit to themselves that they have a problem, so everyone else is the problem. 

Gaslighters will turn their own actions against their partner. 

 
 
 
 
 
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They’ll say things like “I can’t believe you think I have a problem, you have the problem. Did you see yourself last night? Hanging all over your coworkers. Everyone was talking about you.” 

None of that is true — but they’re trying to make you question your own reality. 


Gaslighting Is Common

Jackson gave another example of an acquaintance who dated a guy when she was in her 20s who had a pattern of texting her in the middle of the night that she was “a bitch.” 

She would confront him about it the next day and he would respond that she misunderstood what he was saying. 

 
 
 
 
 
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This continued for about six weeks, along with passive-aggressive behavior of blocking and unblocking her on social media until she broke up with him. 

Side note, he’s a doctor!


What To Do If You’re Being Gaslit

Jackson says, “The truth is that if your partner cannot have a productive conversation about your feelings without making you question yourself, it’s time to at least see a couple’s counselor.”

 
 
 
 
 
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And what if, even with the help of a counselor, the manipulation continues? 

She says it’s time to go, girl. And go fast. 


Can Gaslighters Change Their Ways?

We asked Jackson if gaslighters can stop gaslighting or if they’re beyond help. 

“That depends on the context of the gaslighting,” she says. 

 
 
 
 
 
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“My professional instinct is that if the gaslighting occurs within an active addiction, if the addiction stops, the gaslighting about the substance use will too. 

“Due to gaslighting’s origins in emotional immaturity and narcissism, professional guidance will likely be needed to help the gaslighter change.”


How Gaslighting Can Make You Feel

 
 
 
 
 
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Gaslighting often leads you to:

  • Doubt and question yourself

  • Wonder constantly whether you’re too sensitive

  • Apologize frequently

  • Struggle with decision making

  • Feel generally unhappy, confused, and not like your usual self

  • Avoid loved ones since you don’t know how to explain what’s going on


Seek Professional Help

If you believe you’re the victim of gaslighting, there is hope. You do not have to stay in an unhealthy and abusive relationship. 

 
 
 
 
 
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Gaslighting is not your fault, although the person who is doing the gaslighting would have you believe otherwise. 

Recognize the signs of gaslighting and open up to friends, family, or a professional to get help.

If you’re dealing with gaslighting from a partner or family member, the National Domestic Violence Hotline provides free, confidential telephone and chat support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call 1-800-799-7233 or talk to a professional.

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Are you a victim of gaslighting in your current relationship? Have you been gaslighted in the past? Let us know below.


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