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Gaslighting: What it Is & How to Tell if You Are Being Gaslit

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Gaslighting: What it Is & How to Tell if You Are Being Gaslit

“Gaslighting” is not a new term but it feels if it is, because the concept seems like it is exploding into the lives of people right now. But what is it exactly? And how do you know if it’s going on in your own relationship? Are you making things up in your own head, overthinking everything? Are you too sensitive? Let’s find out!

Gaslighting: What it is, How to Tell if You are Being Gaslit and 15 Examples of Gaslighting in Relationships:

Gaslighting. This term comes from the 1938 stage play Gas Light (and later, the 1940 movie, and later remakes), in which a husband tried to drive his wife crazy by dimming the gas-powered lights in their home. When his wife points out the change in light, he denies that the light changed at all.

It’s an excellent movie in and of itself. I was going to just link to it as a point of reference, but changed my mind because the movie is so good. If you have some time, watch it.

 

Gaslight: The Original 1940 Movie

Moving along, I know you are eager to see some actual examples of what this looks like to see how it fits into the framework of what you may be experiencing or have seen.

An Example of Gaslighting in a Relationship Looks Like This:

  • “Why are you making things up?!”
  • “You are so jealous!”
  • “Are you sure? You tend to have a bad memory.”
  • “It’s all in your head.”

Gaslighting makes the victim question their own feelings, instincts, sanity. Yes, sanity: it makes people think they are crazy. Because of this, it is a form of abuse, heavily favored by narcissists, sociopaths and psychopaths.

"Gaslighting?!"

This is the thing: when or if an abuser can get the victim to fundamentally doubt themselves, or once an abusive partner has broken down the victim’s ability to trust their own feelings, instincts and sanity, they’ve won on so many levels. They can manipulate the victim, obviously, the victim thinks the problem is with the victim (and apologizes to the abuser). The victim is also likely to stay in the relationship for a long time – it takes a tremendous amount of will power to leave the manipulations that are behind gaslighting and the people who gaslight.

This is where it’s helpful to understand that the people who gaslight are often from the narcissistic/sociopathatic/psychopathic spectrum.

There are a lot of different examples of gaslighting in relationships, because there are more than one type of gaslighting.

Gaslighting Techniques & Examples of Gaslighting in a Relationship:

Countering: this is the classic example, like what the husband did with the wife in the original “Gaslighting” – this is when the abuser makes the victim question what happened with statements like,

  • “huh? that’s not how it happened!”
  • “your memory is so crappy!”
  • “it didn’t happen that way!”

Withholding: when the abusive partner pretends they don’t understand or just won’t listen. They say things like,

  • “why do you keep saying things like this?!”
  • “I don’t want to hear this again”
  • “you are making stuff up!”

Diverting: the victim’s thoughts are questioned, or the abuser diverts the subject. It can go like this:

  • “you are imagining things”
  • “oh great, this is what you got from (friend/family member)”

Repetitive Questioning: the abusive partner makes the victim doubt what they think or feel. The key her is the insidious intent, and the repetitive nature of the questions, questions like:

  • “are you sure?”
  • “do you really think so?”

Trivializing: the victim is made to feel like their needs or feelings are out of whack. The partner says things like,

  • “you are too sensitive!”
  • “you are so jealous”
  • “you are going to get all upset over something so small?”

Revealing Hidden Thoughts of Others: where the abuser will “reveal” what other people are “really” thinking about the victim. This is effective in making the victim doubt themselves and their fundamental sense of what reality is. Examples in this technique include things are said in a well-meaning way:

  • “I know you really want to make people laugh, but I just want you to know that a lot of people feel like they have to listen to you and I can see them rolling their eyes at you behind your back…”
  • “people have been saying ~ (insert hurtful lie)”

 

Many components within gaslighting are normal

There are many things in gaslighting that are normal – we try and change other people’s opinions all the time, right? We try and get what we want all the time, too. The difference between what is ‘normal’ and what is gaslighting lie partly in the effects.

 

how to tell if you are being gaslit - 15 examples of gaslighting in a relationship

Signs that You are Being Gaslit:

(taken from the National Domestic Violence Hotline)

  • You constantly second-guess yourself.
  • You ask yourself, “Am I too sensitive?” multiple times a day.
  • You often feel confused and even crazy.
  • You’re always apologizing to your partner.
  • You can’t understand why, with so many apparently good things in your life, you aren’t happier.
  • You frequently make excuses for your partner’s behavior to friends and family.
  • You find yourself withholding information from friends and family so you don’t have to explain or make excuses.
  • You know something is terribly wrong, but you can never quite express what it is, even to yourself.
  • You start lying to avoid the put downs and reality twists.
  • You have trouble making simple decisions.
  • You have the sense that you used to be a very different person – more confident, more fun-loving, more relaxed.
  • You feel hopeless and joyless.
  • You feel as though you can’t do anything right.
  • You wonder if you are a “good enough” partner.

People who are prime fodder for being gaslit tend to be empathetic, compassionate people. People who feel things, and who care about others. When they feel something (intuitively) or see something blatantly in their face and are made through their interaction with their partner to start doubting themselves, their reality, and their sanity, they are being gaslit.

My Own Example

I was gaslit for years. I truly thought that I was bi-polar, and went so far as to take medication for bi-polar disorder.

While I have Complex PTSD, I am not bi-polar. I know that now without a doubt because the moment that I received the text message that proved that my husband was being unfaithful to me, a fog lifted off my brain. It was like a weighted blanket had been lifted – I could see everything so clearly for the first time in years.

I also experienced a powerful sense of relief, knowing that I had been correct all along, realizing that my intuition had been serving me well for years. My husband had simply gaslit me into thinking that I was crazy, that I was wrong. I was led into self-doubt at each and every turn.

I have not taken bi-polar medication since July (it has been 5 months) and have experienced nothing but clarity. It’s almost as if I have come home to myself.

Examples of Gaslighting in a Relationship

Get Help: 1-800-799-7233 for the Domestic Violence Hotline.

Click HERE for their live chat help.

DeafHope serves the  d/Deaf community ending violence and can also help. Contact them HERE.

Gaslighting is a real form of abuse. If you recognize any of these signs that I have talked about here, or if any of this resonates with you, REACH OUT.

The following books helped me – especially Psychopath Free (which I can’t recommend highly enough). I hope they help you, too.

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Meriah
Meriah Nichols is a career counselor, teacher and blogger. Single mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one gifted 2E), she is also a cat-loving Trekkie who likes her coffee hot and black.
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Sara

Saturday 21st of September 2019

My husband is a retired cop and military. He has been gaslighting me for 3 years, since his retirement. He wants me gone. He puts bowls of water on bed and kicks it on me at 4, saying it was for my dog. Handed me a towel that smelled of dog piss. He has everyone saying im crazy. We had a fight, of course he knew all the cops. They wouldn’t listen to a word i said. I-have been keeping notes but he brushes it off like im insane. I spend my days in the bedroom. We no longer speak. Where should i go from here? He has all the bases covered. The courts, cops, lawyers...I'm in his prison with no where to go.

Sara

Saturday 21st of September 2019

My husband is a retired cop and military. He has been gaslighting me for 3 years, since his retirement. He wants me gone. He puts bowls of water on bed and kicks it on me at 4, saying it was for my dog. Handed me a towel that smelled of dog piss. He has everyone saying im crazy. We had a fight, of course he knew all the cops. They wouldn’t listen to a word i said. I have been keeping notes but he brushes it off like im insane. I spend my days in the bedroom. We no longer speak. Where should i go from here?

Meriah

Saturday 21st of September 2019

File for divorce. Leave.

Bob

Thursday 19th of September 2019

Brother in law is a gas-lighter and I suspect a sociopath. 20 years of abuse overstepping/ignoring boundaries, denying, odd praise, ignoring/blanking me out, undermining my relationship with wife, passive aggression, snide comments and so much more. I lost my identity early on and gave in to the constant barrage of crap and I recognized it as crap from him but gave way fro the sake of my wife and the support and love that I wanted for her. The painful aspect of this was not only my loss of identity but that slowly my wife turned against me and pushed me away but I knew and know that she is as much a victim of his crap as I am and she bulldozed our marriage and didn't even realise it. The brother in law is exceptionally devious and works at a level you would be surprised at and is so subtle. I questioned myself for years and was suicidal and very depressed. I am still depressed but I find that going over it all again and again actually brings up more perspective and deeper understanding and the vantage point is always slightly different each time. I wish I could undo the loss of time but I cant and I find that very hard to accept. I find all this so hard to accept but I believe objective rationale is my friend. I also realise that my gut instincts are pretty infallible and now rely on this always. Open minded people will always be prey to sociopaths or similar because we are easy targets. Our best defense is awareness and avoidance. So thank you for you website and the awareness that it brings. Thanks

me

Saturday 27th of July 2019

The reason gaslighting seems so prevalent right now is because it is. The problem is that the increase in gaslighting is on the part of the established hierarchy, psychology included because their holes are increasingly showing. But bu all means make it a problem of isolated individuals and further suggest that said isolated individuals have no direct causal link to the establishment...which would then make you a victim blamer. On a fun side note there are also a number of unkind terms for people who imagine they are being gaslit. Pop psychology is dangerous, though admittedly not more dangerous than that considered "professional and ethical". Hierarchy is dysfunctional on every face.

MarlieI

Saturday 27th of July 2019

I am so gaslight I even question whether or not I am the victim or perpetrator sometimes! I have a "bad memory" , am "stupid", and "overly sensitive", to name a few. What's more is I am disabled and physically dependent now. Tough position! Scared and feeling "nuts." Like I MUST be a bigger part of the problem . Oh I need help!

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