Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse and manipulation that makes someone question their own reality. These abusers control you by making you doubt your reality. The goal is usually to make a person lose trust and confidence in themselves and feel confused about their reality. Some people even end up feeling crazy. It can happen in any relationship including between boss and employee, parent and child and even among friends. Here are some common phrases gaslighters use and how to respond should you find yourself on the receiving end of this manipulation.
That’s not what happened/That never happened
The hallmark sign of gaslighting is to make you doubt your own recollection of memories and experiences. A gaslighter always makes you doubt your memory of what happened. They always seek to control the narrative and the facts of a situation or event.
Response: Be firm and clear about what you saw, and what you know happened. Make it clear that you are not confused about how events played out. If it’s a situation that is subject to interpretation, you can add, “It’s okay that we see things differently.” If you live with someone who constantly makes you doubt your reality, document things when they happen like in a journal. Writing it down makes it real.
This is your own fault/It’s your fault
Gaslighters always find a way to turn the conversation around and blame the victims. They will blame you for any and everything, it’s your fault they cheated and crashed the car and lost money betting. If this is done enough, a person eventually begins to shoulder the blame for most of the problems in a relationship.
Response: “I hope we can both keep accepting responsibility when we’re at fault, to reduce blaming each other.” This can neutralize the situation, hopefully, take down their defences and remind both of you that you’re fallible and prone to making mistakes.
It’s not that big of a deal
Related to it’s not that big of a deal is you’re overthinking it. Intentional or not, it invalidates the person’s feelings and makes them doubt their feelings. Other responses that try to invalidate your emotional response are statements like you’ve overreacting or being dramatic.
Response: You need to communicate that your emotional reaction is valid. Your emotions are real and they deserve to be seen and acknowledged not dismissed. You can say, “My feelings are valid and I would appreciate it if you would respect my emotions.”
It was just a joke
A common gaslighting technique is when your actions are exposed as hurtful, to say “I was only joking.” If a joke is not funny to the other person and you’re punching down, it’s not funny. People often hide behind humour to deflect and refuse to face the consequences of their actions.
Response: Firmly explain that you don’t find those statements or actions funny, pointing out the reasons why they annoy you or make you uncomfortable.
I did that because I was trying to help you
A common manipulative and controlling tactic is to make it look like your actions which have resulted in pain and heartache were well-intentioned.
Response: Make it clear that you appreciate their help but their actions were not helpful. You can add, “Showing me you care would look like….”
It’s worth pointing out that abusers who have gaslighting as part of their repertoire rarely change and ending the relationship altogether is often the only solution eventually.
Relationships: 7 Signs Of An Abusive Partner
Are You Headed For Divorce? Things Couples That Separate Have In Common
7 Toxic Dating Trends You Should Look Out For
7 Signs You Are In A Healthy Relationship