What is gaslighting?
According to relationship expert Susan Winter, gaslighting occurs when someone tries to control someone else through manipulation by making them doubt themselves, their intuition and their reality. Note that the purpose is to make someone question their reality. It’s a specific form of abuse that can cause people to feel like they’re going crazy.
The term originated from a play called “Gaslight” in which a husband slowly drives his wife mad by turning gas lights on and off and then denying that anything is happening. Now, gaslight is used to describe abuse that makes someone question their reality. Fortunately, there are several red flag behaviors that expose someone as a gaslighter.
“Some people try to be tall by cutting off the heads of others.” — Paramahansa Yogananda
Here Are 5 Behaviors That Reveal Someone Is Gaslighting You
Lying is a key behavior in gaslighting. In fact, gaslighting requires that the person in question tells blatant lies. If someone is telling you lies that contradict what you know, then it’s a red flag that they are trying to gaslight you. For example, if you know that you said something specific, and your partner tries to lie and say that you said something else, then it’s a red flag. For example, if you told your partner, “I’m annoyed right now”, and they try to change what you said to, “I hate you right now”, this is a form of gaslighting.
2. They project feelings onto you
Projection is a term that means someone is making out as you feel, think or want something that you don’t actually feel, think or want. Someone who is gaslighting you needs to be able to project something on their victim in order to control them. For example, if you are giving the abuser a neutral response, they may project an openly hostile response onto you. When someone says, “I don’t know” in response to a question, the gaslighter will project a more insidious motivation or feeling onto the person. Not only that, but they will tell you what you’re feeling, and insist that it’s true until you start to believe it.
3. They pit you against everyone else
A gaslighter wants you to believe that it’s “you and me against the world”. They will make you believe that everyone else is lying to you and that they are the only person that you can trust. If a gaslighter starts to tell you that your friends and family are lying to you, this is a big red flag, especially if this is hard to believe. If your friends and family have never lied to you before, then they wouldn’t have any reason to start lying now. Someone who is trying to gaslight you wants you to believe that everyone else can’t be trusted.
4. They say one thing and do another
The greatest tool that a gaslighter has is confusion, and they are masters at being able to control that confusion. If someone is telling you one thing, but demonstrating something else, then this is a huge sign that they are trying to gaslight you. For example, if someone tells you that they trust you, but breaks into your phone, this means that they don’t actually trust you. If someone tells you that they love you, but they continue to berate and humiliate you, this is a red flag. If someone is intentionally trying to confuse you, they’re trying to gaslight you.
Another tell-tale behavior of someone who is trying to gaslight you is outright denial. This goes hand in hand with lying. According to George Simon, PhD, “When they’re confronted, they don’t just deny, deny, deny — they deny adamantly. The script is simple: when you get confronted on something you know will expose you for the unsavory character you are, act offended and hurt, appear resolute, and question the sanity of your accuser. The script is not only simple, it’s also generally effective.”
It doesn’t matter if you have video evidence of them doing something, they will bend over backward trying to prove to you that the event didn’t actually happen. However, this mostly happens in more subtle ways. If they insulted you yesterday, they will deny that they did today. If you helped them out with something, they will deny that you ever helped them at all. Be aware of denial, as this is a red flag of someone trying to gaslight you.
Final thoughts on Gaslighting Behaviors
Gas lighting can be an incredibly scary thing to go through. However, these are the main signs that will let you know if gaslighting is occurring. Someone who is trying to gaslight you will try to make you question your reality. The most important thing to do is to get as much proof as you can and figure out an exit strategy with your support system. Let other people know what’s going on and use them as your reality check.