Even though the term has gained popularity in the last couple of years, gaslighting remains one of the less-known abusive behaviors. This is why a manipulator can get away with gaslighting the people around them without facing repercussions. Gaslighting is subtle enough that it can be done without the victim ever picking up on it. And, unfortunately, it’s somewhat accepted by society.
But that doesn’t mean you should just accept being abused. Instead, you need to learn about gaslighting to understand what it is and what signs you need to look out for. As with all manipulation tactics, gaslighting never starts as obvious. Your abuser will always start slow so that you get acclimated to their toxic behavior and accept it as normal.
In time, they can start increasing the level of gaslighting they subject you to. This is one of the most effective manipulation tactics because it makes the victim question their own sanity. And, if you have the misfortune of being close to your manipulator, they will have a lot of power over you and completely change how you view yourself.
Not to mention that if this is coupled with any kind of power imbalance, it can become much more dangerous. Even though they are only words, they can cut deep and can make a victim develop severe trauma. So, even though not many people are aware of gaslighting, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a severe issue. And you should always be on the lookout for signs that you might be the victim of such abuse.
What Is Gaslighting?
Most people experience some sort of gaslighting throughout their lives. In most cases, it’s kids who suffer from this manipulation tactic, which parents often use. But there’s an important thing to remember here. Most parents don’t use gaslighting intentionally. They do it because they find it hard to believe their kids when they say things somewhat out of the ordinary.
For example, if a kid is not doing great in school, the parent will believe that they don’t study enough. And they will snap at their kids, telling them they are lazy and don’t appreciate what they have. Of course, this could be the case. But, more often than not, it’s not that the kids don’t want to learn. They struggle with some things, such as attention deficit.
Or maybe they are getting bullied at school, and that’s why they don’t perform as well as they could. But, in this case, even though the parent is gaslighting the kid, it’s not intentional. Which makes it somewhat different from when gaslighting is used in an abusive manner. Sure, having your parents not believe you can also lead to trauma and mental health issues. But true gaslighting happens slightly differently and is usually much more harmful.
How It Happens
Gaslighting is a manipulation tactic often used by abusers to control the victim. Psychologists classify it as a form of covert emotional abuse. The thing with gaslighting is that it has to be used over an extended period, or it won’t change the victim’s self-perception. This tactic aims to make the victim feel unsure about how they view themself or the world. Sometimes, it can even make people question their sanity.
This tactic is most often used in romantic relationships. The abuser uses the victim’s trust to start undermining their confidence. Because a partner does this, it catches people by surprise. You would never imagine that someone who supposedly loves you could blatantly lie to you and mess up with your head. And this plays into the hand of the abuser.
They know that you’ll have your guard down around them and that you wouldn’t question their intentions. So, they slowly start working on small lies that seep doubt into the victim’s mind. But gaslighting isn’t exclusive to romantic relationships. Even friends or family members can use this manipulation tactic to gain control over you. This is especially common if you happen to be surrounded by toxic people.
It Starts With A Lie
As mentioned before, gaslighting never starts with obvious lies. It’s always a small change of a little detail or maybe a lie by omission. In time, the victim will start to doubt their memory, or perhaps they will even begin to lose confidence. They can even start questioning their morals and how they view the world. When this happens, the manipulator can start making up more complex manipulations.
If it ever reaches that point, the victim is at a point where they can’t see the truth and will virtually believe everything their abuser says. They might even start thinking that they are at fault for how their abuser is treating them or even feel like they are going insane. After a while, you will be so vulnerable that you’ll do virtually anything the abuser wants you to do. So, if gaslighting can become so dangerous, how can you tell when you are the victim of such manipulations?
5 Hidden Signs of Gaslighting Never to Ignore
1. The Manipulator Always Argues with You
In any relationship, people are bound to fight from time to time. It’s even natural to argue with the people you hang out with, as no two people will ever have the same worldview. But, if your partner, or even a friend or family member, seems to counter what you are saying, that’s an issue. And it’s usually a sign that you are being gaslit.
You’ll question everything you know if you hear that you are wrong about virtually everything you say daily. And the worst thing is, they don’t even have to argue with you directly. It’s enough to ask you if you are sure what you are saying to make you question your memory. They will usually just ask leading questions that ultimately lead you to believe you are wrong. And you’ll be fooled to think you have come to that conclusion by yourself when you have been led to believe you’re always wrong.
2. The Manipulator Is Always Trivialising
Regarding gaslighting, trivializing is one of the most effective things someone can do. This is because when someone trivializes, they diminish the victim’s feelings and experiences. By doing this, they make you feel like you are overreacting and that you are the one who is doing something to ruin the relationship.
If you are in an abusive relationship, you might have been told that you are too sensitive or that you always overreact. Sure, if someone tells you once that you might be overreacting, you should listen to them because they might just be trying to help you. But if you hear things like these almost every day, that’s when it becomes abusive behavior. You should never trust a person who doesn’t care about your feelings.
3. Gaslighting Behavior Lacks Accountability
Another common sign of gaslighting is the refusal to take accountability for one’s actions. This is something that many abusers do, not just manipulators. But it’s still good to look out for this sign, mainly because you will never be able to have a stable and healthy relationship with someone who doesn’t own up to their mistakes.
The main reason why people don’t take accountability for their actions is so that they don’t have to make any amends or sacrifices for the relationship. Instead, they will just throw all responsibility in the victim’s lap and let them do all the heavy lifting.
4. The Manipulator Will Refuse to Listen or Pretend Not To Understand
There’s almost nothing more frustrating than trying to talk to someone and feeling like you’d be better off talking to a wall. But this is what someone will do to gaslight you into giving up on any efforts to communicate. This will make you doubt your ability to get your points across.
If someone keeps telling you that they don’t understand you or that you are confusing them, you’ll feel like you’re the problem. You’ll think you’re too incompetent to have a discussion. In time, you’ll stay silent and not even try to stand up for yourself. This will allow the abuser to do almost everything they want without dealing with your protests. If you feel you can’t even have a conversation with someone, they’re almost definitely gaslighting you.
5. The Manipulator Will Lie and Divert
These behaviors are probably the most common gaslighting tactics. But they are also the most damaging. The lies always start small. Usually, they’re not even straight-up lies, as they are omissions or white lies. And diversions are probably the most preferred trick used by abusers.
Your memory, sanity, and credibility are questioned when you’re being lied to. The more these behaviors persist, the more you’ll believe that the fake world the abuser is creating is the real one. And ultimately, you’ll feel that your perception of the world and yourself is fake. When that happens, you won’t even question these lies anymore. You’ll accept them as facts and allow your abuser to control you. So, you better get out before that happens.
Final Thoughts on Hidden Signs of Gaslighting Never to Ignore
Gaslighting is one of the worst emotional abuse tactics that you could ever experience. And, if you are a victim of such abuse, you need to get out of that toxic relationship as fast as possible. Even get the help of a professional if you feel like you’re in too deep. Ideally, you can learn to spot signs of gaslighting before entering into a relationship with a manipulator.
Someone who uses gaslighting to manipulate people will try their hardest to make the victim question their sanity. Because of that, they’ll always argue with you and refuse to listen to reason or to virtually everything you’re saying. They will trivialize your feelings and make you feel like you’re always exaggerating. They’ll avoid taking responsibility for their actions and lie whenever they can. If a person you know does any of these, it’s time to cut them out of your life.