Gaslighting| How to Spot it and Shut it Down

What is Gaslighting?

‘Gaslighting’ Oxford Dictionaries named it one of the most popular words of 2018. Gaslighting is a tactic in which a person, in order to gain more power, makes a victim questions its reality by denying facts, the environment around him, or his feelings. This works much better than you may think. It is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and fanatic leaders. Usually, it is done slowly, so the victim doesn’t realize how much they’ve been brainwashed. For example, in the movie Gaslight (1944), a man manipulates his wife to the point where she thinks she is losing her mind.

During the process, the victim’s self-esteem is severely damaged, and he becomes additionally dependent on the gaslighter for emotional support and authentication. If a wife tells her husband that he is shirking child care responsibilities and he responds by refusing to acknowledge that it’s even happening, he is gaslighting her.

Maybe we all are being gaslighted by our Ministers or other politicians. But the matter gets worse when someone closer to us has been manipulating us for a while. And we are acting like their puppets without realizing it. A gaslighter can be your spouse, parent, coworker, boss, or siblings or friends. Most of us have been gaslighted at some points in our lives, which makes it important to spot its techniques as soon as possible, so that we can shut it down to remove its impacts on our daily lives.

“You’re so sensitive!”

“Stop acting crazy. . .”

“That’s not what happened”

“Don’t worry, I’ve got you”

“I am not arguing; I am discussing.”

You might have heard someone saying these phrases to you more often. If ‘yes’, then look keenly! To spot a manipulative narcissist.

How to Spot a Gaslighter (Emotional Abuser)?

Gaslighting, how to spot gaslighting. how to stop gaslighting

Distort the truth – By lying 

A gaslighting always starts with obvious truths. You know that they are lying but they seem so confident. With this confidence, they are setting up an abusive pattern which will make you uncertain about the simplest things. Your confusion is all they want. As a result, you are exactly acting in the way they have planned.

Deny, deny and deny

You know what they have said. You are sure about it. But, again, all they will do is denying. They will say that they have never said such a thing. You are sure and can prove it too. However, their confidence and surety will make you feel that maybe you didn’t hear it properly. After that, you will find yourself doubting your concepts more often and will start to accept the reality they want you to see. That’s how they will make you feel dazed. Maybe they would say:

“I guess I’ll have to repeat myself since you can’t remember.”

 “If you were listening…”

“If you knew how to listen…”

 “We talked about this. Don’t you remember?”


A gaslighter will make your needs or feelings seem unimportant. They will blame the victim that their sensitivity caused all the harm. “You’re too emotional”, that’s what they will say to you. At times, they will make you feel as if you ‘over-analyzed’, or ‘over-reacted to a situation. But all you were doing was the need of the time.

They will Use Your Love against You

Eventually, a gaslighter uses what you love against you as his weapon. He will try to wear you down by finding problems in the thing you love. If you love your job, they will somehow, find issues with that.  And if you love your family they will preach that how badly they have affected your life. If you had fewer siblings, things could be different then! This abusive manipulation tactic causes the victims to question their foundation as well as what they hold close.

Their Actions are Different from What They Say

To spot a gaslighter, look into his action. His actions will not match his words. Whatever he says means ‘nothing’, his words are just unreliable. The abusive actions are the real issue towards the victim. He may talk and talk, but it will mean nothing.

Will Build You up by Flattery after Tearing You Down

Notably, a person who gaslights will tear you down, and then build you up through his positive remarks.  That will add a sense of uneasiness. You will think, maybe they are not as bad as you think! ‘No’, they are! They are making a conscious attempt to question your reality. Whether you realize it or not, you are getting used to being torn down.

 The Slow Death of Self

One of the terrifying parts of gaslighting is the methodical timeline that the abuser uses. The manipulation happens gradually and over time the victim transforms into someone entirely different. The most confident human being can become a shell of a person without being aware of it in the process. The victim’s individual reality shrinks and becomes that of the abuser.

They will Use Your Confusions against You

Human beings like to have a sense of stability and clarity. A gaslighter knows it very well that the confusion makes people weak, that’s where he starts doing his job. He will enroot a sense of questions within you; in times of need, he will offer you his shoulder to wipe your tears. Because it is human nature to look for an entity that offers stability – and that happens to be that manipulator.  Insisting you were or were not at a certain place, even though it’s not true. For instance, they will say: “You’re crazy. You never went to that show with me.”

They will tell You that Everyone Else is a Liar

The abuser will tell you that everyone else is a liar. This will be another technique to blur the sense of reality.  You will find yourself wondering, do they really know the people around you? Were they all pretending to be good in front of you? People who gaslight want their victims to turn to them for everything so that they can continue the abuse. They will tell you that people were talking behind you back; “Don’t you know? The whole family talks about you. They think you’re losing it.”

Projecting – Scenarios that will force you to Defend yourself

They are a drug user or a cheater, yet they are constantly accusing you of that. This is done so often that you start trying to defend yourself, and are distracted from the gaslighter’s own behavior. He will come up with new ideas to accuse you just to divert your attention from his ill will. Each time they will do it, they will sugarcoat their words. Such as:

“I criticize you because I like you.”

“You’re the only person I have these problems with.”

You are Crazy!

“You are crazy!” that’s what they tell others about you. Because the abuser knows that you are already questioning your sanity. The gaslighter also knows that you search for clarity in the person who is purposefully causing the confusion. Therefore, when they call you crazy, you believe it.

Furthermore, the gaslighter may also tell other people that you’re crazy. This way if you were ever to approach them for help with your abuser, they wouldn’t believe you. The gaslighter has given them a heads up that this would happen. You’re too “crazy” to be taken seriously.

Ultimately, the quicker you can pick up on these gaslighting techniques, the better luck you will have to avoid the abuse and maintain the distinct reality of your circumstances.

Why do People Gaslight?

One of the most common reasons people gaslight is to gain power over others. This need for control may stem from narcissism, antisocial personality, or other issues. In most cases of abuse, gaslighting is about control. As gaslighting progress, the target often second-guesses their own memories and thoughts.

Gaslighting in Relationships

Gaslighting, how to spot gaslighting. how to stop gaslighting

Important to realize, any relationship can be a victim of gaslighting.

Gaslighting in a romantic relationship may be easier to notice, and the end goal of the abuser is often apparent to others. More often than not, in romantic relationships, the motive of gaslighting is to gain control.

On the contrary, gaslighting at work, or in relationships with friends or family members, can be more difficult to detect. It usually always involves control, money, or disloyalty. With intentional manipulation and gaslighting tactics, the people who gaslight usually get what they want and are successful at covering things up.

How to tell – if you are a victim of Gaslighting

  • You have started to find it hard to make decisions
  • Thinking that you are overly sensitive
  • You are always apologizing first; no matter who was at a mistake
  • Whenever things go wrong you blame yourself.
  • You are always finding excuses for your partner’s behavior
  • You feel dizzy about your thoughts, feelings, and decisions
  • It feels like something is wrong, but you are unable to figure out what is it?
  • You are not feeling happy as you used to be
  • Feeling isolated from family and friends
  • You have become more anxious and less confident
  • Often find yourself questioning your response to others
  • Avoiding confrontation with the gaslighter

How to Deal with Gaslighting

Gaslighting emotional abuse causes psychological distress for its victims. With that being said, if you have experienced one form of gaslighting or another, you’re not alone.

Gaslighting, how to spot gaslighting. how to stop gaslighting

Identify the Gaslighter

First, try to clarify who is gaslighting you and how. Take notes of any time you have questioned your perception of reality. In order to move on, you need to confirm the gaslighting is happening.

Outsmart the Gaslighter

Keep it simple when dealing with a gaslighter. Their only purpose is to gain power by making you doubt the reality of your friends, family, and your own self. Don’t allow the gaslighter to think you believe what they’re saying.


Meditate more often and especially at times of confusion. Meditations will help you to stay grounded and objective if the reality of the situation is questioned.

Seek Guidance

Reach out your friends and family members who you trust and talk to them. Seek help from a therapist or mental health professional.

Shift Your Perspective

Change the way you think! Think that you are not a victim but a survivor.

Gaslighter vs. Narcissist

Narcissism is a mental condition in which people have overstated senses of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.

Gaslighting, how to spot gaslighting. how to stop gaslighting

Are Gaslighters and Narcissists the Same?

Gaslighting can be part of a narcissistic personality, but there are other pieces of narcissistic personality disorder. And it’s more sociopathic behavior than just being a jerk. But such a person really gets under your skin and starts making you question your self-value.

It seems like a jerk just repels you, pushes you away, but the awful thing about a gaslighter is you’re both repelled and hooked at the same time. Right, and when you try to leave a gaslighter. They will tell you all the things they love about you, and how things are going to be different this time, and as soon as you get back into the relationship, he knows you’re in their clutches. It is because when you’re a gaslighter, and you lose someone’s attention, it triggers your narcissistic damage.

Can a Gaslighter Change?

The simplest answer to this question can be, ‘No’, they don’t really change – not at least on their own. A gaslighter is an insecure human being who only knows one way to manage his world; through gaslighting.  For that reason, they are not likely to respond to rational appeals to change.

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Numira baig

Numira is an author of Blogsy and eloquent in writing about challenging and not-so-common topics. She is one of our editors as well.

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