Our minds are powerful things. But in the case of psychological manipulation, they are used against us by a person hoping to exercise control over us. It can be something as simple as passive aggression or persistently trying to persuade someone, although it is often something more intense.
Gaslighting is a particularly dangerous example of it, where an abuser manipulates a victim into questioning their feelings, beliefs, and sanity, thus bending the victim to their will. The gaslighter uses a variety of deceptive and conniving tactics to get what they want. For them, it is about having power over a victim.
As you can imagine, being in a close relationship with a gaslighter is detrimental to a person’s mental health. It is helpful to be aware of the warning signs so that you can look out for and protect yourself.
Someone might be gaslighting you if:
1. You don’t feel normal
Do you feel like you’re weird or somehow different from other people in a big way? You feel this way because you’re being made to feel this way. You’re constantly told what normal is and that you don’t fit into its box. This is so gaslighters can influence what you think about yourself, so they can continue being in control.
2. You question and doubt yourself
Having a sense of self is important to everyone. Knowing who we are helps us define our values and beliefs. But gaslighters tell lies about their victims. They try to convince their victims that they are worthless or dumb, and it happens so often victims can begin to doubt things about themselves. If there’s someone in your life who acts like they know you better than you do, be wary of how it is affecting you; they might be a gaslighter.
3. You have lower less self-esteem since you’ve been around them
Self-esteem is closely linked to mental health. According to NAMI’s website, low self-esteem can lead to depression, anxiety, and even addiction because of how bad someone can feel about themself. Sadly, abusers have a big impact on self-esteem. They actually work to lower it to beat you down. They bring up your weaknesses and faults (whether or not those things are true!) until you feel disheartened and believe you aren’t worth it.
4. You become depressed
When you’re being manipulated and your brain feels like a mess, depression can absolutely follow. And as if depression alone isn’t bad enough, your feelings of sadness and hopelessness are trivialized. You’ll hear things like “you’re overreacting!” that only worsen the situation.
5. You are made to feel guilty
Even when things you know aren’t your fault, abusers yell that you are to blame. You are forced to defend yourself about things you didn’t even do because they twist the truth and turn the arguments around.
6. You are frequently let down by them
Gaslighters typically don’t keep their promises, and their actions don’t match what they actually say. This is because they thrive on keeping their victims unsure and uncertain. They have no reason to follow through on promises, so they don’t.
7. You are frequently lied to
It goes beyond letdowns, though. Outright lies are all too common. We don’t normally allow liars into our lives; we get mad at them and avoid them. But people being manipulated are so used to hearing lies that they often can’t differentiate between lies and the truth.
8. Your fears are used against you
Gaslighters are also constantly trying to scare you into doing what they want. They use your fears as tools to force you to do something they want you to do. Are you afraid of being alone? A gaslighter will build on that fear, warning that if you don’t change your behaviors (to suit them), you’ll end up alone.
9. You are isolated from other people
If you find that your previously strong relationships have dwindled into acquaintanceships, you should be careful, especially if you’re becoming more and more dependent on the one person you think is manipulating you. A gaslighter will spread lies about the people around you. They’ll make you distrust everyone around you and believe that only they are trustworthy so they can control your life. You’ll stop seeing people you once cared about, break bonds that meant a lot to you, and prevent the chances of anyone seeing that you are in a problematic relationship.
10. You question everything
The most detrimental thing that gaslighters do is cause you to question your sanity and the reality of your situation. They call your sanity into question over and over again and tell you directly that “you’re crazy” or “making things up.” Because they are always manipulating you and tricking you in order to stay dominant, you may start to wonder if the terrible things they say are true.
If someone has been psychologically manipulating you in the form of gaslighting, noticing these signs is crucial to starting the healing process. You must become aware that not everyone is treated in the way you are being treated to begin moving on.
Even though gaslighting can unfortunately have lasting damage, it is possible to recover from. You can do things like repairing relationships with people you lost touch with due to gaslighter. Therapy is also beneficial.
Do you think you’ve ever been psychologically manipulated?
“Gaslighting.” GoodTherapy.org Therapy Blog, 13 June 2018, https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/psychpedia/gaslighting.
“NAMI.” Home, https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/July-2016/Why-Self-Esteem-Is-Important-for-Mental-Health.