Welcome back to another article, Psych2Goers. Maybe you’ve been hearing the term “Gaslighting” more and more nowadays. It’s getting to be quite a popular term for something that has, unfortunately, been going on for centuries. Gaslighting, as defined by Paige Sweet, is a type of psychological abuse that can make others feel crazy or surreal experiences (Sweet 2019). As you can already imagine, this can be detrimental to the health of others.
Has anyone ever told you something like “That’s not how normal people act”, “You’re imagining things”, or “You’re acting out”? These are all phases used by people who may just be gaslighting you into confusing you about how you feel, think, or behave in order to manipulate you into doing something they want (Abramson, 2014). Gaslighting can be a weapon used by many for psychological manipulation. After all, if you can’t believe yourself, who can you believe?
So, dear Psych2Goers, here’s 6 types of gaslighting to be aware of.
But please do note, if you can relate to any of these signs, please do not take this feedback as an attack on your character. We here a Psych2Go believe that there is room for growth and improvement for everyone, and we wish to spread awareness about potentially harmful behavior in relation to gaslighting for this article.
1. Questioning your mental wellbeing
It’s no surprise that someone who wants to manipulate you will try to make you question your overall mental state. The aggressor may ask you questions such as “Do you hear yourself?” or “You know you sound crazy right now, right?” (7 Phrases Gaslighters Often Use 2021). Using these sorts of terms to destabilize your self confidence allows the aggressor to play you into their hands by convincing you that there is something “wrong” with you, or that because you aren’t in your “right mind”.
This can be one of the most direct types of gaslighting that otheres may use in order to make you more unsure of yourself, leaving your own ideas and thoughts in question. It can be intimidating and scary to face these sorts of people, especially if your self-esteem isn’t the best that it could be. But don’t let others make decisions about your own self-esteem.
2. Playing the victim
Gaslighting isn’t always about directly fooling or blaming others, sometimes others can fake to be overly-hurt or upset by things that you say. Do you ever speak with someone about something that they did wrong to you or someone you care about, only for them to almost… fall apart? They may use different types of behaviors to make you feel bad about approaching them about your feelings, such as making threats to themselves or others, crying, or even going as far to shut you out or cut you off (Hightower, 2017).
This type of gaslighting can feel like a huge obstacle to decide whether or not somebody actually feels guilty for the way that they treat you, or if they are just trying to block out issuing an apology to you, or acknowledging your feelings in an honest manner. If it seems as though every time you try to speak to someone about their behavior, or something that upsets you, and you leave the conversation feeling bad for them, instead of feeling as though you had an honest conversation, you may be experiencing a type of victim-playing gaslighting.
3. Rewriting your memory
“You’re crazy, that never happened“, “You’re the only person I have these problems with“, “Are you sure? You usually have a bad memory“. Do you ever feel as though you can’t remember anything the right way when you’re talking to that one person in particular? Maybe you could have sworn that you remembered the way they acted that one time, or that they are constantly repeating behaviors that make you uncomfortable. For some reason, whenever they may seem under stress or as though you may be one step closer to having an honest converation, your memory is brought into question.
By using these statements over and over to begin feelings of anxiety or doubt about your own memory, some others may use this as a backdoor to your self confidence and emotions. Confusing and disorienting a person and causing them to question their own memory allows gaslighters to place false memories, or try to assume control over how you should think.
This is another instance of gaslighting which can be hard to identify, especially if you tend to be somewhat forgetful, but the intentions behind these words speak volumes. If someone is attempting to help you remember where you left your keys before work, or trying to remind you of important tasks, chances are that the may be trying to be helpful. But your memory being brought into questinos about your feelings or issues that you’re having should be addressed with concern, not assumptions that you are forgetful. Talk with people you love to find solutions, and be careful of those who are trying to manipulate you (Merino, Gaslighting: What You Need to Know).
4. I’m the only one you can trust
Although someone may not say something of this nature directly to you, sometimes actions can speak louder than words. It’s a scary concept to think that gaslightermay coerce others into thinking that the gaslighter is the only person that they have, but it may be more common than you may think. If the gaslighter can trick you into believing that they are the only one looking out for you, or that they are the only person who will tell you the truth, it can be a sign of manipulation. Terms such as “Why would you listen to them?” or “You believe them over me?” may come to mind when thinking about these sorts of people (7 Phrases Gaslighters Often Use 2021).
This type of gaslighting can very easily feed into many different types of gaslighting (especially those listed here!). When this type of person is able to pull you away from other peoples’ help, they can often times make you feel as though they are helping you, when in reality, you still have plenty of anxieties or worries about communicating with them about certain or most topics. It can feel like walking on eggshells, even though they are supposed to be the one looking out for you.
5. Minimizing your feelings/issues
Has one person made you think that your feelings are too intense, or your emotions are too powerful? Maybe they tell you that you should calm down, or even that the way you feel “Isn’t really a big deal”. This is a powerful type of gaslighting, which can hinder you from expressing yourself and your feelings (Psych2Go, 10 Examples of What Gaslighting Sounds Like 2021). You may start to notice that you feel reluctant, or even anxious to share how you feel with others, and start to internalize your own issues. Offenders may use such phrases as “I didn’t hurt you that badly, you’re being a crybaby”, “I didn’t raise my voice, you’re just misinterpreting things”, or “That wasn’t even abusive, you’re making a mountain out of a molehill” (Arabi, 2017).
All of the above phrases are said with the intent to twist your perception and emotions that you are naturally feeling. Gaslighters use these sorts of phrases in order to paint you to be the problem. It wasn’t them that did something wrong, you just didn’t feel the right way about what they said. Supressing the emotions of others instead of having honest conversation is a primary way that gaslighters can get the upper hand. Feelings are how we respond to situations both positive and negative, which gives us an idea of how to handle the situation. Trust your feelings!
6. Redirecting blame onto you
Does blame always get pushed back onto you, even when you weren’t even talking about something you knew you could get blamed for? Maybe you feel like you’re doing something wrong, or that with this person, you’re constantly messing up all the time, no matter what you do, or how much you try to fix it (Psych2Go, 10 Examples of What Gaslighting Sounds Like 2021). Shifting and fabricating blame can be a powerful strategy for gaslighters to help themselves feel as though they aren’t to blame, and maintain control over others. If it were possible to never make a mistake, these types of people who gaslight this way may wish to feel like this.
Learning to respect your own self and to be emotionally aware of when you didn’t do something wrong can help with this type of gaslighting. Being able to have open conversations and talk about why a problem came up, or, knowing when someone is grasping at straws just to put you down can help shield you from these accusations. Everyone makes mistakes, but we are supposed to learn from them, and do better for the people we care about. Not punish and put others down to the point where they don’t want to learn from their errors, or, know when they didn’t make any error at all!
Gaslighting is a force of psychological manipulation that is used by many different types of people in many different ways in order to control or negatively influence others. Did you feel like this article was beneficial to helping you identify some of the different types of gaslighting? Have you known anyone that you saw was being gaslit or manipulated by someone else? Do you have any experiences yourself? You’re not alone!
Here at Psych2Go, we have a team full of dedicated writers and interactive fans that are actively looking to make psychology more accessible to everyone. Please, feel free to let the team and I know what you thought about this article, and do check out the “Further reading” section below for more information about gaslighting.
If you or anyone you know has experienced gaslighting, please do not hesitate to reach out to a licensed professional for additional help.
In addition, please remember that this article is meant to be educational and is not meant to diagnose or treat any situation.
Thank you so much for all your love and support, Psych2Goers!
Abramson, K. (2014). TURNING UP THE LIGHTS ON GASLIGHTING. Philosophical Perspectives, 28, 1–30. https://www.jstor.org/stable/26614542
Arabi, S. (2017, November 9). 50 shades of gaslighting: Disturbing signs an abuser is twisting your reality [2020 updated]. Thought Catalog. Retrieved December 23, 2021, from https://thoughtcatalog.com/shahida-arabi/2017/11/50-shades-of-gaslighting-the-disturbing-signs-an-abuser-is-twisting-your-reality/
Chloe. (2021, March 20). 7 Phrases Gaslighters Often Use. Psych2Go. Retrieved from https://psych2go.net/7-phrases-gaslighters-often-use/
Hightower, E. (2017). An exploratory study of personality factors related to psychological abuse and gaslighting (Doctoral dissertation, William James College).
Merino , A. (n.d.). Gaslighting: What You Need to Know . UTEP. Retrieved from https://www.utep.edu/healthy-mind/articles/gaslightning.html
Psych2Go. (2021). 10 Examples of What Gaslighting Sounds Like. YouTube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3t-Jvrr2OY.
Sweet, P. L. (2019). The Sociology of Gaslighting. American Sociological Review, 84(5), 851–875. https://doi.org/10.1177/0003122419874843