Can you imagine putting so much of your trust in someone that they would have the power to twist your reality and have you questioning your own sanity? When you put it like that, it almost makes us want to never trust another person ever again. But opening up and letting ourselves care for others isn’t the problem — it’s what they do with that trust that is.
And unfortunately, sometimes putting our trust in the wrong person can have a lot of dire consequences to our mental health and overall sense of well-being. And it isn’t until the damage has already been done when we realize someone isn’t to be trusted. Take gaslighting for example; a form of emotional manipulation meant to deceive us and make us question our own perceptions of reality, this type of psychological abuse is difficult to detect because of its subtle and evasive nature.
Thankfully, we’re here to let you know all about these 7 dangerous gaslighting techniques you need to beware of:
By far the most common trick up every gaslighter’s sleeve is lying and denying. Gaslighters will often say they never said or did anything (e.g. “Were you even listening? That’s not what I said at all!” or “We talked about this, remember? Do you really need me to repeat myself?”) to the point where it will have even the most assertive and self-assured of us second-guessing ourselves. This trick is especially effective after they’ve already won your trust so you’re more likely to take their side over yours.
“Can’t you take a joke? Jeez, you’re so sensitive”, “You’re exaggerating”, “Stop taking everything I say so seriously”, and “You’re completely overreacting right now” are all ways gaslighters typically try to minimize the mental abuse and manipulation they inflict on others so they can get away with it (Hightower, 2017). They will invalidate your feelings and experiences in order to cultivate the seeds of self-doubt and make you believe that it really is all in your head, that you’re the one who isn’t seeing things clearly here.
3. Playing The Victim
When denying and trivializing don’t work, gaslighters will often try to backpedal and play the victim by pinning the blame on someone else instead (Sweet, 2019). They will say things like, “I’m only doing this for your own good” or “This hurts me more than it hurts you” to try to excuse their abusive behaviors, then make it out like they’re the ones being victimized. They might accuse your friends and family of turning you against them, or you of being a toxic partner/friend/family member by “wrongfully accusing them, after everything they did for you.”
Gaslighters will often criticize their victims and attack their insecurities to make them more submissive and tolerant towards their abuse. They will tear your self-esteem down to shreds to make you believe that you should trust them more than you trust yourself. Because as long as they keep criticizing you and making you feel vulnerable, the easier it will be for them to feed you lies and bend you to their will (Graves & Samp, 2021).
Another way gaslighters will try to get under your skin is by icing you out and giving you the cold shoulder. This allows them to control the narrative so that, even if you might know better than to think of them as the victim by now, you can’t help but feel sad, guilty, and ashamed all the same after the way they reject you (Miano, Bellomare & Genova, 2021). They’ll stop talking to you, ignore your calls and messages, block you on social media, and ignore you when they see you as a way to get under your skin and get you to apologize to them and “see things from their point of view.”
Another, much more subtle, way someone might try to gaslight you is by rewriting your recollection of events and countering it. They might narrate to you what happened but change or add certain details — often inconsequential enough that you don’t bother to correct them (like the order of things that happened, or the way they phrased something they said) — not only to put them in a better light but also to minimize the damage of their words and actions against you.
7. Guilt Tripping
Last but certainly not the least, we have guilt tripping, which is when a gaslighter uses their victim’s good nature against them and manipulates their feelings for them in order to get what they want. You make a mistake once, and you’ll never hear the end of it from them (“Remember that time when…? I still haven’t forgiven you for that, I don’t know if I even can”). They will make you feel like you constantly have to be apologizing to them for every little thing you do wrong, even if you never meant it that way at all, because it gives them the upper hand in the relationship.
In conclusion, gaslighting is not only a definite red flag that tells you you’re in a toxic relationship with a deceitful and untrustworthy person, but a psychologically damaging form of mental and emotional abuse in its own right. So if you or anyone you know is/has been a victim of gaslighting, don’t hesitate to talk to a mental healthcare professional about it.
- Hightower, E. (2017). An exploratory study of personality factors related to psychological abuse and gaslighting (Doctoral dissertation, William James College).
- Graves, C. G., & Samp, J. A. (2021). The power to gaslight. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 02654075211026975.
- Miano, P., Bellomare, M., & Genova, V. G. (2021). Personality correlates of gaslighting behaviours in young adults. Journal of Sexual Aggression, 1-14.
- Sweet, P. L. (2019). The sociology of gaslighting. American Sociological Review, 84(5), 851-875.