Gaslighting - 16 noticeable signs of emotional abuse
Being in a relationship where you always have to watch what you say and still get ridiculed can’t be a pleasant feeling. Have you ever found yourself trying so hard to fit in and still feel like you may be insane or crazy? Chances are, there is absolutely nothing wrong with you but the immediate company you keep. Gaslighting is a very subtle emotional abuse when an individual manages to take control of your emotional stability without you having the simplest idea.
Do you know what gaslighting is?
What is interesting about gaslighting is, this sort of emotional abuse is so subtle and neatly executed. Victims find it difficult to understand the depth of the mess they are in unless they hear about or read about it. Often, victims tend to suck up to the abuse they experience because the gaslighter’s behaviour is a mix of good and bad signals. The love and care the victim holds towards the gaslighter will have them living off the good memories, ignoring the extreme and subtle emotional abuse.
Basically, gaslighting is emotional manipulation. If explained using simple examples, if you remember your partner promising to bring eggs home and when you ask him/her, they swear they didn’t and claim that you just forgot, that can be a sight of gaslighting at its very basic phase. Or, if you have obvious proof of your spouse cheating on you and during the confrontation, they manage to make you believe that you are overreacting, despite the black and white proof, you are being gaslighted.
Like we said before, this is a sort of abuse that is executed to perfection and plan which makes it really hard to be derived from day-to-day normalities. Especially if the abuse has been ongoing for a long time and has become a part of the victim’s and gaslighters’ normal routine. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to the signs early on as soon as the relationship starts getting exhausting.
How can you recognize a gaslighter?
Gaslighters can commonly be narcissistic. The difference is, narcissists often don’t understand the depth of their misbehaviour and the abuse it causes others. Gaslighters, on the other hand, know exactly what to do to keep the victim on edge and gain complete control of the situations and the relationships. They are aware of what they are doing, and the outcome of their actions. Gaslighting happens deliberately. The similarity of the traits however is most of the time both these abusers believe themselves to be extremely important and always right. They are hardly empathetic or care about other feelings or emotions. They are focused on getting what they want, be it through manipulation or other ways of emotional abuse.
Characteristics of a gaslighter
Gaslighters tend to be mysterious and interesting than inviting and open. They have an air about them that makes you want to get to know them more. However, it isn’t that hard. Once you get close to them it looks like they easily open up to you. The gaslighter seems very charming, kind, and generous. They are very outgoing, fun to be around, and seem to be full of positivity. For the outside world and for the victim in a new relationship, it is hard to identify the reality of the abuser. Which leaves the victim confused and vulnerable when things feel off. It may seem unrealistic, which subjects the victim to easily be manipulated.
With time, you start to realize that those things which are keeping you up all night and restless are unnecessary in the abuser’s eyes. Your reactions are treated as overreactions and misunderstandings. Your opinion is only right if the abuser allows it to be. If you let this continue, with time you will be sucked in by a vicious cycle of abuse that was never acknowledged, making it the new normal.
16 signs that you are being gaslighted
“If you alter your behaviour because you are frightened of how your partner will react, you are being abused.”
– Sandra Horley
Right not, this article may have some of you falling apart because you may be starting to realize that you have been gaslighted all this time. Here are a few signs you can identify in your relationship if indeed you are being abused by gaslighting.
1. A partner that does not admit to their mistakes is gaslighting
The abuser always has excuses as to why they committed a mistake. Or, even worse, they may not admit to the fact that they did something unbecoming. Gaslighters look for a chance to attack the victim. They are almost always in defence mode and never open-minded about the situations. Most probably will not admit to their faults.
They may deny things that you have very clear proof of. Even when, without a doubt, they are at fault, they deny the whole thing as if it never happened. These occurrences may have you going a little insane, and questioning reality. If by this stage you don’t start seeking help or a way out, you might start blindly accepting their version of everything and giving in to the torment.
2. Makes you question your worth and feel insecure.
Your immediate companion must be someone that lifts you up at all times and make you feel safe. However, around a gaslighter, you will find yourself feeling not enough and worthless. You’ll never know how to behave or what to say or even if it is right or wrong. The partner’s motives may confuse you. The victim often finds themselves trapped in a cycle of abandonment issues around their partner. They are always confused and thus in a constant battle in their minds.
Gaslighting behaviour might leave you questioning if you are a worthy partner and if you are a good person. This is because your opinion is never valid and the abusive partner always finds a way of pinning the fault on you, even if it is clearly their fault. With time you may judge yourself too much and measure yourself to be lower than the average society as if you are not fit to associate with others due to being unworthy.
3. You can’t have a conversation or make a decision without being worried
Due to being continuously criticized for your decisions and every other choice you make, you may have a hard time doing something as simple as having a conversation. You are constantly worried as to what is the right thing to say to not piss your partner off and make you feel bad like they always do. You rummage through your head to have an open-minded conversation without being judged or ignored. Communication is the basic element of any strong foundation of a relationship. Lack of that should tell you that there is something wrong. You may find yourself more at ease and at peace without your partner around.
4. The fault always diverts to you in gaslighting
Pointing out and criticizing your abusive partner’s mistakes will have them playing the victim and somehow diverting the fault back to you. No matter the depth of their wrongdoing, they will find a way to manipulate you into thinking that it was all your fault in the first place. This will lead you into questioning yourself, your choices, and your behaviour, leading you to depression. You will find yourself apologizing, even when you are the one hurt and betrayed. You may not fully understand how, but the gaslighter will make sure you feel like you are to blame. At the end of the day, if you find yourself apologizing for their wrongdoings because it somehow looks like you hurt them more, that is a sign that you are being psychologically abused. This tells you that your opinion and your emotions will never have a valid standing in the relationship.
5. They make you feel bad about where you come from
Gaslighters may direct their unnecessary and hurtful opinions as well as criticisms towards the things that are most dear to you. For example, they may point out flaws in your friends and make you feel less for hanging out with them. The same can happen to the bond with your parents or with your child. They may point out faults in your behaviour ad things that you don’t do right to make you vulnerable, unhappy, and never satisfied with yourself. Putting you down automatically gives them the idea that they are the greatest and most righteous. The goal is that satisfaction and to make you feel crazy as well as not enough.
6. The positive comments here and there
Sometimes they may take you by surprise with a little positive reinforcement. This may have you all confused again as to if this person is really that terrible. The most important thing to know at this stage is, gaslighting is not an unintentional process. The gaslighter sees when you are catching up to the abuse and is putting a fight to rid yourself of the situation. Therefore, they may pass a few positive hints to have you confused and wondering all over again. They may try to talk about good times and subtly push you to stay in the relationship without putting up a fight. Your emotional vulnerability gives them control.
7.Turning others against you and isolating you
It is easier for the abuser as long as the victim is on their own. Therefore, they try and turn the victim against the rest of the world that cares about them by manipulating them. For example, the abuser may tell the victim that their mutual friends don’t like the victim or that the abuser’s parents never wanted them to be with the victim. This is a tactic used to further mess with the victim who feels judged, lonely, and miserable because everybody seems to feel the way their abusing partner feels. The victim may start thinking that it is something wrong with the victim. For this reason, they cut ties with the outside world and their only connection remains the toxic partner. It becomes a vicious cycle of leaning on the abuser when things get too much.
The gaslighter makes it hard for you to trust or rely on anyone other than the gaslighter himself. In other words, whenever the victim needs a hand, it will only be the hands that abused them in the first place. Nobody gets to see the victim’s struggles so they receive no help unless they decide to help themselves.
8. They remind you of your flaws every day
While they won’t admit to any of their flaws, they will still take the time to point out everything you do wrong. Your partner will regularly make you aware of things you don’t do right, even if they are out of your control. The goal is to make you feel terrible and not enough so you keep trying and exhaust yourself in the process.
Also, if they ever praise you ( not point 6), that is because you did something that benefitted them. It is rare that your partner or the gaslighter will appreciate any of your efforts unless they bring them benefits or good fortune. Gaslighters are opportunistic and selfish individuals. They deliberately ignore your hard work to make you feel as small and unnoticed as possible. As a result, you will find yourself fishing for their compliments and attention. Their indifference will have you on your toes trying to please them as best as you can. In order to receive this acceptance, the victim gives in to the abuse and behaves the way exactly the gaslighter wants them to. By allowing the abuser the power of making you feel accepted, you give them the power of making you feel unaccepted as well.
9. You trying to rationalize the gaslighter’s behaviour
No matter the obvious damage the abuser inflicts on you, you might find yourself making excuses for their attacks. Or, you may pretend like everything is fine and deny that abuse exists. This is a one-way road of a long-term abusive cycle, wherewith time the victim will struggle to find the difference between a normal day and an abusive day. When the abuser succeeds at making you feel like it is all your fault, you may even start telling others that the fault is completely yours. With time, victims might succumb to this mentality and will have a hard time coming back.
10. They don’t walk the talk
You may recognize that your partner is nothing but talks. Their actions don’t depict what they said. They don’t keep their promises or hold up their end of the bargain. This is also applicable when they make threats. They never follow up with their words towards actions. Their power depends on manipulation and the vulnerability of the victim.
11. They try to confuse you
Gaslighters may try to treat you like you are losing your mind. For example, you may remember clearly that they promised to feed the animals. So when you find their bowls empty and question them, they will deny at all cost that they promised you. Or would go as far as to say ‘I never agreed, you just told me to’. They mess with the victim’s mind by making them confused and having them question their own sanity. The abuser may treat the victim like he or she is mentally impaired and needs special attention. Once the relationship gets to this point, the abuser has no problem continuing with his manipulation and blaming it all on the supposed insanity of the victim.
12. They will make you look insane around others
For example, if you and your partner had plans to go to dinner and you bring it up around friends, they may tell you that it was yesterday and that you are slowly losing your mind. Continuing this behaviour around parents, siblings, children, and everyone outside of the home will have them thinking that you are actually insane. If you give in, it is easy to succumb to the idea that you need help and your gaslighting partner is the help you need. This allows them more chances to manipulate you to fulfil their needs.
13. Having you question your emotions
Gaslighters will have you wondering if you really are over-sensitive. They will have you thinking twice about how to feel, on top of everything else. In other words, they try to gain control of your emotions. Normally, if something hurts you, it hurts you. There is no such thing as overreacting or over-sensitive and nobody gets to advise you on how you feel. This situation can be quite different if you are the victim. Just to fit in and feel more at ease, you may try to call yourself over sensitive like your partner says you are, so it doesn’t hurt you or bother you as much.
14. Nothing makes you feel complete
You may have all the riches in the world. Good kids that have a bright future and a supportive family. However, you always feel like something just ain’t right. Trust your instincts when it signals you. Gaslighters execute their abuse neatly. It can be hard to recognize. When your gut senses something fundamentally wrong, that is because they’re sure is something wrong. The constant anxiety, walking on eggshells, never being enough, insecurity, worthlessness and the never-ending battles inside your head will exhaust you to a point that nothing else can fill up that gap anymore. You will feel defeated and permanently empty.
15. You will trust anyone other than yourself
You will slowly start losing faith in yourself. If the gaslighter has managed to convince you that you are unfit to make decisions or perform simple tasks, anyone can control you. This is because you no longer feel like you are a capable person. This is the stage when the gaslighting gains full access to you. You give up and not fight anymore for what you know in your hearts the right way. You will simply let yourself be insane and let others make decisions for you. It is unlikely that you will be the kind of person anyone depends on or forms a bond with and the gaslighting partner will always be your constant companion, keeping up your wounded mental state.
16. You have no more fight in you
At this point, you watch everything happen in front of your eyes. You know your partner is cheating but you are scared to ask because you might be insane and overreacting. There is no fight left in you. Gaslighting won’t reach this stage overnight. It is a slow, constant method that includes daily lying, manipulation, being rude, disrespectful ad other sorts of negative energy. Going against these every day gradually tires you, and you will just want to give in and settle. You would not understand what is happening but you will know how to avoid the abuse and that is by allowing your abusive partner have what they want from you.
How can I deal with gaslighting?
The important question is, can gaslight be dealt with at all? Due to the nature of a gaslighter often being a hypocrite and a self-centred person, the abuser is unlikely to understand that they need counselling to deal with their issue. It is not the victim that should seek counselling if they want to continue the relationship.
However, try these options in case you still want to try and make your relationship work.
Identifying the gaslighting behaviours and calling the abuser out
You can collect your facts and stand up for the abuse. Walk away, terminate the conversation, completely shut the abuser off. Make them understand that you won’t take the belittling and the manipulation without a fight. Make sure that there are consequences to the gaslighting. If these calling out cases can get violent, try another way such as approaching them through a family member.
Don’t blame yourself
The victim’s success story depends solely on the fact that they recognize the abuse and don’t fall prey to it. Identify the attacks and the techniques used and try to think of solutions. Be there for yourself and pay attention to how you feel. Prioritize your mental health because there is a lot of force against that.
In the unlikely cause, the abuser agrees to see a therapist, gaslighting behaviour can be dealt with by therapy and counselling.
Moving out of the relationship
You need to be ready to accept the fact that most individuals with gaslighting or narcissistic behaviour don’t change. These disorders come hand in hand with the belief that they are always right and greater than anyone else. In other words, it is very unlikely that they will work on bettering themselves because they won’t even admit they are wrong. In this case, for your sake, you need to consider moving on with your life, alone.
How can we help?
We as professional clinicians are ready to help you and your partner if you are in this complicated situation. Reach out to professional counsellors for further help on eliminating gaslit behaviour to create a safe environment for your family. You can receive counselling if you are a gaslighter or if your gaslighting partner has agreed to come to therapy. However, after leaving the abusive relationship, our doors are open to treat your wounded psychological state and make you feel like you again.