10 Warning Signs of Gaslighting
by Rebecca Hieronymi
Gaslighting is when a person uses various actions and behaviors to manipulate the victim into questioning everything they feel, believe, and think. Essentially eroding their sanity until they’re at the gas lighters mercy. The goal of the abuser: control. Here are 10 signs it’s not you, it might be gaslighting.
You don’t feel like you fit in: Feeling like an outcast or somehow different from others is encouraged by the abuser so they can maintain control by influencing what you think about yourself.
You question and doubt yourself: Your values, beliefs, and likes or dislikes help define the unique person you are. A gas lighters goal is to shred this definition of self through persistent lies like, “you’re remembering that wrong,” or “you never did that.” This constant “game” of contradiction can be so intense that it causes victims to doubt the things they know about themselves, their memories, and their perception.
Your self-esteem is lower since meeting them: Has anyone said, “you used to be so outgoing, what happened?” or have you noticed a change in yourself? Did this change happen around the time a certain person entered your life? Self-esteem is closely linked to mental health and the National Alliance of Mental Illness notes that having low self-esteem can lead to depression, anxiety, and even addiction. Abusers work to lower your self-esteem by bringing up your weaknesses and faults. Even if the things they are saying are not true, the abuser will continue bringing up these “weaknesses” until you feel disheartened and start to believe you aren’t worthy.
You become depressed: The methods a gas lighter uses can make you feel unbalanced and when your brain feels like a mess, it makes you more susceptible to depression. To make things worse, the gas lighter will trivialize your feelings of sadness and hopelessness by saying things like, “you’re overreacting,” or “you’re just being lazy.”
Constant guilt trips: Unfortunately, you now have a repeat round-trip ticket for the guilt train, welcome to Blameville. Abusers will blame you for several things, twisting the truth and turning arguments around to dump fault on you. The abuser will continue doing this until you feel guilty.
Frequent let downs: Gaslighters don’t typically keep their promises and their actions don’t match what they say. They thrive on keeping their victims unsure and uncertain. If they don’t have anything to gain by keeping promises, they won’t.
Frequent lies: We don’t normally allow liars into our lives but gas lighters don’t make it so easy as their lies can be very subtle in the beginning. Gradually the lies become more frequent and it becomes so common that a victim can no longer tell the difference between fabrication and reality.
Your fears are used against you: Like the Bogart from the Potterverse, gas lighters use your fears against you. This is another control tactic to scare you into doing what they want and becomes a go to threat when they want control.
Isolation: If you have found yourself wondering where all your friends went, this may be a sign of manipulated isolation. Gas lighters will spread lies and sow distrust in you and everyone around you, making the abuser seem like the only reliable person in your life. This benefits them as your isolation means no one knows what’s going on with you so no one can help.
You question everything: Asking questions helps us learn, but with a gas lighter you’re not asking questions for knowledge, you’re questioning your sanity and every aspect of your own reality. The gas lighter will use different methods to destabilize you and then insist that you’re the crazy one. Without a solid foundation, you start to wonder if all the terrible things they say are true.
Do you recognize any of these signs? Crisis Services of North Alabama can help. Please contact us locally at 256-574-5826, on our 24/7 HELPline at 256-716-1000, or on our website www.csna.org. Advocates provide free, confidential support to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Being treated in the ways outlined above is not positive, normal, or healthy. Even though gaslighting can cause lasting damage, recovery is possible. Awareness of these signs is the first step to protect yourself from manipulation which can then lead into the healing process.