12 Warning Signs Of Gaslighting And 5 Ways To Deal With It

Suffering and Healing | | , Content & Creative Strategist
Updated On: December 21, 2023
signs of gaslighting

Gaslighting is possibly one of the worst things that could happen to you. Look out for these warning signs of gaslighting and deal with it before it gets worse.

Have you ever been in a situation where your feelings have been dismissed by your partner and labelled as “trivial” or “petty”? If this has happened to you more than once, chances are you have been subject to the phenomena of gaslighting.

Why is it called gaslighting? It’s very interesting how the term came into being. It’s taken from the 1938 play Gas Light which eventually was made into a film in 1944 starring Ingrid Bergman. In the play the husband constantly psychologically manipulates the wife to prove she has become delusional.

To prove that he dims the gas lights in his home and when his wife asks him why the lights are dim he answers, “Why? The lights are just fine.” That’s when she realises her reality is always different from her husband’s reality and she starts doubting her own sanity.

Related Reading: How To Deal With A Gaslighting Spouse?

What Is Gaslighting? – How Is Gaslighting Defined?

Gaslighting is the modern equivalent of psychological manipulation in which you, your thoughts and your feelings are controlled and manipulated to suit the needs of the gaslighter. It has become so common in relationships that in 2018, Oxford declared it as the word of the year.

Most people are unaware that they are victims of gaslighting because this form of minute manipulation goes undetected until the relationship starts becoming toxic. According to the Oxford English dictionary, “Gaslighting is to manipulate (a person) by psychological means into questioning his or her own sanity.”

Imagine this: You and your partner have constant arguments about their behavioural traits. Instead of understanding and listening to your point, they constantly remind you of how you make ‘a big deal of things’ or how you are overreacting (again!) and my favourite ‘it’s all in your head’.

Sounds familiar? If you or someone around you has heard this before it’s likely that you have been a victim of gaslighting.

The important thing to understand is that the gaslighter may not even realise that he or she is indulging in such behaviour. This is what we call unconscious gaslighting. That means neither your partner nor you are aware that gaslighting in a relationship is happening.

They have probably grown up around relationships which thrived on a power struggle between the couple. It is this unsettled power dynamic that results in one person manipulating the other because they feel that they can.

It is easy to grant someone the power to control you especially if there is extreme emotional and psychological dependence on the other person for feelings of happiness and satisfaction. Moreover, the signs of gaslighting are often disguised as love, care and need. Needless to say, this is the pathway to give access to a gaslighter.

Related Reading: Emotional Abuse – 9 Signs And 5 Coping Tips

What Are Examples Of Gaslighting?

Gaslighting in relationships cannot happen without the use of gaslighting phrases. Here are a few common examples of gasligting phrases a manipulator would inevitably use to control the victim.

  1. You are always making a big deal out of things. It’s not even that big a problem.”
  2. You are a psycho. You are always imagining things.”
  3. Your problems are not real. Stop being so dramatic.”
  4. You don’t give enough in this relationship. I’m the only one who cares.”
  5. I’m not dealing with your drama again. You are neurotic.”
  6. We talked about this. Don’t you remember?”
  7. If only you would ever pay attention…”
  8. You never listen to a word I say.”
  9. I have to keep repeating myself since you can’t remember anything.”
  10. “You can’t even take a simple joke.”
  11. “I criticize you because I love you.”
  12. “You are always overthinking.”
  13. “I find it impossible to deal with someone who doesn’t trust me.”
  14. “You need to learn to communicate better.”
  15. “You are always irrational.”

While in a broader sense, being gaslighted by a figure of authority in a work environment or political setting is common. The most common gaslighters are the people with whom we share a more intimate relationship with and it makes recognising the signs of gaslighting even more difficult.

These are the people who might manipulate you over an extended period of time resulting in deteriorating mental health and happiness and you are not really aware of the reasons why is it happening.

Related Reading: How Does The Abuser Operate In An Abusive Relationship?

12 Warning Signs Of Gaslighting You Should Be Aware Of

All said and done, gaslighting is so common that it is extremely important to look out for warning signs of gaslighting to prevent yourself from becoming a victim. Here are 12 warning signs of gaslighting.

1. Denial – the most common sign of gaslighting

The most common trick used by a gaslighter is denial. In order to get their way, a gaslighter avoids confrontation and goes back on their word or promise. They also use silent treatment. 

Your spouse avoids a confrontation
Your spouse avoids a confrontation

Observe your partner’s behaviour to recognize if they constantly deny having said or done something when you confront them. Did they promise to not bad mouth your friends but did it anyway? And then denied having made any such promise? Beware, it’s a sign.

2. Repetitive behaviour

You will notice that you are being constantly nagged to change certain things about yourself but when it comes to your partner, the behaviour remains unchanged.

Despite the fact that a certain behaviour causes you discomfort or is unsettling, if your partner refuses to change their behaviour, they are leaning towards the gaslighting side of the spectrum.

3. Emotional projection – the gaslighter’s tool

Most gaslighters project their own shortcomings on their partner in order to deflect from being accused. If they constantly lie and accuse you of doing so instead, they are projecting.

You’ll be so busy defending yourself that the focus will shift from the real problem and you’ll be too distracted to realize that you just got gaslighted.

4. Constant negativity in a relationship is a sign of gaslighting

You could become totally mentally tired
You could become totally mentally tired

On most days, a relationship is supposed to be a happy and safe place for the two people involved. However, if there is constant negativity in a relationship, it’s a warning sign.

Is your partner unsupportive of your goals? Do they constantly make you question yourself or your feelings? If every conversation with them turns into a full blown argument where they emerge as the winning party, you might be in a relationship with a gaslighter.

5. Lying – the classic gaslighting sign

I told you, I was busy at the office.” But hey, you saw them out drinking with their buddies. Constant lying is another warning sign that your partner is gaslighting. They refuse to accept their fault and apologise. Instead they always have a lie up their sleeve to make you believe that it is, in fact you, who is at fault.

Gaslighters make smooth liars and what’s worse is that you don’t realise when you get trapped in their intricately woven trap of blatant lies.

More on emotional manipulation

6. Gaslighters constantly manipulate you

A gaslighter’s main motto is to manipulate you into believing or doing what they ultimately want. And to this extent, they won’t leave any stone unturned. A gaslighter is not above using your loved items or people against you to get you to do what they want.

So if your partner comes with your favourite mint chocolate ice cream every time they want you to agree to something, know that it’s not just love, it’s gaslighting.

7. Gaslighers make you reel in constant self-doubt

Of all the toxic traits that a gaslighter brings to the table, the worst is the crippling sense of self doubt that they put you in. Do you look in the mirror 10 times before leaving the house because of what your partner might say?

Or do you become hesitant around crowds because your partner doesn’t like the way you laugh?

If you constantly question or doubt your self-worth because of your partner’s behaviour towards you, it’s definitely a sign of gaslighting.

8. They use your friends against you

A gaslighter will create a situation in which your friends end up calling you a liar or mental and sympathise with your partner to make you believe that you are in fact a liar. They will use near and dear ones to reinforce their idea of your personality in order to manipulate you.

If you constantly notice your partner using your friends against you, run, its DANGER!

9. Gaslighters dismiss your feelings rightaway

Every time you’ll share your problem with a gaslighter, they will dismiss it and worse, make you feel bad for feeling that way.

Their own emotions and feelings take precedence over yours and to maintain the focus on themselves, they’ll always dismiss your feelings as unimportant or worthless.

10. Gaslighting -Confusing actions

Gaslighters dismiss your feelings completely
Gaslighters dismiss your feelings completely

The words of a gaslighter will never match their actions. Do they claim to be romantic and loving in front of people but are actually distant and unromantic in person?

A gaslighter will have you confused with their intentions and actions as the two will never be parallel. You’ll be in a constant state of confusion as to what does your partner really want.

11. Constant feeling of guilt

If the simple task of wanting to watch your favourite movie over that of your partner’s gives you a feeling of guilt, it’s definitely a sign.

When you are unable to be expressive about your needs because of your partner’s reaction and their habit of making you feel guilty, it’s time to become cautious.

Related Reading: What differentiates an abusive relationship from a normal one

12. They constantly make you question your memory

The sequence of events according to your partner and you is always different and somehow it’s always, always you who ends up being wrong. A gaslighter will make you question your memory and convince you that you are wrong.

5 Ways To Deal With A Gaslighter

Recognizing a gaslighter is extremely important. And now that you have recognized that your partner might be a gaslighter, how do you protect yourself from becoming a victim? Here are 5 ways to deal with it if you are in a gaslighting relationship.

1. Trust your instinct

If you feel that your partner is constantly lying to you, trust your instinct and confront them. Our senses have a way of recognizing a problem or threat and when you feel it, take concrete action

Related Reading: 12 Signs of a Lying Spouse

2. Know your worth

A gaslighter will definitely make you doubt yourself. In such a scenario it is important to reach out to people and remind yourself of your actual worth. Meditating can also help you calm your mind from the relationship toxicity that your partner is drowning you in.

3. Have the courage to leave

Often when we are invested in a relationship, leaving is difficult. But once your recognize that your partner is a gaslighter, have enough faith in yourself to know that this is not what you deserve and put an end to a toxic relationship.

4. Call out on their behaviour

It's best to quit a toxic relationship
It’s best to quit a toxic relationship

Let your partner know what they have been putting your through. It is important to call out on their behaviour as it might help in putting a stop to it.

It’s possible that a gaslighter has no idea of the behaviour and once you confront them, there is scope for improvement. He could be gaslighting unconsciously and could be willing to change

5. Recognize the root problem

Your partner’s gaslighting might stem from their need to control or be in power. Understand that it’s not about you but related more to their own issues and seek help accordingly.

Gaslighting At Work

Many of us have been gaslighted at work but we never realised that because the manipulation is always done so well.  In fact, gaslighting is a management technique that even HRs of corportae firms use. To give a small example when Any White took over as the head of her department in her company, her HR head called her and suggested that she should discuss all office issues with one single person from the department and that too not at the office, but at a cafe suggested by him.

When she did that, the head quickly called her again and said she could not go to a cafe and discuss office issues. When she told him it was his suggestion, he blatantly denied and said she didn’t remember right and did not understand.

The gaslighting by the HR head continued till she started doubting herself and finally stepped down from her position. A complete mental wreck, when she went to see a pyschological counsellor she was told she was a victim of gaslighting at work.

5 Signs of gaslighting at work

The signs of gaslighting at work are oven more deadly but subtle. It leaves you doubting your own capabilities and unable to perform well enough. We list 5 signs of gaslighting at work.

1. Questioning your work ethics

If your boss or colleague is constantly questioning your work ethics then be careful. “You should have done it like this and not like this,” or “You should have stayed back to finish your work,” or “You should be more strict with your team” – are gaslighting phrases used at work to make you doubt your every move.

2. Attempts at isolating you

Has it happened that you entered the office and heard people talking in whispers and giving weird glances? You are usually alone having your lunch? You are never invited to hang out with your team at the bar?

Then be sure your colleague or boss is using gaslighting techniques to isolate you in the workplace.

Related Reading: Exposing A Narcissist – What You Should Know

3. Spreading lies about you

If you suddenly realise everyone is asking about your mom’s health issues then be aware it might not be from concern. A gaslighter at the workplace could be spreading lies about your mom’s health issues and your incapability of concentrating at work because of that.

They could be even spreading lies that you are sleeping with the boss, thus making you the hot topic for gossip overnight.

4.  You are told you don’t remember right

You are left out of important meetings, you are not ccd on emails or you are told the wrong deadline and then your co-worker says you are so forgetful you don’t remember anything right.

This is a classic sign of gaslighting at work which you need to be really careful about.

5. You are overreacting always

If you get upset about all these things then you are told you are too sensitive and unprofessional. These things happen at work you should not take it to heart. These are absolute signs of gaslighting in the workplace that you should look out for.

We all wish to be in satisfying relationships. Few arguments and disagreements are part of a relation and should not be a matter of worry. However, adjustment and understanding are the two things that make a relationship move towards a positive direction.

If you are constantly unhappy and always feel manipulated – be it at home or in the workplace – it’s important to recognize and realise that your partner might be a gaslighter or the boss. In such a case, make yourself and your mental health a priority because nothing matters more than a happy and healthy mind.

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