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Gaslighting: What It Is and How to Stop It

What Is Gaslighting?

Lately, everyone from politicians to celebrities seem to be talking about gaslighting. But what is it? The term is often used incorrectly to describe any argument someone doesn't agree with. But real gaslighting can be a form of emotional abuse. It happens when someone – like a partner, parent, friend, or boss – challenges what you know is true and makes you question your beliefs and sanity.

Why Do People Gaslight?

Like other types of abuse, gaslighting is a way to gain control over someone else, a situation, or the gaslighter’s own discomfort. For example, a gaslighter might shift the focus of an unpleasant conversation away from themselves by suggesting that the other person is at fault. People may not even realize they're gaslighting. Gaslighting is not a mental illness; it is a form of manipulation.

Signs Someone Is Gaslighting You

Gaslighters use many techniques to gain power over you. One method is to deny something they said or did. If you question their version of events, they pretend to forget or accuse you of misremembering. When you push back, they might minimize your feelings by calling you "too sensitive," "confused," or "crazy." Or they might change the story to make it seem like you're at fault.

How Gaslighting Affects You

After someone has been gaslighting you for a while, you might start to doubt your feelings and memories. You might wonder if you imagined the events in question or if you're being too sensitive. You may find yourself apologizing for things you didn't do, blaming yourself when things go wrong, and making excuses to family and friends about the gaslighter's behavior. Over time, you might start to wonder whether you're losing your mind.

Forms of Gaslighting

Gaslighting doesn't only happen between romantic partners. For example, your boss might gaslight you by denying that they offered you a raise or by making you look weak or incompetent to company management. Even someone you just met, like a salesman at a car dealership, could gaslight you by claiming that you agreed to a more expensive option than you wanted.

How to Respond to Gaslighting

If you think you are being gaslit (rather than having poor communication or a healthy disagreement), try to talk things out with the other person. Communicate your needs and set clear boundaries. Take notes so that you have a written record if the gaslighter tries to twist the narrative. Stay close to a support network of family, good friends, and people who care about you. If all else fails, end the relationship.

Where to Get Help

Sometimes, support from friends and family isn't enough to help you manage a toxic situation. Consider talking to a mental health professional like a psychologist, therapist, or counselor. If the situation seems unsafe or dangerous, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (800-799-7233). They can tell you how to spot the signs of abuse and offer tips to help you stay safe

Gaslighting: What It Is and How to Stop It. (n.d.). WebMD.

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