Gaslighting, for a long period of my life, was part of my day to day living. This emotional abuse was something that had won me down to the point where is simply accepted it as part of my daily life. I didn’t see an escape and I felt utterly helpless.
For such a long time in my life, my feelings were never validated. Any concerns I had were dismissed or met with a defensive reaction. I was undermined, ignored and blamed for my abusers behaviour, to the point that I didn’t know what reality was anymore. My perception of truth wass completely distorted.
I had two abusive relationships, and both of them utilised gaslighting as a way to manipulate me. They used it to get away with any toxic or bad behaviour. They used it to blame me for their misgivings. When it comes to the art of manipulation, gaslighters are the Picasso, and we are the unwitting canvas.
In short, gaslighting is a strategy in which someone uses to gain more power over another individual or situation. In their quest for more power, the gaslighter will make their victim question their view on reality and their perception of what the truth is. Gaslighting is a very common technique utilised by emotional abusers and narcissists.
Nobody is immune from gaslighting. It’s done very slowly and craftily, leaving the victim unable to see how much they’re being brainwashed by their abuser. Very often, the abuser will manipulate until their victim thinks they’re losing their mind.
It can be quite difficult to spot a gaslighter, especially if you’re in a relationship with one. You maybe don’t want to confront the fact that your significant other is emotionally abusing you, or perhaps they’re being so covert about the abuse that’s your unsure if it’s actually gaslighting. To help you recognise a gaslighter, I’ve compiled some of the typical traits and techniques they exhibit below. This is designed to help you spot the warning signs of a very complex, confusing and upsetting form of abuse:
- They lie. Blatantly.
Even if you know it’s an outright lie, gas lighter will blatantly lie to your face – with a straight face.
This blatant lying ends up setting up a precedent; if they can lie about something so convincingly, how can you be sure anything else they say is true? This then keeps you unsteady, full of doubt and off-kilter.This of course, is just tell how the gas lighter wants you to be.
- Incessant denial.
Gaslighters will deny, deny, deny; even if you have solid proof to say the contrary. They’ll deny they said something, they’ll deny bad behaviour and they’ll deny conversations you know you’ve had with them.
This is beyond frustrating, because you know they have in fact said or done the things that you’re confronting them about. Even in the face of damning evidence, the gaslighter will refuse to accept responsibility or knowledge around what you’re questioning them about. the more they deny, the more you’ll be questioning yourself about your own perception of reality. Did I really make that up? Am I imagining that we had that conversation? Am I imagining things?
Eventually, you’ll begin to accept the gaslighters version of reality instead of your own.
- Personal attacks.
Gas lighters use emotional ammunition in their verbal attacks. They don’t need to think twice about using what is dear to you against you. If they know how important something is to you, they’ll use this to attack you. For example if you’ve got children, they may tell you that you don’t deserve them or that you should never have had them at all. Or if you’ve got an interview for a job, they may act like it’s already been decided that you won’t be getting it.
A gaslighter will use personal insults and put downs to build a long list ofVerbal attacks against you. this element of gaslighting is designed to make you feel unworthy, undeserving and simply not good enough.
- It’s done gradually.
The sinister thing about gaslighting is that it’s done slowly, over time. It’s not something the abuser will exhibit in the early stages of the relationship, it’s something they will begin to introduce gradually as the relationship evolves. Once the gaslighter has you in their snare, that’s when they can begin to ramp up the abuse. It can start with a snide comment here and there, gradually getting more and more frequent with the gaslighting getting nastier.
No matter how self-aware or bright you are, you are not immune from being sucked into a gaslighters trap. think of it as the boiling frog analogy.
The boiling frog analogy is a fable that is a really apt way to analogise how gaslighting can engulf you without you realising. The premise of this is that if you suddenly place a frog into a boiling pan of water, it’ll immediately jump out. However, if you place the frog into warm, tepid water, then slowly bring it to the boil, the frog won’t perceive any danger and will be cooked in the pan.
This is a great metaphor to explain the way victims of gaslighting often find it hard to see the warning signs of abuse. Because it’s done gradually, it’s much harder to perceive any threat or malice.
- Their words and actions can contradict each other.
A gaslighters words will often not match their actions. A lot of what they say or promise doesn’t materialise, and ends up being just talk. For example, if they behaved particularly badly whilst drunk, they may later claim to you that they are no longer drinking and are on the wagon. However, it may not take them long to backtrack on their promises of sobriety, thus making their words and actions contradictory.
Whilst their promises may have initially pacified you, it’s undeniably hurtful and frustrating when their actions go the opposite way to their words. Unfortunately this is a key trait of a gaslighter.
- Inconsistent compliments.
Sometimes a gaslighter will offer some positive reinforcement, which can be surprising. Instead of making you feel devalued and worthless, they’re actually praising you. This only adds to your unsteadiness within the relationship. You may question why they’re praising you at all, or it may even make you think that they’re ‘not so bad’. You might even start thinking that you’ve been too hard on them, and that they just have your best interests at heart.
The thing to remember about gaslighters is that they’re very calculated. Their words and actions have method behind the madness. They want to keep you unsteady and off-kilter, and throwing in some surprise compliments is another way for them to do that.
It’s a good idea to take a look at exactly what they’re praising you for; you might find it’s something that serves their best interests.
- Purposeful confusion.
Gaslighters have mastered the art of confusion. they know that people require sense of normality and stability, and the gas lighter looks to shake the foundations of your reality with confusion. of course this will make you question everything, and you’ll no doubt look for comfort and stability; this just so happens to be in the arms of the gaslighter.
It’s a very manipulative, covert and damaging way for the gas lighter to ensure they have control over their significant other and the relationship.
They’ll project their own bad behaviour onto you. for example if if they’re cheating, and you confront them about this, they’ll accuse you to distract from their own bad behaviour.
This distraction technique works by not only focusing the negative attention on to the victim, but it also helps to keep the victim in a state of confusion.
- Using people as ammunition.
Gas lighters will often curate people that will stick by them no matter what. they will learn these people to be used as ammunition against you.
For example a gaslighter may say things like, “this person warned me about you”, or they may say something like “this person knows that you’re deluded too”. Whilst these people may or may not have said anything about you, these are still individuals who are in the gaslighters corner, and are people they will utilise as ammunition against you.
This tactic of using people against you also makes you feel like you can’t trust anyone. It’ll make you feel like you’ve got nobody to turn to, and that nobody has your back. This invariably leads you right back to your source of comfort – the gaslighter.
A formula you should remember is this:
Victim + isolation = control.
And control is the very thing the gaslighter needs.
- They will try to damage your reputation.
A smear campaign is something a gaslighter will utilise to discredit you and damage your reputation. They will bring into question your character, your behaviours and your motives in order to encourage other people to believe that you’re crazy or unhinged.
This is also a handy technique for the gaslighter, because they know that if you try to speak out about the emotional abuse you’re going through, people will be less inclined to believe you. This is because the gaslighter has got in there first and warned people about your ‘out of control’ behaviour, after making others believe that you are the abuser.
- They make you distrust those around you.
Remember that take gas lighters main driver is control. also remember the formula I mentioned just before; isolation equals control.
By telling you that everybody else – including your family friends, the news, celebrities and people of authority – is a liar, this again puts you into a state of confusion and isolation. by doing this, the gaslighter is making you question your own perception of reality. you’ve probably never known anybody with the audacity to such outlandish things, so therefore you must be being told the truth… right?
This, in turn, will make you feel like the gaslighter is the only person being true to you, and you will turn to them for answers and information. Although you don’t see it at the time, this is just another form of manipulation from the gaslighter in order to entrap you. the sooner they strip you of other people, the quicker they are in control.