Gaslighting has become almost a buzzword over the last few years with many articles, videos and TikToks popping up to raise awareness. Understanding gaslighting better can help people know why it is harmful, better recognize the signs and patterns of gaslighting and better stand up for themselves if they are ever a victim of this type of manipulation.
Listen on the Podcast
In episode 224 of the Boom Tequila podcast, we are talking all about gaslighting, answering some questions and personal sharing experiences we’ve had as well as one from a listener and friend! What is gaslighting? What are the signs of gaslighting? What is gaslighting in a relationship? What is racial gaslighting? How is gaslighting used against women? Why do people gaslight? And how to stop gaslighting? We walk through all of these questions and share some personal experiences.
What is Gaslighting?
According to Oxford dictionary, gaslighting is manipulating someone psychologically to make them question their own sanity.
Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse.
Example of Gaslighting
While gaslighting can display in a variety of manners the conversation below outlines one example of what this could look like.
Gaslighter: Why didn’t you let the dog out this morning? Now he had an accident in the house!
Victim: I did let the dog out.
Gaslighter: No. You definitely did not or he wouldn’t have had an accident.
Victim: Well I thought I let him out.
Gaslighter: You’re always forgetting stuff. This is ridiculous. Why are you lying to me?
Victim: I’m not trying to lie. Maybe I did forget… I could have sworn I let him out.
Gaslighter: Can you just clean this up and remember next time so this doesn’t happen again?
Victim: Yeah.. I’m really sorry. I don’t know what happened. I guess I just spaced it. I’m so sorry.
The example above highlights how someone can push their view to make the victim second guess their own memory. This self doubt only worsens over time if gaslighting is pattern in the relationship.
What are Signs of Gaslighting?
According to Psychology Today, these are some of the key warning signs of gaslighting
- They lie.
- They deny things that you saw or have proof of.
- They use things you care about as ammunition.
- They wear you down over time.
- Their actions don’t match their words.
- They say nice and encouraging things to confuse you. (They know confusion weakens people and they want you to feel constantly in question.)
- They project! (For instance, if they are cheating… they will accuse you of it.)
- They try to make you feel like others are lying or out to get you. (For example they might tell you things to try to make you feel like your friends don’t really like you, or make you question other relationships.)
- They tell you or others that you are crazy.
Basically, the more you question any and everything around you, the better because this causes confusion and frustration and weakens your ability to be assertive and stand up to them. If you find yourself questioning yourself, your experiences and self-doubting constantly… this could be a warning sign.
What is Gaslighting in a Relationship?
Gaslighting in a relationship usually starts off small and grows over time. Gaslighting may feel like it starts off small by minimizing something good someone does or really leaning in to a flaw to exaggerate it. In contrast, the gaslighter will frame themselves as generally better in this area to establish a position of power and authority. This sets the framework for further manipulation down the road.
I came across a story from a Vox article that really shows what gaslighting in a relationship looks like from how it starts to how it grows. I won’t quote the whole thing here, but it is definitely worth a read. (Scroll to the subhead “Gaslighting Tango” to jump to the story.)
What is Racial Gaslighting?
An article from University of New Hampshire Today, explains that “given its original context in situations of abuse, it is easy to imagine how this applies to systems of oppression… Most of the time, it’s privileged people questioning marginalized people’s accounts of oppression.”
Examples of racial gaslighting could include:
- When someone who calls out racism is told they’re overthinking it or they’re criticized for how they brought up the issue (rather than the issue being addressed)
- When a group of people is blamed for a problem rather than the underlying societal cause
- When qualified people of color are not hired or promoted
- For example, if a job goes to someone less qualified and the company or hiring person insists that they are fair and always hire based on the best candidate, racial gaslighting has occurred.
- If a black woman speaks with HR about others in the office touching her hair, and rather than addressing it, the HR specialist assures her that they mean well and it is really a form of flattery or something
Basically anything that makes a person of color question their own experiences of racist microaggressions or racism in general is probably racial gaslighting.
How is Gaslighting Used Against Women?
Women often experience gaslighting, particularly when trying to stand up for something. For instance if a woman voices concerns or makes a comment about sexism someone might respond by trying to make you feel like you are imagining sexism and things are actually equal and fair. (Trust your intuitions!)
Gaslighting in the workplace can occur for women as well. For instance if your boss tells you that he gave the promotion to a male counterpart with less experience because he knows you have your plate full at home with kids or something… and then you reference it later, he might deny this and insist that he never said that, you must have misunderstood, or insist that he just gave the promotion to the best candidate.
This could also come in the form of comments such as “women in other countries have it much worse” or insisting that you should just ignore it because “they mean well.”
Why do people gaslight?
According to an article on Good Therapy, “One of the most common reasons people gaslight is to gain power over others. This need for domination may stem from narcissism, antisocial personality, or other issues. Like most cases of abuse, gaslighting is about control.”
A gaslighter may try to cause so much confusion that they position themselves as the source of truth so that their victim trusts the gaslighter over themselves and leans on them for guidance when recalling things.
The gaslighter’s goal is often to make the target completely dependent on them alone. If they reach this goal, the abuser may discard the target and seek a new person to “conquer.”
Someone who gaslights may not be very self-aware. They might not be calculated in this emotional abuse. In fact, they might not even realize that what they are doing is manipulative.
How to Stop Gaslighting
There are several ways to cope with gaslighting. Since the goal of gaslighting is to confuse you and make you question your own reality, finding ways to stay grounded and mindful are really important.
Things that can help you cope with gaslighting:
- Keep a journal.
- Practice mindfulness through meditation or yoga.
- Maintain relationships outside of your abuser who will be supportive and validate your feelings.
- Get receipts – For example if someone tends to call you and later gaslight you about the conversation… send an email after you hang up summarizing what you discussed.
- Work on trusting your intuition and not getting lost in the land of overthinking.
Erin is ambitious, sarcastic and optimistic. She values authenticity, education and personal growth. Read More…