How to deal with someone who gaslights you.
Updated: Mar 12
"Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which the abuser attempts to sow self-doubt and confusion in their victim's mind. Typically, gaslighters are seeking to gain power and control over the other person, by distorting reality and forcing them to question their own judgement and intuition." -Newport Institute
Here are some common gaslighting phrases:
"That never happened."
"You are crazy."
"You are twisting my words."
"You are lying."
"You are imagining things."
"You are insane."
"Nothing you say makes sense."
"Why are you being so sensitive, I was just joking."
Do these sound familiar? These were some of the phrases I heard on an almost daily basis.
I learned to tune them out and try not give them much power after a while. I’ve always been more inclined to look at things from a compassionate stance.
"This person has emotional problems so I just have to be patient," I kept saying to myself.
This actually became one of my mantras.
After all, like the famous saying says: “Hurt people hurt people,” right? So, disengaging was always my best response... Until it wasn't.
After too much time passed, with the behavior escalating into much more offensive levels, I came to realize that doing nothing, saying nothing, and looking the other way, was not only helping to feed this toxic behavior, but it was also causing emotional issues for myself and for others around me. Because gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse.
And the harsh reality is that ABUSE is ABUSE.
So, if someone often says things like this to you, you may be experiencing gaslighting as well. Similarly, if you find that after trying to bring up a concern about the unacceptable behavior to your love one, but a few minutes later you find yourself talking about, or defending yourself over something that has nothing to do with the topic instead, you have been gaslighted. The subject has been changed and turned back onto you and your wrongdoing without you even realizing it! This is called a diversion and it's a very common tactic that gaslighters use.
So, is gaslighting the same as lying? NOPE! It's much worse than that. Gaslighting is something that may start off slowly at first, a little lie here, a lie little there -making you scratch your head in confusion. You may start to feel unsure and question yourself. And at some point, you'll start catching them in big bold lies -in which they will claim they never said what they said, or they never did what you saw them do. Sound confusing? That's the whole idea. When someone gaslights you, they are intentionally attempting to manipulate you into doubting your feelings, your perception of events, and even reality in general.
What is the reason for gaslighting?
According many researchers, including, GoodTherapy, WebMD and many others, "someone trying to gaslight you has a distorted view of themselves usually stemming from narcissism, antisocial personality or other mental issues." They also have a distorted view of others and a strong inclination toward manipulating others to get what they want. They will manipulate and confuse others for their own personal needs, by any means necessary, while never acknowledging their toxic behavior and projecting their faults onto others.
Although you mostly hear about gaslighting in romantic relationships, gaslighting actually occurs in any type of relationships (marriage, friends, boss/co-worker relationships, parents, and even adult children,) pretty much any situation where a person wants to gain control or dominate another to get what they want.
If you are in a romantic relationship where your partner gaslights you, it's best to cut ties and move on from them asap -because gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse and it can be catastrophic to your well being. It can lead to anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, among other serious mental heal issues. And unfortunately, someone who is a gaslighter will not admit to any wrongdoing. Much like narcissists and sociopaths, a gaslighter will deny a clear fact – and they will do it in such a way that you start questioning it yourself. You can be the smartest person in the world, but if your loved one is gaslighting you, it can be hard to tell what’s truth or fiction. And to make matters worse, even when they are presented with proof such as video, text messages, photos, eye witnesses, or any other type of evidence that show they are, in fact lying, the gaslighter will double down, triple down and refuse to own up to it anyway. Instead they will deflect, turn it back around on you, and try to make you feel like you are overreacting or acting crazy. So trying to get them to seek professional help will be a giant and exhausting losing battle.
Remember, the abuser has to acknowledge their behavior and actually want to get help for themselves or it’s a waste of time.
Now, if you are dealing with a family member it’s always so much more complicated because of course, you never want to give up on them. If you are dealing with a parent, or an adult child in particular, your first instinct is usually to make excuses for them because after all, they are your family. And as parents, we have the added guilt tied in because we tend to blame ourselves for our children's issues and shortcomings. Although it's important to own up to how you may have contributed to your children's toxic behavior, it is just as important to remind yourself that your child is no longer a child, but a full grown adult, and as such, they need to be responsible for their own behavior now. It is crucial to remind yourself of this fact when you feel sorry for them and are tempted try to look the other way or brush their behavior under the carpet. Because like I said previously, Abuse is Abuse Period. And this type of toxic behavior should not be tolerated from anyone.
So, if you are dealing with a gaslighter and you are not sure what to do, here are 7 tips to help you deal with someone who may be gaslighting you.
1- Educate Yourself – Familiarize yourself with gaslighting tactics. It is important to make sure that what you are experiencing is in fact gaslighting. Someone having a different opinion than you, even if they are being rude or pushy -trying to convince you to accept their perception as truth, is not necessarily gaslighting. Gaslighting is something that develops into a continuous pattern. It starts in bits here and there until it turns into huge events and lies and distortion of truths. And because gaslighters are master manipulators, they do this in such a way where the person at the receiving end is left questioning their memory, doubting how events transpired, and doubting their own sanity. Knowing their tactics in advance will help you outsmart them. *Remember- Knowledge is power!
2- Set boundaries. (If you are dealing with a family member such an adult child)
Prepare yourself mentally by reminding yourself that you do not deserve to be mistreated, emotionally abused, or manipulated. Then have a conversation with your adult child and let them know you are setting certain boundaries with their behavior. You’ll need to be very clear about what your boundaries are and make sure to enforce them. Don’t let them go around your boundaries or try to wear you down, as this will most likely be part of their tactic. Remember, they will do everything they can to resist following your boundaries for a while. So it's really important to stand your ground.
*If your gaslighting child continues their toxic behavior, it may be time to seek professional help together as gaslighting is a mental condition that they will need help navigating through. Help your adult child see that they need help.
3- Take a step back. Instead of letting the anger or frustration take over, keeping calm is much more effective as it will help you keep focused on the truth, and keep you grounded with confidence that what you heard or what you saw are indeed the facts.
Fighting to defend what you know are the facts will show the gaslighter that you are distressed, which might only encourage them to keep trying to grind you down with manipulation until you give up or give in out of fustration.
*Instead, inform them that you need to step away for a while and will continue your conversation later. You can say something like:
"I've heard your point of view many times, and I still don't agree with it," "Let's take a break from this conversation for now and revisit it later."
This way you will have a chance to regain composure without alerting the person attempting to gaslight you that you are distressed. And if you can’t leave where you are, just step away and out of the room, and if you can, go outside for some calming techniques such breathing exercises or a quick meditation to help calm and recenter you.
4- Journal all your evidence. Oftentimes a gaslighter will try to gain support and backup from friends, and family members, and attempt to cover up their lies by distorting the truth, outright lying, and framing things to paint you as the liar or the abusive crazy one. For this reason it is wise to document events. You can do this by:
Saving texts and emails.
Taking photos if possible.
Noting dates and times of conversations or events.
Writing down direct quotes whenever possible.
And recording conversations or events with a home camera or your cell phone.
* Please note that if you are dealing with gaslighting outside your home, such as in the workplace, make sure to seek legal assistance as laws in your state may prevent you from recording individuals.
5. Speak up. Discuss the behavior with the gaslighter in a calm and respectable manner. Of course you may have to face additional lies and diversion, as well as insults and criticism as a response, however showing the gaslighter that you are remaining grounded and calm will send them a clear message that you won’t tolerate the behavior any longer.
*Please note: If you are in a situation where it's not safe to confront the gaslighter; if you fear that your safety may be in jeopardy, it's best to get out of this relationship all together, go into no contact, and seek professional help asap!
Please call the National Domestic Hotline 800-799-7233
6- Get others involved. Often times people might chose not to say anything about the person gaslighting them- worrying they might be bringing more drama into the situation, or due to fear of looking like they are soliciting people to take sides, but when dealing with gaslighting, which again is a form of emotional abuse, it’s important to get support from people you trust. Seeking input from people who aren’t directly involved and who can hear and observe what’s happening makes it easier for them to offer an unbiased perspective, and can help reinforce that you are not “crazy,” "confused," "overreacting," "losing your memory", or, "your mind."
7. Seek professional help. Like I mentioned through this article, because gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse it can have serious toll on your emotional health. Seeking help from a therapist will give you guidance on your specific situation -including safety tips and other resources you might need to help you handle your situation and bounce back much more effectively.