Gaslighting is a type of domestic/family violence, just like physical and emotional abuse are. Gaslighting is a form of coercive control, where an abuser emotionally and psychologically manipulates and exerts control over someone else (see ‘Coercive Control’ factsheet).
Gaslighting is an especially effective form of emotional abuse that can leave you questioning reality, your feelings, instincts, and sanity, which in turn gives your abusive partner power and control over you. Gaslighting can also be used to make sure that you do not leave the abusive relationship by making it hard for you to trust your own perceptions. Long-term effects of gaslighting can impact on people to the extent they experience emotional and mental wellbeing issues. It can undermine your confidence and ability to trust yourself.
Examples of Gaslighting
- Telling you that you are making things up, that things did not happen or that you have a bad memory
- Telling you that you are going crazy or that ‘it’s all in your head’
- Saying that you are over-exaggerating situations and abusive behaviours
- Telling other people you are crazy or have mental health and/or substance abuse concerns
- Doing things to your environment that make what they’re saying seem true and leaving you wondering if you really are going “losing it!”
How does Gaslighting Work?
Gaslighting tends to start out slowly with the abuser’s actions seeming harmless or even caring at first.
There are several gaslighting tactics that an abuser may use, including:
- Withholding: In this tactic, the abuser pretends they do not understand or they refuse to listen. They might say things like “I don’t want to hear this again” or “you’re just trying to confuse me.”
- Countering: During this tactic, the abuser will question your memory of events, even when you are remembering correctly. They could say something like “you never remember things properly” or “stop imagining things!”
- Blocking/Diverting: They will question your thoughts or change the topic, saying things like “you’re only saying that because ‘so and so’ (friend/family) put it in your head” or “you’re imagining things.”
- Trivialising: They will make your feelings or needs seem unimportant by saying things like “you’re too sensitive” or “are you really going to carry on over that?”
- Forgetting/Denial: they may deny having made promises to you or pretend to have forgotten what occurred by saying things like “you’re just making stuff up” or “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
- Stereotyping: abusers may use negative stereotypes of your gender, race, age, ethnicity, sexuality to manipulate you. They could say “you’re irrational and crazy because of your hormones” or “that’s just those backward ideas from your country!”
If Someone is Gaslighting You
- You may be constantly second-guessing yourself.
- You feel as if you are ‘too sensitive’.
- You are always apologising or feeling like you have to.
- You often make excuses for your abusers behaviour to others or yourself.
- You feel defeated and that you can’t do anything right.
- You may feel confused, hopeless and wonder if you are ‘good enough’ for the abuser.
- You feel anxious and find it hard to trust yourself.
What Can You Do if You’re Being Gaslit?
Talk To Someone You Trust
This could be a family member, friend, acquaintance, neighbour or health professional. Speaking about your thoughts and experiences can be beneficial to your health and safety.
Collect Evidence to Fact Check
You can keep a diary or take photos of dates, times, events or things. This can help when someone is challenging your memories and making you feel as though you are going crazy.
You can sumarise your conversation with the other person using direct quotes. This can help you both notice what is actually being said!
How you would feel if somene was talking to someone you love, or care about, that way?
Save or take screenshots
This could be helpful if you need legal or law enforcement help
Create a Safety Plan
Organise a bag of spare clothes, important documents, keys etc (see ‘Safety Planning’ factsheet) and a safe place to go to if you need to leave suddenly.notice