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HomeMental Health“That By no means Occurred” — Experiencing Gaslighting

“That By no means Occurred” — Experiencing Gaslighting


GoodTherapy | "That Never Happened" — Experiencing Gaslighting

by Allie Dainow, Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying), in Toronto, ON, Canada

What Is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting is when somebody distorts actuality, which has the intentional or unintentional impact of inflicting one other particular person to doubt their very own perceptions. It has turn out to be such a generally used time period that there are even songs about it. Within the Chicks’ (previously often known as the Dixie Chicks) tune titled “Gaslighter,” Natalie Maines sings about somebody dishonest on her and making an attempt to persuade her she was imagining it:

You simply needed to begin a hearth, needed to begin a hearth
Couldn’t take your self on a highway just a little greater
Needed to burn it up, needed to tear it down
Tried to say I’m loopy
Babe, we all know I’m not loopy, that’s you

The time period first originated from the 1944 film Gaslight (based mostly on a play written in 1938), by which a husband tries to stop his spouse from realizing that he’s a prison by altering her actuality and making an attempt to make her consider she is imagining what’s occurring. The title itself particularly comes from a scene the place he makes the gaslights within the attic flicker and, when she asks him why they’re flickering, he tells her that she’s hallucinating it.

Gaslighting is a quite common conduct that’s utilized in many various conditions and relationships to achieve energy and management. It additionally happens at a gaggle degree, usually with ladies and different marginalized teams, whose experiences are steadily dismissed, seen as “loopy” and “too emotional,” and judged by double requirements (Candy, 2019).

Understanding Why Folks Gaslight

Wholesome methods of coping with destructive conduct contain acknowledging it, reflecting on why it occurred, and making an attempt to be taught from it. Gaslighting happens when the particular person is conscious, both consciously or unconsciously, that their conduct is inappropriate indirectly, however they’re unable to acknowledge this as a result of they can not deal with the guilt and disgrace related to it. It is vitally generally used as a narcissistic protection, as a result of narcissists try to compensate for a core of disgrace by presenting themselves to others (and infrequently convincing themselves) that they’re excellent. They can’t admit to destructive conduct (even when it’s really fairly minor) as a result of it’s too threatening to this picture. Narcissists additionally turn out to be proof against this sense of disgrace by creating a way of shamelessness, which permits them to interact in unethical and merciless conduct that others wouldn’t.

Methods Utilized in Gaslighting

There are a number of frequent ways that gaslighters use to control others. They will have a most popular technique that they use the vast majority of the time or cycle by way of a number of of them, particularly if the primary ones they use will not be having the specified impact. These ways embrace:

  • Denial — Claiming that one thing that occurred didn’t occur or that one thing that didn’t occur did.
  • Distraction — Altering subjects to one thing unrelated.
  • Deflection —  Blaming the scenario on somebody aside from themselves. There are a number of alternative ways they attempt to deflect, together with:
    • Projection — Denying they behaved negatively and accusing another person of the conduct they engaged in.
    • False equivalencies — Excusing their inappropriate conduct by evaluating it to a minor mistake that the opposite particular person made and appearing as if these actions are of the identical severity, e.g., “Sure, I did that, however what you probably did was simply as dangerous (or worse).”
    • Black and white requirements —Emphasizing errors the opposite particular person made to make them consider they’re at fault. That is efficient as a result of the opposite particular person will virtually all the time make some errors, since nobody handles conditions completely. That is totally different from false equivalencies as a result of when utilizing false equivalencies, the gaslighter will acknowledge errors on their half, however declare that different particular person’s have been worse. With black and white requirements, they may deny any wrongdoing on their half.
    • Mentioning previous errors — Inflicting the opposite particular person to doubt themselves by citing earlier incidents which might be irrelevant to the present one the place they did or remembered one thing incorrectly, e.g. “ you might have an issue remembering issues.”
    • Claims of misinterpretations — Saying that they didn’t do something fallacious and the issue is that the opposite particular person misinterpreted or misunderstood what they stated or did.
  • Omitting context — Presenting the opposite particular person or their conduct as dangerous by neglecting to say the context by which it occurred, which might make it comprehensible or affordable.
  • Overnormalizing — Insisting that their conduct is okay as a result of “everybody” does it when really most individuals wouldn’t behave this manner.
  • Evaluating to extremes — Downplaying the severity of their actions and framing them as acceptable and even good by citing examples of worse conduct that they didn’t do e.g. “What I did wasn’t that dangerous.”
  • Invalidation — Minimizing and trivializing your emotions and the impact that an expertise had on another person, e.g., “You’re oversensitive,” “This isn’t a giant deal,” “You shouldn’t really feel that means.”
  • Non-apologies — Giving apologies that deny any accountability and put the blame again on another person, e.g., “I’m sorry you felt that means,” “I’m sorry that you simply noticed it that means.”
  • Guilting/shaming — Making it appear as if the opposite particular person is doing one thing fallacious or is a nasty particular person for standing up towards mistreatment, e.g., “You’re making me really feel dangerous by bringing this up,” “You’re so destructive.”

The Expertise of Being Gaslit

Gaslighting can really feel very disorienting, virtually like having whiplash. It usually causes us to depart a scenario utterly confused, questioning what simply occurred or considering that one thing was fallacious, however not having the ability to pinpoint what it was. It could result in intense rumination the place you return and analyze each element of a scenario to make sure that you’re not imagining it. It’s exhausting to do that and it’s scary to really feel like you may’t belief your individual perceptions. When you begin to uncover what actually occurred, it may be extraordinarily upsetting, disturbing, and infuriating. Gaslighting, particularly when skilled repeatedly, could cause hostile psychological results, together with power self-doubt, disgrace, isolation, despair, nervousness, impaired relationships, trauma, and bodily signs associated to emphasize (Christensen & Evans-Murray, 2021, Pietrangelo, 2019).

Responding to Gaslighting

Attempting to have a dialog with somebody who’s gaslighting you is extremely troublesome and draining. Listed below are some methods for learn how to talk with them:

  • Redirection — In the event that they’re making an attempt to distract you by altering the subject, hold redirecting the dialog again to the scenario at hand.
  • “I” statements — That is an assertiveness ability the place you talk how their conduct affected you and set a boundary (“I felt ______ once you did ______ so I would really like it should you did/didn’t ______”). That is meant to be a non-blaming means of speaking that focuses in your experiences, which might scale back denial and defensiveness from the opposite particular person.
  • The damaged file method — That is additionally an assertiveness ability the place you may repeat what you’re saying should you assume the opposite particular person will not be listening to you (Larsen & Jordan, 2017). On this case, if the gaslighter is claiming you’re fallacious concerning the information, you may repeat and assert the information.
  • Collaboration — Attempt to discover frequent floor by speaking to the opposite particular person concerning the shared aim or values you might have and how one can go about attaining them. This could shift the dialog’s tone to cooperation, somewhat than antagonism.
  • Strolling away — Speaking to somebody who’s gaslighting could be like speaking to a brick wall. It doesn’t matter what you say or how a lot proof you present, nothing will get by way of to them, and typically it’s simply not value it to maintain making an attempt. You’ll be able to let the particular person know that you simply don’t assume this dialog is productive and also you’re not going to proceed it.

Recovering from Gaslighting

You will need to give your self time to determine that you simply have been gaslit and course of what occurred. You need to use mindfulness methods to detach out of your ideas and scale back the urge to ruminate about it till you’re able to replicate on it or if the misery from that is interfering with different points of your life. These would possibly embrace meditation or thought diffusion strategies from Acceptance and Dedication Remedy, comparable to saying to your self “I’m having the thought that…” earlier than a distressing thought with the intention to distance your self from it (Harris, 2006).

With a purpose to course of the sentiments that come up from being gaslit, we have to determine and validate them. We regularly invalidate ourselves and say that we shouldn’t really feel a sure means or that our reactions don’t make sense, however once we attempt to perceive why we would have reacted that means, we understand it is smart and cease criticizing ourselves. Within the case of gaslighting, it’s an especially disagreeable expertise, and it is smart that you’d expertise destructive feelings in response to it. It’s very useful to observe self-compassion, which includes noticing these troublesome ideas and emotions and being type to your self about them. Many individuals describe self-compassion by saying it’s like chatting with your self the way in which you’ll to a great pal.

Generally figuring out that you simply have been gaslit can cease you from criticizing your self, however different occasions this simply makes us really feel dangerous and blame ourselves for being manipulated. Sadly, gaslighting is a quite common conduct as a result of it’s efficient. The very nature of gaslighting makes it so troublesome to determine what’s occurring as a result of it disorients you and makes you even surprise should you’re being paranoid for questioning the gaslighting conduct. Many people additionally need to give others the good thing about the doubt and assume that maybe we did misremember or misread their conduct as a result of it may be so troublesome to simply accept that not solely did the preliminary hurtful conduct occur, however that the gaslighting did as properly. It’s vital to be self-compassionate concerning the ache you might have skilled from each. Attempt to keep in mind that the issue isn’t you, it’s the one that did the gaslighting.


Christensen, M., & Evans‐Murray, A. (2021, Might). Gaslighting in nursing academia: A brand new or established covert type of bullying? In Nursing Discussion board.

Harris, R. (2006). Embracing your demons: An outline of acceptance and dedication remedy. Psychotherapy in Australia12(4).

Larsen, Ok. L., & Jordan, S. S. (2017). Assertiveness coaching. Encyclopedia of Persona and Particular person Variations, 1-4.

Pietrangelo, A. (2019, March 29). What are the quick and long-term results of emotional abuse? Healthline. being/mental-health/effects-of-emotional-abuse

Candy, P. L. (2019). The sociology of gaslighting. American Sociological Assessment84(5), 851-875.


© Copyright 2021 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Allie Dainow, Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying) in Toronto, ON, CA

The previous article was solely written by the creator named above. Any views and opinions expressed will not be essentially shared by Questions or issues concerning the previous article could be directed to the creator or posted as a remark beneath.


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