Gaslighting: What It Is (and Isn’t)

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Published Date|
March 21, 2024

Gaslighting: What It Is (and Isn’t)

Every time you watch a new season of reality tv, you hear the word gaslighting.

Disagreement in the Bachelor Mansion? One of the girls is a gaslighter.

Confrontation on Love is Blind? Their relationship didn’t work out because he’s gaslighting her.

Disagreements in relationships, whether platonic or romantic, can be frustrating. But gaslighting is a serious form of emotional abuse and it’s important to know what it is - and isn’t.

Here at KMA Therapy, we’re here to help you navigate the ever-changing landscape of mental health buzzwords, and explain their relevance to your life.

After reading this article, you’ll know what gaslighting is, what it isn’t, and three communication tips to help your relationship.

What is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting is an intentional manipulation tactic used to create a power imbalance in relationships.

Someone who is gaslighting you uses intentional behaviours and actions to cause you to question what you know to be true.

They will repeatedly undermine your sense of reality by lying, denying your feelings, and creating a chaotic environment.

Examples of gaslighting include:

  • Lying about something objectively true (i.e. saying they didn’t break a glass even though watched them do it)
  • Minimizing your concerns (i.e. saying you’re just being too sensitive if they cross a physical or emotional boundary of yours)
  • Refusing to participate in the conversation (i.e. saying that you’re intentionally trying to confuse them and they don’t understand what you’re talking about)

Ultimately, gaslighting is a malicious pattern of behaviour designed to break down your confidence over time and give the other person more power in the relationship.

what is gaslighting

What Gaslighting Isn’t

Gaslighting is intentional and malicious, and the other person is trying to gain something over you.

Your partner remembering something differently than you do or disagreeing with you about how a situation impacted you both is frustrating, but it’s not gaslighting.

Often, miscommunication can feel like gaslighting - your partner is refusing to see things from your point of view 

Examples of behaviours that are not gaslighting include:

  • Remembering things differently (i.e. they truly remember the situation in a different way, for example the way you both expressed yourself in an argument)
  • Having a different intention than what you understood from a conversation (i.e. “I did say that, but I didn’t mean for you to take it that way”)
  • Taking a break during an argument (i.e. you both agree to come back to the conversation once you’ve had time to cool down)

These miscommunications can be frustrating, but they don’t cause you to question your sense of reality. Objectively, you can see the other person’s point of view, even though you have a different one.

The difference between these miscommunications and gaslighting is that in these situations, the other person’s intention is to have their point of view heard and understood - they’re not just trying to undermine yours.

What to Do if You Think You’re Experiencing Gaslighting

If you think someone is gaslighting you, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone.

Gaslighters need you to feel isolated and will often try to separate you from others you care about.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to trusted friends or family members and explain what’s happening in the relationship. Connecting with people you care about, and who care about you, can help you remember you’re not alone and remind you of who you are outside of the gaslighting relationship.

Gaslighting is a dangerous behavioural pattern, and it shouldn’t be taken lighting.

If you think you may be at risk of harm, there are several helplines you can contact for immediate support. This list of Toronto-based help for intimate partner violence has additional resources to support you.

Next Steps for Improving Your Relationships

After reading this article, you know what gaslighting is and isn’t, and steps you can take if you think you’re experiencing gaslighting.

Here at KMA Therapy, we know relationships are complicated. Our talented relationship therapists are here to help you improve communication in your relationships and figure out solutions that work for you and your partner.

Register online to learn more about relationship therapy or explore our Relationships page to learn more.

If you’d prefer to keep reading, explore these related articles:

Author |
Emily Weatherhead (Guest Author)
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