What is Gaslighting – and 5 Signs to Watch Out For
Gaslighting has become a trending topic. We hear about gaslighting everywhere, from social media to tv shows.
It can often be used in conversations when you disagree with your partner - it’s become common practice to say someone’s “gaslighting” you if you remember something differently.
But actual gaslighting is dangerous and can signify a toxic relationship. So how do you know the difference?
Here at KMA, we’ve spent the past 14 years helping our clients identify and maintain healthy relationships. We’re here to help you learn what gaslighting means and empower you to have the healthy relationships you deserve.
After reading this article, you’ll understand what gaslighting is, where the term came from, and the 5 warning signs of gaslighting.
What is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a manipulation tactic that causes you to question what you know to be true.
Gaslighting is used to cause self-doubt and confusion, causing a power imbalance in relationships.
Where did the term “Gaslighting” come from?
The term gaslighting is most commonly known from a 1994 movie called Gaslight. In this film, a man works to make his wife think she’s imagining things and doubt her sanity.
One of his manipulation tactics is constantly dimming the house’s gas lights.
Understanding where this term came from can help you understand what gaslighting can look like in relationships.
5 Warning Signs of Gaslighting
There are five common ways to recognize gaslighting:
Trivializing is when someone makes your needs seem silly or unimportant.
A partner may say you’re overreacting or call you oversensitive when you try to discuss something that bothers you or crosses a boundary.
Countering is when someone questions your memory of events, even when you’re correct.
Countering may sound like a partner saying, “That’s not what happened. You always remember things wrong.”
Withholding is when someone won’t listen to you or acts like they don’t understand what you’re talking about.
Withholding could sound like a partner telling you they don’t want to talk about things that are important to you or acts like you’re intentionally trying to confuse them.
4. Forgetting or Denial
Forgetting or Denial is when someone pretends they don’t remember something or tells you something didn’t happen.
An example is a partner forgetting promises they made to you or saying they “don’t know what you’re talking about.”
5. Blocking or Diverting
Blocking or Diverting is when someone changes the subject or deflects the topic to blame you.
One example is a partner telling you that “you’re imaging things” or that you “sound crazy.”
If these warning signs sound familiar, your partner may be gaslighting you. These signs can indicate dangerous behavioural patterns.
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.
Is Your Partner Gaslighting You?
Gaslighting is a serious issue and shouldn’t be approached lightly.
But if you feel safe and secure in other areas of your relationship, a breakdown in communication doesn’t necessarily mean your partner is gaslighting you.
A lack of communication in a well-meaning relationship can lead to frustration and negative feelings but can improve quickly with a bit of effort by both sides.
Learning how to improve communication in your relationships can help both sides to feel more confident and secure.
Next Steps for Addressing Gaslighting
After reading this article, you now understand what gaslighting is and the five warning signs to be aware of.
At KMA, we will support you in achieving the healthy relationships you want. Our experienced relationship counsellors can help you improve communication techniques and figure out what you and your partner need in a relationship.
A therapist can also support you individually if you want to discuss your experiences in a safe, one-on-one environment.
If you’re not yet ready for an introductory session, read these articles for more information:
- To know when to start therapy, read: 5 Signs it’s Time to See a Therapist
- To learn more about couples counselling, read: Do I Need Couples Counselling? 10 Signs it May Be Time
- To learn more about how you act and feel in relationships, read: How Does My Attachment Style Affect My Relationships?