By Pam Dewey • March 25, 2021
Have you ever been told you’re overreacting? That you’re oversensitive?
According to The Body Is Not An Apology, “Accusing a person or a group of people of ‘overreacting’ is a commonly used silencing tactic. It is an effective silencing tactic because it paints the accused as ridiculous, hysterical and not to be taken seriously.” People in power often use it to silence those who aren’t.
It’s also a tactic commonly used by someone who is gaslighting you.
According to NBC News, gaslighting refers “to a specific type of manipulation where the manipulator is trying to get someone else (or a group of people) to question their own reality, memory or perceptions.”
Gaslighting can occur in romantic relationships, family relationships, professional connections and even with public figures. And it can be incredibly detrimental to your mental health.
Here are 6 signs of gaslighting.
They don’t listen or consider your perspective
Gaslighting is different than disagreeing. Someone can argue with you but still acknowledge your perspective. However, if you are being gaslighted, your partner won’t listen to what you’re saying. Instead, they’ll insist you’re completely wrong or suggest the way you’re feeling is wrong.
Your partner, sibling or coworker might say:
They deny they said something
Maybe your brother denies he agreed to let you host Thanksgiving next year. But you distinctly remember him saying that. As a result, you start questioning yourself. You might even wonder whether you did hear him agree. This is a particularly slippery slope because, as Psychology Today states, “the more they do this, the more you question your reality and start accepting theirs.”
You’ve started to question yourself often
When someone is gaslighting you, you may start to believe the version of reality they are pushing. You begin to second-guess yourself or have trouble making decisions. If you want to avoid conflict, you’re probably more susceptible to this type of manipulation. For example, perhaps your spouse is constantly telling you you’re bad with money. But before you got together, you balanced your budget and always paid your bills on time. However, you’ve now started to wonder if maybe you aren’t as good with money as you thought. Maybe your spouse sees something that you don’t.
They attack the things that are most important to you
A gaslighter will often attack the things in your life that are most important to you. Maybe you’re a dedicated parent or a full-time artist. The gaslighter might suggest you should never have had kids, or that you’re not a talented artist. They attack what defines you and make you question your worth.
They project their actions/behaviors onto you
Maybe your partner is spending a lot of your shared money on unnecessary expenses. To deflect the blame from themselves, they start accusing you of being bad with money. A gaslighter will repeat this accusation so often that you start defending yourself and are distracted from their bad behavior.
It wears you down over time
Gaslighting can happen to anyone, and what makes it so tricky is that it’s gradual. The gaslighter will lie about something and make an unkind comment about you. The behavior just slowly increases. It will happen so gradually that you may have no idea it’s happening.
But you can stop the gaslighter from hurting you
The good news is that you extricate yourself from gaslighting. First, you have to acknowledge there is a problem in your relationship. It can help to write down a conversation, which allows you to look at it more objectively. Where does the conversation veer from the truth and become distorted by the other person’s version of events?
Also, give yourself permission to feel your feelings. You might be trying to figure out who is right or wrong in your conversation, but that ultimately matters a lot less than how the other person’s behavior makes you feel. If the conversation makes you feel bad or second-guess yourself, then you should focus on that.
Usually, a gaslighter is someone you care deeply about. The idea of not having this person in your life can be incredibly painful. But you should do what is best for your mental health, and having someone who is manipulating you and denying your reality isn’t good for your well-being. To protect yourself, you might need to cut that person out of your life, or set up some firm boundaries that mean spending a lot less time with them.
Remember, your needs are just as important as anyone else’s, and you should feel safe and supported in your relationships.