You don’t like the way someone is treating you, but at the same time you doubt whether your feelings are right. What if you’re just fooling yourself and it’s your fault? Something like this is happening to you? Then pay attention. He may be manipulating you with one of the most insidious forms of manipulation called gaslighting. Let’s take a look at how to recognize this manipulation in a relationship and how to fight back.

What is gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation and emotional abuse where the manipulator tries to subvert your perception of reality. They try to convince you that your own memories or feelings are not real or valid. They claim that you are imagining things, are hypersensitive, exaggerating, or things happened otherwise. They repeatedly deny what happened, try to confuse, contradict, lie and humiliate you.

Gaslighting can start subtly, but gradually bring you to the point where you ask yourself if you are even normal. It’s not just simple lies, but a systematic and often deliberate distortion of reality. This is why gaslighting tends to be long-term. And that makes it even harder to spot.

Gaslighting has an interesting origin. It is derived from the 1940s film thriller Gaslight. In it, a man tries to convince his wife that she has gone mad in order to get her committed to an asylum and get her property. One of his manipulation tactics is to dim the gas lights in the house. He then convinces the wife that they are not dimmed. In doing so, he tries to undermine her confidence in what she perceives and lead her to conclude that she has lost her mind.


What is the goal of the manipulator? Why is he doing this to you?

The manipulators are trying to gain power over you. They usually have low self-esteem and compensate for their own shortcomings in this way. They want to control you and have control over you. To knock down your own self-esteem to make themselves feel more powerful. They often suffer from a personality disorder such as narcissism.

The most common is psychological manipulation in a partner relationship, but other family members, subordinates or colleagues at work can also be targeted.

With social media, gaslighting has been used on an even larger scale to control the masses. Conspiracy theories, fake news, internet trolling and some politicians have become its tools. But today we will stick to gaslighting as a form of manipulation in personal relationships, because you have the power to influence these by yourself.

How you can safely recognize gaslighting

The longer you are exposed to gaslighting, the harder it gets. The manipulator is trying to undermine your perception and confidence. Often you start to find fault with yourself. You believe that you’re overreacting, that it didn’t happen this way, or that you actually deserve this treatment. You begin to doubt yourself.

The manipulator often tries to convince you that he cares about you and wants to help you. That makes it all the more complicated.

Here are the warning signs by which you can recognize gaslighting:

  • You and the manipulator are always arguing about something. You ask yourself if you’re remembering it correctly and you lose track of your own emotions.
  • You often apologize for something because you feel bad. But you don’t really know what for.
  • You have more and more difficulty making even small decisions for yourself. Your confidence is undermined and you may not even recognise yourself. You feel incompetent.

5 examples of gaslighting and psychological manipulation

But let’s look at this more specifically so you can be sure. Here are the types of statements that manipulators like to use.

  1. They’re questioning your memories
  • „That never happened.“
  • „I do not know what you are talking about.“
  • „I have never said that.“
  1. They ease your feelings
  • „You don’t have to take it this seriously.“
  • „You’re overreacting again.“
  1. When you want to talk about your feelings, they change the subject
  • „Oh, please. You better tell me…“
  • „Don’t ruin our day again. I need to talk to you…“
  1. They blame you
  • „It’s you who’s overly sensitive.“
  • „You should reflect on your behavior, not keep blaming me.“
  1. They deny the reality
  • „That’s just your fantasy.“
  • „That’s stupid. How did you figure that out, please?“

Gaslighting can also be experienced at work

There, it may look like, for example, the manager is blaming you or your team for a failed project. If you object to this because the decision was his, he might reply that you misunderstood his role in the project or that it wasn’t like that.

Another example would be when someone doesn’t send you an invitation to a meeting and then wonders why you didn’t show up. They won’t admit that they didn’t send you an invitation and blame you. They are sure you overlooked it.


How to respond to gaslighting and weaken the manipulator

The first thing to remember is that you are not to blame. Your feelings are perfectly fine and in place. Trust them and trust yourself. If you feel something is wrong, it probably is.

The main defense against gaslighting and any other type of manipulation is self-confidence, assertiveness and set boundaries. But in more serious situations, you need to go further to defend yourself.

Specific steps to weaken the manipulator

  • Don’t let him belittle your feelings – if the manipulator tells you that you are too sensitive or overreacting, respond confidently with “Don’t tell me how to feel. This is how I feel right now, and I don’t like your behavior.”
  • Stand by your memories – don’t let him tell you that something happened differently than it really did. You can say “I know what I saw, and I’m 100% sure of it.”
  • Document events – If he or she is always arguing with you that things happened differently, start documenting them. Write down what he said when, or record it right away if you can.
  • Ask others – Describe your experiences to your loved ones. If it’s a problem at work, ask colleagues. You’ll get a different objective perspective and you may find they see it the same way.
  • Don’t play his game – Set firm boundaries and communicate them calmly and clearly. If he doesn’t stick to them, walk away from the communication. For example, you might say, “If you continue to make accusations, I will not discuss this topic with you further.”
  • Avoid isolation – in severe cases, the handler may try to isolate you from others to make it easier to control you. Don’t let them come between you and your family or friends. If he or she makes any claims about them, check it out.

Just don’t be alone in this

Facing gaslighting is really mentally challenging. It can get to the point of psychological abuse. Confide in your loved ones and consider getting professional help from a therapist. It is important to talk about your feelings and get an outside perspective. A therapist can help you look at the situation with a sober, unbiased perspective. He or she will advise you on how you can defend yourself in specific situations and help you detach from the manipulator.


We have over 150 verified psychotherapists at Hedepy and you can have your session in just a few days – online, from anywhere you feel safe. Learn how online psychotherapy works and make an appointment in just a few clicks.

You deserve to be in a relationship where you feel unconditional love, respect and understanding. Therapy will help you detach from the manipulator.

Don’t face it alone

Finally, we would like to tell you the last and most important thing. It is completely natural to experience a wave of emotions in a difficult situation. Every crisis has its beginning, but it also has its end. Yours too. Therefore, if you are at least considering it even a tiny bit, ask for the help of a psychologist, psychiatrist, psychotherapist, or coach. Don’t face it alone; you can find help – At, there are more than 30 therapists. You can choose someone who is best suited to your needs, and make an appointment for the next day. You can then connect with the therapist online, from the comfort of your own home.

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