Whether you think you’ve experienced it or not, there is a term that has gathered momentum and recognition over the past few years. It’s…gaslighting. A form of abuse that can be used within a romantic relationship, a friendship, a familial link or in your job – pretty much ANY sort of relationship with another person, it’s something that can be difficult to spot, especially if you’re not sure what it looks like.
So, what does it actually mean? Officially, gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person (or a group) sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual, making them question their own memory, perception, or judgment, often affecting their mental health. That sounds horrible, right? And how could you miss that?
What Does Gaslighting Look Like?
Let me give you a little scenario.
“Okay, I’ll meet you at the clock at 4pm. See you there.”
You’ve just agreed to meet your boyfriend at a clocktower in town, at 4pm – verbally, over the phone. You get dressed, looking forward to seeing him and head over. It’s 3:55pm. Great, you think, I’m a bit early and he doesn’t like me being late. However, when you get there, he has a face like thunder and storms up to you.
“I said 3pm! Why are you so late?! I have been waiting for an hour!”
You’re confused because you’re SURE he said 4pm. You even confirmed it. Is he lying or have you truly forgotten? Here’s another one.
“Oh, I bought those shoes you said I could have, on your credit card. I’ll pay you back soon. Oh you don’t remember? We definitely discussed it!”
Quite soon, you could find that you’re second-guessing yourself, believing that you’re going mad and that you’re dependent on another person to tell you what to do.
These examples are quite extreme, but straightforward and aren’t always the way things go when someone is being gaslit.
5 Signs of Gaslighting To Look Out For
As above, gaslighting can be very different in each situation, and can be very, very subtle. If you’ve got a feeling that something isn’t right in a relationship you have, or you’re noticing that one of your friends or family members is acting strangely, it could be symptoms of gaslighting.
Take a look at the signs below and see if you can spot anything that jumps out at you.
Sign 1: Not Feeling Like The Person You Used To Be
Before you met this person, were you somehow ‘different’? Did you go out more, do more things, feel clear-headed and confident? If you can feel a marked difference in the way you’re acting, or someone close to you is acting, this can be a warning sign.
Sign 2: Being More Anxious Than You Used To Be
Before, when you made a mistake, did you just mark it down to carelessness and move on? Now, are you scared and anxious to make a mistake, in case something bad happens? Are you walking around with a ball of anxiety worrying about the next thing you’ll forget? Forgetfulness is normal – being terrified of forgetting isn’t.
Sign 3: Wondering “Am I Too Sensitive?”
If you’re always butting heads with this person, it’s easy to sit back and wonder if YOU’RE the problem, even if you don’t feel like you’re actually causing any issues. If this is the case, chances are you’re being made to feel like you’re creating a problem where there wasn’t one.
Sign 4: Feeling Like Everything You Do Is Wrong
No matter what you do, even if you try really hard, do you believe that everything you do is wrong? At least in this person’s eyes? Unless you’re a terrible person which I’m sure you’re not, it’s really hard to screw everything up in your life. If you feel like everything you do is wrong, double check this with someone objective and see if you’re being gaslit into thinking the opposite.
Sign 5: Saying “Sorry” Too Often
There’s a place and time for apologies, whether they are for small mistakes or big ones – but they should always mean something to the person who is saying it, otherwise what’s the point? If you’re finding you’re apologising more and more often for things you’re not even sure about, how do you know you should be apologising? This is worrying behaviour and should be address.
Remember, gaslighting is a form of abuse. If you’re worried about yourself or someone else, speak to this helpline for extra support.