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“I’m sorry you feel that way”┃Understanding Gaslighting

written by Erin Garwood, M.A.

“You are too sensitive.” “It was just a joke.” “This is all your fault.” “I never said that, you made that up.” “You really need to develop thicker skin.”

 

If these phrases sound familiar, you may have experienced something called gaslighting. Gaslighting refers to a form of psychological manipulation aimed at making the victim feel confused, isolated, and cognitively impaired. By using such phrases, the gaslighter will try to control the victim and cause them to doubt themselves, have reduced self-confidence, and rely on the gaslighter. The longer the victim is gaslit the more they may wear down and become more susceptible to further gaslighting.

 

Gaslighting can happen in any relationship including personal, romantic, professional, and workplace relationships. In personal and romantic relationships, gaslighting can happen over time and worsen the longer the relationship lasts. Knowing the early warning signs is crucial for being able to identify gaslighting as soon as possible.

 

Warning signs:

  • You are repeatedly being lied to
  • You have been told that you are “crazy”, “weak”, “sensitive”,  or “stupid”
  • You feel isolated from your friends and family
  • You feel confused or are often second guessing yourself
  • There are attempts to distance you from others either by telling them that you are not to be trusted or that you should not trust them
  • When you try to communicate your concerns, you are met with defensiveness and blame that you are you the problem
  • You feel worn down, less self-confident, and experience more feelings of doubt

 

Once you have identified gaslighting in your relationship, what do you do? First, it is important to remember that you are not to blame for this. People being gaslit will often feel ashamed and as if they “allowed” this to happen. Gaslighting is a form of manipulation that can happen to and go unrecognized by anyone. Next, as difficult as it may be, trust your gut. If your gut is telling you that something is wrong, then something is wrong. Your feelings are valid and are occurring for a reason. Seek consultation from trusted people in your life to stay connected to others and gain their insights on the situation. If it is possible and safe to do so, gain distance from the gaslighter and remove yourself from the relationship.

 

Gaslighting can happen in a variety of relationships and circumstances and can be used intentionally and unintentionally. The mental, physical, and emotional impacts of gaslighting cannot be overstated. If you are experiencing gaslighting in your relationships, please consider services with the Student Counseling Center or a community provider.

 

For more information and examples of gaslighting (and a really cute dog) please watch the following video: