10 Subtle Signs of Gaslighting You’ve Probably Ignored

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Nobody can make you feel as uncomfortable as a gaslighter. Their deception is frustrating, and becomes harder to deal with when it’s an everyday thing at work, school, or even in your relationships. Gaslighting is common in our everyday lives, so don’t feel alone.

58% of the 3,033 respondents in an MHR Twitter poll agreed to experiencing gaslighting behaviors in their workplaces. Meanwhile, 3 in 4 American adults don’t know a dime about gaslighting, making it important to raise awareness about it, and empower individuals to recognize and address this form of emotional abuse.

This behavior can be overt and obvious, yet it often starts with subtle signs that may go unnoticed. This article explores 10 subtle signs of gaslighting, discusses their impact, and provides strategies for dealing with gaslighting situations effectively.

What is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting derives its name from the 1938 play Gas Light, in which a husband manipulates his wife into doubting her own sanity by dimming the gas lights in their house and then denying that anything has changed. Gaslighting behavior typically involves a series of tactics aimed at destabilizing the victim’s confidence and perception of reality. It is an insidious form of emotional abuse that can occur in personal relationships, workplace environments, or any situation where power dynamics are at play.

10 Subtle Signs of Gaslighting

Being aware of these signs helps you identify potential gaslighting situations early on and take necessary actions to protect your emotional well-being. Here are 10 signs of gaslighting to watch out for:

1. Dismissing Your Feelings

Gaslighters often dismiss or minimize your emotions, making you question the validity of your feelings. They may reply, “You’re overreacting,” “Stop being so sensitive,” or “It’s not a big deal.” Such responses lower your confidence and question your judgment by rejecting your feelings. This can lead to a diminished sense of self and increased dependence on the gaslighter’s perspective over time.

You express worry about a particular act that made you uncomfortable. Instead of addressing your concerns, the gaslighter might respond by trivializing your feelings, making you question if you’re being too sensitive or unreasonable.

2. Constantly Contradicting You

Gaslighters frequently contradict your statements or deny events that have occurred, even on trivial matters. They may remark, “That’s not what happened,” “You’re remembering it wrong,” or “You must be confused.”

Imagine that you and the gaslighter had a disagreement about a decision that was made. Despite your clear recollection of the conversation, he insists that the conversation never took place or that your memory is faulty. You might be dealing with a subtle sign of gaslighting if this happens often. That can make you question your sanity by constantly disputing your memory and view of events.

3. Denying Previous Conversations

Gaslighters may deny or conveniently forget conversations or promises they make. They yell, “I never said that,” “You must be imagining things,” or “You’re making it up.” This strategy is meant to make you question your recall, rationality, and self-confidence.

For example, you had a discussion about future plans with the gaslighter, and they assured you they would support your goals. However, when you later bring up the conversation, they vehemently deny ever having that discussion, leaving you feeling confused and questioning your own recall.

4. Blaming You for Their Behavior

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Mehrpouya H, Unsplash

Gaslighters frequently shift blame onto their victims, making them feel responsible for the gaslighter’s actions or emotions. They might say things like, “If you hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have reacted this way,” or “You made me do it.” This tactic manipulates you into feeling guilty and questioning your own judgment, as if everything negative that happens is your fault.

For instance, let’s say you expressed concern about a hurtful comment the gaslighter made. Instead of taking responsibility for their words, they might turn it around and blame you for “making them” say it. This deflects accountability and further undermines your confidence.

5. Creating a Sense of Confusion

Gaslighters often use tactics that deliberately create confusion and disorient you. They may present contradictory information, change their stance frequently, or give vague explanations, leaving you unsure about what is true or false. This erodes your trust in your own judgment and leaves you vulnerable to their manipulation.

It plays out this way, imagine you are discussing a particular topic with the gaslighter, and they present conflicting information or contradict themselves throughout the conversation. This intentional confusion can make you question your own understanding and make it difficult for you to form coherent arguments.

6. Isolating You from Support

Gaslighters often attempt to isolate their victims from friends, family, or other support networks. They may discourage you from spending time with loved ones, make you distrust their motives, or cause disagreements to divide you from your support system. You are more likely to fall for their manipulations if you lack alternate perspectives.

The gaslighter may make derogatory comments about your friends or family, causing you to distance yourself from them. They may also accuse others of being untrustworthy or not caring about you, further isolating you. This isolation leaves you emotionally dependent on the gaslighter, making it harder to recognize their manipulative tactics.

7. Withholding Information

Gaslighters often withhold important information or selectively share it to manipulate your perception of events. By controlling the flow of information, they maintain power and prevent you from making informed decisions. They may also use this tactic to create a narrative that aligns with their agenda, distorting your understanding of reality.

For example, let’s say the gaslighter is involved in a situation where important decisions are being made. Instead of sharing all relevant information openly and transparently, they selectively disclose details that benefit them or present a skewed perspective. Thereby, preventing you from having a complete picture of the situation and hindering your ability to make independent judgments.

8. Undermining Your Abilities

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Gaslighters are known to undermine your abilities, talents, or achievements to exert control and diminish your self-esteem. They may consistently criticize your skills, intelligence, or competence in various areas of your life. They can easily dismiss your success at work as luck or downplay your contributions.

If those around you often use these words on you, “Anyone could do what you do” or “You’re not as good as you think you are,” such constant negative remarks can erode your self-confidence and make you doubt your own capabilities over time. That’s definitely a subtle sign of gaslighting playing out.

9. Projecting Their Behavior onto You

Subtle gaslighters frequently project their own faults, insecurities, or negative traits onto their victims as a way to deflect attention from themselves. They may accuse you of behaviors or emotions that they themselves exhibit, making you question your own intentions and character.

Such individuals will avoid taking responsibility for their actions. If you are dealing with an unfaithful partner, he or she may accuse you of being untrustworthy or cheating, projecting their faults onto you.

This strategy weakens your sense of self and makes you doubt your judgment. Once you detect it, know you are dealing with the subtle signs of gaslighting.

10. Gaslighting Over Time

Gaslighting increases with time. The gaslighter gradually gains control by consistently employing manipulative tactics and eroding your confidence. In the beginning, their gaslighting may be subtle and difficult to detect. They may start with small instances of denial or dismissal, gradually increasing the intensity and frequency of their manipulative behaviors.

It could result in confusion, self-doubt, worry, and depression as it continues. Pay attention to the 10 signs of gaslighting. Also, recognize the cumulative effect of gaslighting, take proactive steps to protect yourself, and seek support.

How to Deal with Gaslighting

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Gaslighting can have severe emotional and psychological consequences for the victims. Victims of gaslighting often feel trapped, confused, and question their own sanity. If you suspect that you are being gaslighted, take steps to protect yourself and regain control of your reality.

Here are some strategies to deal with gaslighting:

  1. Recognize the signs: Educate yourself about the subtle signs of gaslighting, as well as the tactics commonly used by gaslighters. Awareness is the first step in breaking free from the manipulation.
  2. Trust your instincts: Trust your intuition and feelings. Gaslighters often try to undermine your judgment, but deep down, you know the truth. Listen to your inner voice and believe in your own perceptions.
  3. Seek support: Reach out to trusted friends, family members, or a therapist who can provide a supportive and objective perspective. Having a support network can help validate your experiences and provide guidance during challenging times.
  4. Set boundaries: Establish clear boundaries with the gaslighter and communicate your needs assertively. Let them know that their behavior is unacceptable and that you will not tolerate further manipulation.
  5. Practice self-care: Prioritize self-care activities that nurture your emotional well-being. Engage in hobbies, exercise regularly, practice mindfulness, and surround yourself with positive influences.
  6. Consider professional help: If the gaslighting persists or escalates, seek professional help from a therapist or counselor who specializes in emotional abuse. They can provide valuable insights, coping strategies, and support tailored to your specific situation. Meanwhile this is a process, and you’ve got to give yourself time to heal.

Wrapping Up on Subtle Signs of Gaslighting

Gaslighting is subtle yet destructive. It can have long-term health implications if not properly dealt with. Seek for help if you can’t handle it. Hopefully, if you pay attention to these 10 subtle signs of gaslighting and take proactive steps to address them, you’ll protect yourself from manipulation and, over time, regain your sense of reality.

FAQs on Subtle Signs of Gaslighting

How can I differentiate between healthy disagreement and gaslighting?

In healthy disagreements, both parties respect each other’s perspectives and work towards finding common ground. Gaslighting, on the other hand, involves manipulation, invalidation of feelings, and an intent to control the other person. Trust your instincts and look for consistent patterns that undermine your reality.

Can gaslighting occur in professional settings?

Yes, gaslighting can occur in professional settings, such as workplaces or professional relationships. It often involves tactics aimed at discrediting a person’s competence, undermining their authority, or isolating them from their colleagues. Recognizing these signs is essential for maintaining a healthy work environment.

Is it possible to recover from the effects of gaslighting?

Yes, recovery from gaslighting is possible with time, support, and self-care. Seeking therapy or counseling can provide valuable tools and strategies for rebuilding self-esteem, setting boundaries, and regaining trust in your own judgment.

How can I confront a gaslighter?

Confronting a gaslighter can be challenging, especially if it’s coming from a superior in the workplace. Also, they may deny or deflect responsibility for their actions. If you choose to confront them, ensure your safety and consider seeking support from a trusted friend or therapist. Clearly communicate your boundaries and assertively express your feelings without expecting them to change.

Are there any resources available for individuals experiencing gaslighting?

Yes, several resources are available for individuals experiencing gaslighting. Online forums, support groups, and helplines allow others with similar experiences to connect. Additionally, books and articles on gaslighting can offer valuable insights and guidance for navigating gaslighting situations effectively.

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