Ever heard the phrase, “That’s how you remember it, that’s not what actually happened”? This is just one manipulation tactic that is used by those who have narcissistic tendencies in relationships. There is a term for it: Gaslighting. Or maybe you have heard, “Oh come on. I have never said/done that.” Then there is: “You’re just being overly sensitive.”. Another one: “I don’t know why you’re making this into such a huge deal…”
Gaslighting is defined as: “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”. It may start off with small offenses, but the accumulation of objections to your own reality can make you question your own judgment or reality—due to someone else’s deliberate intent to manipulate you. Now, maybe to avoid the conflict altogether, one may change their own perceptions—rather than confronting the manipulator regarding their own truth of what happened.
Some examples of gaslighting include:
- When someone refuses to listen to what you have to say (or withholding).
- When a manipulator questions the other person’s memory of an event (or countering).
- When the manipulator changes the subjects or questions victim’s thinking (or Blocking/diverting).
- When the manipulator makes the victim’s needs or feelings seem not important (or trivializing).
- When the manipulator “forgets” what happened or denies something they have previously done (or forgetting/denial)
Some signs to recognize if you are a victim of gaslighting:
- You constantly second guess yourself or have difficulty in making decisions.
- You ruminate over a perceived character flaw, such as being too “sensitive” or “not good enough”.
- You feel confusion about your relationship and find yourself thinking that you might be the crazy one due to your partner being so charming or great.
- You find yourself in arguments you didn’t intend to have, but are trying to speak up for yourself, to no avail.
- You aren’t making any progress in your communication, saying the same things repeatedly.
- You don’t feel heard.
- You’re always the one to apologize.
- You don’t understand why you aren’t happy in your own life, knowing something is wrong but can’t put your finger on it.
What to do if someone is gaslighting you:
- By identifying the problem—write down all scenarios in which you feel you are being gaslit, because sometimes writing things down from a conversation can clarify truth from distortion.
- Give yourself permission to be able to feel everything you are feeling. Acknowledgement of your feelings can help you eventually take whatever actions you need to take to feel better.
- Sometimes you may need to let go, even if you’ve had wonderful moments with your partner, it’s not worth undermining your reality.
- Don’t engage in power struggles because it is a battle that cannot be won. Sometimes walking away from the conversation can be empowering because you are choosing peace over being “right”.
- Get a second opinion—rather a friend, or family member. If you are still struggling with the situation, it may be time for therapy.
- Having compassion for yourself, and in giving grace to you for going through a difficult situation and doing the best with what tools you have in the moment is important.
If you find that you might be in a relationship with someone who gaslights you, it may be time to get outside help if you’ve found nothing you’ve done has worked. At Clarity Family Therapy Services, we have trained therapists who specialize in Narcissistic Personality, gaslighting, and techniques to help you manage your situation. You can find a way to mitigate circumstances and navigate your way through the difficult and turbulent waters of your relationship.
Whether the gaslighting is intentional or non-intentional, you deserve to be able to stand up for yourself and communicate your feelings without being questioned or told that your reality is inaccurate. Reach out to a therapist today if you are having difficulty managing your emotions, especially because manipulators will attempt to make you feel crazy when you are not. You can utilize therapy as a bouncing board for finding a resolution and even in navigating your own feelings towards your partner.