Gaslighting: How to Identify and Treat It in Relationships

Updated: Feb 15, 2021

Learn how to avoid manipulation and build healthy relationships from Santa Clarita's leading licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

I bet you have been hearing this term more and more these days. Most people hear the word “gaslighting” but don’t totally understand what it means, nor do they realize the devastating, negative impact gaslighting has on relationships.

What is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting is one of the most subtle forms of emotional abuse. Unless you understand gaslighting and have had experience with this twisted mindset, you are probably going to miss the signs that are happening, initially. Before you know it, you will be in the throes of a toxic relationship questioning everything you once knew to be true about you, unless of course, you catch the signs early and you know what to do about it. So let me teach you everything you need to know about gaslighting and what you can do about it.

Let’s Be Honest About What Gaslighting Really Is…

I am going to dive right in and get straight to the core of what gaslighting is. Gaslighting is straight-up manipulation and a slow, steady, covert form of emotional abuse with the overall goal to gain power and control over someone else. Gaslighting is when someone methodically repeats behaviors that eventually cause you to start questioning your reality. Gaslighting is brainwashing. A gaslighter will tell you that you don’t see what you see, hear what you hear, or feel what you feel.

You seriously begin to believe that you secretly might be losing your mind! Their ultimate goal is to overpower and gain control over someone by altering reality. The gaslighter is king when it comes to convincing someone a frog is a duck, or the sky is green. The gaslighter chips away at the other person’s perceived reality until they start doubting themselves. Gaslighting is emotional abuse. It is subtle. One of the biggest tell-tale signs determining if you are involved in a toxic relationship with a gaslighter is if you start to question your sanity.

Knowing what gaslighting means, and more importantly, how to navigate a toxic relationship is essential to becoming healthier and creating relationships that thrive.

6 Ways to Determine if You May Be Involved With a Gaslighter.

Have you been wondering lately, “Am I in a toxic relationship with a gaslighter?” Well, these key questions may help you decide if you are in a toxic, gaslighting relationship.

  1. Are you starting to doubt yourself all the time? You were once confident and bubbly and now you are quiet and insecure. You aren’t quite sure what has happened but you just don’t feel like you are empowered and strong anymore.

  2. Are you confused and feeling a bit lost? The relationship you once thought was the “most amazing relationship ever” seems to feel not so great anymore.

  3. Are you starting to wonder if you are going crazy? Little by little, people who are around gaslighters really do feel like they are losing their mind. You start questioning your judgment.

  4. Do you question your thoughts and feelings now that you have been in this relationship a while? The “perfect” relationship is starting to feel out of control and more unstable to you, but the gaslighter is convincing you, the problem is YOU.

  5. Is someone causing you to question what you see, hear or feel because they are telling you you didn’t actually see what you saw, hear what you heard, or feel what you felt?

  6. Have you lost a sense of who you are? You don’t feel solidly like yourself anymore when you are exposed to the abuse of a gaslighter.

Are You a Victim of Gaslighting?

There are several indicators you are involved with a gaslighter. Many people in gaslighting relationships describe a pit in their stomach, feeling anxious and/or depressed. They also feel lost, confused, insecure, stupid, ugly, and inadequate. They begin to believe they are “less than” and not good enough. The sign of all signs of a gaslighting relationship is when you think to yourself, “Am I going crazy?”

Believe me, the gaslighter is doing this purposely to get you to need them. They will twist things around to make it sound like everything is your fault. Ultimately they want you to feel unsure of yourself, and insecure so they can gain power and control over every area of your life. They criticize little things about you and chip away at your self-esteem, and then once they tear you down, they act like the hero building you back up again. They convince you that if you ever even thought about leaving, you would lose the greatest thing you’d ever have in life, which they tell you is THEM. The truth is you DO have a lot to lose. But it is not what you think.

What You REALLY Lose When You Stay in a Toxic Relationship With a Gaslighter.

First and foremost:

  • You lose YOURSELF.

  • Your solid sense of reality.

  • Your self-esteem.

  • Your sense of self-worth.

  • Your connection to yourself.

  • Your intuition/inner guidance.

  • Your values.

  • Your confidence.

  • You lose your identity.