What is Gaslighting Behavior?
Gaslighting behaviors have the potential to doom any relationship they show up in. They are a form of emotional manipulation that can be detrimental to someone’s sense of self and reality. Read on to know the different types of ways gaslighting can manifest and how to respond to these behaviors.
What is Gaslighting Behavior?
Gaslighting behaviour includes actions done to manipulate or gain control over an individual by making them question their sense of reality. Understanding the different behaviors under gaslighting is vital to identify them and later deal with them. Knowledge and awareness are the first steps to healing.
Types of Gaslighting Behaviors
One of the reasons it is challenging to recognise gaslighting behaviors is that they can take numerous forms. An individual who is gaslighting might use any of the following strategies to do so:
- Deceit or Lying
It is typical for people to blatantly lie about a particular story or event, and not back down even when the listener confronts them. Even when the listener knows that the person is lying, their words can be convincing and cause the listener to second-guess themselves.
- Denying or Forgetting
This form of gaslighting is when the individual gaslighting pretends not to remember an event or claims that it never happened. The accurate memories of the victim are undermined, causing them to doubt themselves. Statements like “What are you talking about?”, “That never happened!”, and “That must’ve been a dream.” are some examples of this behavior.
The individual gaslighting confronts the victim’s perception of the events with their own stories, making the victim feel that their memories are unreliable. A simple countering statement would be, “You’re remembering things wrong; this is how it happened…”.
Here, the gaslighter may minimise the victim’s thoughts and feelings, and make them seem unimportant. If the individual does not acknowledge these, the victim might begin to question them too, and end up feeling isolated, shamed and invalidated. “You’re overreacting.”, “Why are you so sensitive?”, and “You don’t need to get this angry about it” are some common instances of trivialising.
The gaslighter does not respond to the victim sharing their concerns, or pretends not to understand them. Statements showing withholding are “You’re confusing me with this talk.” And “Don’t talk to me about this anymore!”.
- Shifting Blame
Every conversation between the victim and the gaslighter is twisted into the victim being blamed for the event that occurred. For instance, if the victim shares how the gaslighter’s behavior makes them feel, the gaslighter might turn it around – leaving the victim to guess if they were the cause of the gaslighter’s behavior. “If you listened to me, I would not shout at you!” is a classic example of shifting blame.
- Diverting or Blocking
Here, the gaslighter shuts down the conversation when the victim shares their concerns, or diverts them to something of their interest. Legitimate concerns of the victim might be made to feel silly by the gaslighter’s behavior. Statements like “You’ve just been watching too many rom-coms.” shut down the conversation.
- Weaponising Compassionate Words
Lastly, this type of gaslighting is often not recognised since the gaslighting is concealed under loving and positive words. For instance, the victim may want to hear, “I love you, so I would never do anything like what you’re mentioning.”, but these words are inauthentic, especially if the behavior in question does not change or stop. This allows the person to be let off the hook, and not be held accountable for their behavior.
Can’t put your finger on which one? Therapists at Ganeshaspeaks can help you identify these behaviours.
How to respond to Gaslighting Behavior
If you realise that you have been a victim of gaslighting behavior, there are some things you can do to protect yourself, and improve your mental health.
Gain some (psychological) distance.
It can be useful to gain some distance from the intense feelings generally evoked by gaslighting. Physically leaving the situation is helpful, but additional techniques like deep breathing may also help you emotional regulate yourself.
Boundaries are used to communicate to others what you need from them. Assertively telling the gaslighter that you deserve to be treated with respect is an excellent first step. Make it clear that you will not allow denial, trivialising or countering when you are talking about your concerns.
Since gaslighting can make one question what is real, start gathering evidence like text messages, emails, or record your memories in a journal. This record will help you remind yourself what is real and that you should not doubt yourself.
Get an Outside Perspective
Talk to someone else about the gaslighting. An outside perspective can make this situation clearer to you, as well as help you feel like you are not alone. Experiencing gaslighting can be an incredibly isolating experience, and this is a good way to feel better.
Talk to a Mental Health Professional
Talking to a mental health professional can be beneficial if you think you are a victim of gaslighting. They can help you gain perspective, learn more about gaslighting, manage it through different coping methods, and deal with the behavior in a way that is healthy for you.
Our therapists at Ganeshaspeaks are trained to address relationship distress. Seek help and help yourself.