Examples of Gaslighting

Friends, Family, Significant Others, and More

Have you ever questioned your own sanity after an interaction with someone? Maybe you confided in a friend about a situation only to have them deny it ever happened. Or perhaps a family member insists you’re “overreacting” to a clear issue. These experiences could be signs of gaslighting, a manipulative tactic that slowly makes you question your sense of reality. Here, we’ll explore real-life examples of gaslighting across various settings—from romantic relationships to the workplace—and help you identify this behavior and protect your mental well-being.

What is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse that gradually warps your perception of reality. It’s not a dramatic outburst, but a calculated erosion of your trust. A gaslighter might deny events that clearly happened, dismiss your feelings, or twist narratives to their advantage. Over time, this relentless manipulation leaves you questioning your own sanity and memory.

Signs of Gaslighting

Identifying the signs of gaslighting is one of the only ways to truly protect yourself from the gaslighter’s manipulation tactics. Due to the slow and methodical nature of this type of deception, you will need to stay alert and do regular check-ins on your relationships to ensure that this behavior is not occurring. Here are some common signs of gaslighting to look out for:

Denial of Events:

A gaslighter might blatantly deny saying or doing something hurtful, even when presented with evidence. They might say, “You’re imagining things,” or “That never happened.” This constant denial leaves you bewildered and questioning your own memory and perception of events.

Minimizing Your Feelings:

The gaslighter dismisses or minimizes your feelings. They might say, “You’re being too sensitive,” or “It’s not that big of a deal.” This constant invalidation chips away at your emotional confidence. Over time, you begin to believe your feelings are invalid.

Shifting Blame and Changing the Subject:

When confronted with their gaslighting tactics, the gaslighter might introduce a new topic, shift blame, or even stage a dramatic event to divert attention away from the issue at hand. This leaves you feeling confused and disoriented and makes you lose sight of the original concern.

Twisting the Narrative:

The gaslighter rewrites history to suit their agenda. They might paint you as the villain and manipulate events to make their actions seem justified. This leaves you feeling like the one responsible for causing problems in the relationship.

Information Control:

The gaslighter may withhold information, lie, or contradict themselves to keep you off balance. They might control access to money, communication devices, or even social circles. This creates an atmosphere of fear and dependence, making it difficult for you to trust your judgment or seek outside support.

Examples of Gaslighting

Gaslighting is not just reserved for intimate relationships. It can show itself in nearly any personal relationship which is why it is essential to stay vigilant to the signs. The following are some basic examples of gaslighting in different scenarios and relationships:

Friends: A friend insists a conversation you both remember vividly “never happened” or downplays your feelings by calling you “overly sensitive.”

Example: You and a friend go out to eat one night and the friend asks you to pick up their bill, promising to pay you back in the future. A week later you remind them, hoping to be repaid, but when you bring it up they claim “I never said that,” or “I already paid you back.”

Family: A parent denies ever saying something hurtful, leaving you questioning your own memory.

Example: Julie’s father decides to motivate her by promising to take a trip to a local amusement park if she gets above a “B” on her next test. Weeks later, Julie gets the test back and earns a “C”, and brings it home to her father’s attention. Since Julie did not meet her father’s criteria, he lashes out and calls her stupid. Julie, understandably upset, tells her mother what her father has said. When confronted, Julie’s father claims “I never said that.”

Significant Others: A partner dismisses your concerns as “insecurities” or twists situations to make you seem like the unreasonable one.

Example: You and your partner are evaluating your relationship and you vulnerably tell them that their social media habits are concerning and that they constantly engage with others in an inappropriate way. Feeling called out, your partner claims that the real problem is not their actions on social media, but it is instead your fault for feeling jealous to begin with.

At Work: A colleague takes credit for your ideas or subtly undermines your contributions, making you doubt your abilities.

Example: You spend months working on a solution to reach new customers for your company. During an internal meeting, you share your idea with your boss and co-workers and everyone acknowledges what a great idea it is. The next week at a board of directors meeting, your boss takes blatant credit for your idea and the shareholders decide to promote him or her instead of you.

How to Handle Gaslighting After It Happens

If you recognize repeated gaslighting behaviors from someone in your life, you have two main options: address them directly or remove them from your life. This decision can be difficult, but remember that it is necessary. To navigate it, surround yourself with a supportive network of loved ones. Talk to them for help and guidance.

The previously mentioned examples of gaslighting can take a major toll on a person’s mental health. Healthy responses to this kind of behavior are available and should be utilized for protection, healing, and moving on. Addressing or confronting the gaslighter is the most effective way to put an end to the manipulation, but should only be utilized if the person being confronted is going to be receptive to it. If the person you are addressing has violent tendencies, is emotionally unstable, or refuses to change, it is not worth addressing them. In which case, walking away from the relationship is the best solution. Depending on the type of relationship where gaslighting is occurring, this can be a very difficult step. Remember that your mental health is the ultimate priority and that concessions should not be made to compromise it. When in doubt, lean on your trusted support system or a licensed therapist or mental health counselor to help guide you through the process.

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