Gaslighting is a type of manipulation where someone gives fake or incorrect information to make them doubt their memory, perception, and mental capacity or sanity.
Perpetrators of gaslighting can also use it as a tactic to control or exploit another person.
The term “gaslighting” originates from a film adaptation of Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 play Gas Light.
Here, an abusive husband attempts to convince his wife that she has gone mad by dimming lights (powered by gas) in their home while insisting that she imagined it.
Gaslighting can have long-lasting and damaging effects on its victims; they may feel confused and disoriented due to continuous questioning of reality, causing insecurity and low self-esteem.
We’ll look at the common signs of gaslighting in relationships, which should help raise awareness that someone might be trying to deceive or manipulate you.
#1. “Stop being so sensitive.”
If someone has ever told you to “stop being so sensitive” in response to your feelings, you might be familiar with how belittling and invalidating it can feel.
Unfortunately, this seemingly harmless statement could ally be a form of gaslighting – the subtle yet manipulative technique of making someone doubt their feelings and experiences.
#2. “You’re too emotional.”
Telling someone “you’re too emotional” is a form of gaslighting because it implies that their feelings are invalid and not worth listening to.
The phrase can create a sense of self-doubt in the person, making them question their thoughts and emotions and their understanding of reality.
Additionally, it can make them feel small and powerless, creating an imbalance of power in the relationship.
By implying that someone is being “too emotional,” it creates an environment where they feel they have no say in the matter or control over their own life and decisions.
#3. “If you were paying attention then…”
Telling someone “If you were paying attention then…” is a type of gaslighting, similar to emotional abuse used to manipulate, control and otherwise harm another person.
It is a way of invalidating a person’s experiences and reality by implying that they are not able to comprehend the situation correctly.
This type of statement implies that the person should have noticed something that was not obvious, or suggests that they lack insight and understanding. In essence, it is blaming the victim for the abuser’s behavior.
#4. “If you only knew how to listen.”
Telling someone, “If you only knew how to listen,” is a type of gaslighting because it implies that the person being spoken to isn’t capable of listening.
This statement can be incredibly hurtful and damaging as it suggests that the listener isn’t competent enough to pay attention and understand what is being said.
Furthermore, it may also imply that they are not worthy of being heard or respected in the conversation. It is extremely demeaning and can lead to feelings of shame and inadequacy.
This form of gaslighting puts all the power in the hands of the speaker, who is essentially invalidating their audience’s ability to process information which further promotes an atmosphere of mistrust and doubt in the other individual.
#5. “Can you hear yourself?”
The phrase “Can you hear yourself?” is a type of gaslighting because it implies that the victim’s thoughts, feelings, and perceptions are invalid or incorrect.
This can occur through subtle tactics such as belittling comments, tone of voice, body language, or facial expressions which convey disbelief or a lack of caring.
#6. “Don’t you think you’re overreacting?”
The phrase “Don’t you think you’re overreacting?” is an example of gaslighting and is a manipulative tactic that seeks to make victims question their reality.
It invalidates and discredits an individual’s emotions, making them feel as if they are being unreasonable or irrational.
This phrase can be employed where the person in the wrong attempts to evade blame or responsibility, suggesting that the victim is making too much of what has happened.
The phrase implies something wrong with the emotions the victim expresses and denies the legitimacy of their experience by suggesting that they are exaggerating or being overly sensitive.
Challenging the legitimacy of someone’s feelings and experiences in such a manner serves to invalidate how they feel and makes them question themselves rather than hold those responsible accountable for their actions.
#7. “We talked about this. Don’t you remember?”
The phrase, “We talked about this. Don’t you remember?” is a type of gaslighting, which is an insidious and manipulative form of psychological abuse.
Suggesting that something was discussed previously that may not have occurred, or questioning the validity of the victim’s recollection, can make them feel confused and uncertain about their understanding of things.
It can also make them feel like they are going crazy or imagining things.
This form of gaslighting reinforces power dynamics in an unhealthy relationship, giving those in control even more power over their victims.
The manipulator can trick the victim into believing something isn’t true or convince them that their memory is wrong; making them question what happened or what is real undermines their self-esteem and confidence in their interpretations of reality.
By repeating phrases like “We talked about this. Don’t you remember?”, abusers are attempting to undermine a person’s autonomy and cause them distress to gain control over them. The victim should never tolerate this kind of behavior.
#8. “You’re reading too much into this.”
“You’re reading too much into this” serves as an example of gaslighting because it implies that the victim is exaggerating or over-analyzing a situation when, in fact, they are simply trying to express their true feelings and experiences.
The phrase demonstrates how gaslighting can manipulate the victim into feeling guilty for having any negative emotion – even if such emotions are justified – while allowing the abuser to evade responsibility for their actions.
It allows them to dismiss any criticism they may receive without engaging with it.
It can be extremely damaging for those on the receiving end as it reinforces their feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.
#9. “I know what you’re thinking.”
When someone says “I know what you’re thinking,” they imply that they can read the other person’s mind, which can be an intimidating experience for the victim.
The gaslighter is attempting to create confusion in the mind of the other by making them question themselves and their judgement.
It’s manipulation because it makes the target feel vulnerable or powerless and gives them the impression that their thoughts and opinions do not matter or could be wrong.
The phrase “I know what you’re thinking” is an example of this type of psychological manipulation because it implies that one person has power over another–power to manipulate another’s thoughts or to control them in some way.
It can be incredibly damaging for the recipient as it creates an atmosphere of distrust between two people and forces them into a power dynamic where one must obey the other for things to go smoothly.
#10. “I guess I’ll have to repeat myself again since you always forget.”
“I guess I’ll have to repeat myself again since you always forget” is an example of gaslighting because it suggests that the victim has some defect or flaw.
It implies that they are forgetful, indicating that they are not capable or reliable enough to remember things.
The statement also implies a sense of superiority on behalf of the abuser; they think they need to repeat themselves because they assume that the other person will not be able to remember what was said previously.
Gaslighting often takes a long-term form as part of an attempt by one person to gain power over another.
Suggesting that someone is unreliable or defective can be used as a way for abusers to control their victims by making them feel constantly pressured and unable to trust their judgment.
When victims begin to doubt themselves and second-guess everything they do due to these repeated messages from the abuser, it becomes easier for the abuser to dominate and manipulate them for their gain.
#11. “You did this to yourself.”
The phrase, “You did this to yourself,” is a form of gaslighting, seeks to sow seeds of doubt in the victim’s mind.
Gaslighting affects not only how someone perceives themselves but also how they perceive other people around them.
It can lead victims to mistrust their thoughts and feelings and become more dependent on those of the abuser, who can then control them according to their agenda.
This phrase can undermine a victim’s self-confidence and create confusion so the abuser can have more power over them.
Those on the receiving end may find it challenging to recognize what is happening or understand why they feel so low; however, they must know that they are not at fault for anything that may be occurring in such an abusive situation.
It is essential for all victims of gaslighting to remember that no matter what anyone tells them or how confused they may feel, it was never their fault in the first place.
#12. “Learn to communicate better.”
Using the phrase “Learn to communicate better” as an example of gaslighting can be seen in complicated interpersonal relationships or workplace scenarios.
In these situations, one person may imply that the other person has a communication problem without taking responsibility for the conflict.
For example, when one partner in a relationship expresses hurt or anger at something said by the other half, the other might reply with “learn to communicate better” instead of having an honest conversation about why they feel that way.
This type of statement implies that the person expressing feelings is wrong and should take responsibility for “fixing” their communication skills while ignoring their underlying feelings entirely.
This behavior reinforces bad ideas, such as being told you are somehow inherently wrong and responsible for fixing things that go wrong in your life, even if it wasn’t your fault.
Furthermore, this response often invalidates how we feel and leaves us questioning reality while simultaneously making us feel like we are not being heard or taken seriously.
#13. “You’re being irrational.”
The phrase “You’re being irrational” is a form of gaslighting, a tactic used to control someone by making them question their reality, behavior, and emotions.
This manipulation works by making the target doubt themselves and their perception of events, thus creating confusion and a feeling of insecurity.
The phrase “You’re being irrational” is one way gaslighters can invalidate the target’s emotions and thought processes to gain control over them.
They are attempting to make the target feel insecure in their beliefs and decisions by suggesting that their feelings or ideas are illogical or unreasonable.
Gaslighting can be particularly damaging as it erodes the target’s sense of self-confidence and self-esteem, leading them to second-guess themselves each time they decide or express an opinion.
This can lead to powerlessness and helplessness, further fueling the abuser’s power over the victim. While difficult to detect due to its subtle nature, this manipulation is highly damaging and should not be taken lightly.
#14. “You’re being paranoid.”
This statement, “You’re being paranoid.” implies that the victim is delusional and wrong about what they are experiencing, making them doubt their perceptions and reality altogether.
This minimizes the victim’s feelings and experiences while allowing the abuser to control them by manipulating their emotions with this false narrative.
The phrase should therefore be taken seriously, as it could indicate you’re dealing with an abuser trying to control you through manipulation techniques like gaslighting.
People in these situations need to reach out for help from professionals to safely navigate out of such emotionally destructive cycles.
#15. “You can’t take a joke.”
When someone says, “You can’t take a joke,” it implies that the person who is not laughing at the joke must be too sensitive or taking something too seriously — meaning something is wrong with them.
This type of manipulation invalidates the feelings and reactions of another person while also shifting blame onto them, so they start to doubt themselves and their judgment.
Gaslighting creates an environment of power and control over the victim, leaving them confused and vulnerable.
The tactic often distracts from the abusive behavior, allowing it to continue unchecked.
It is crucial to recognize gaslighting for what it is — an intentional act that seeks to undermine another person’s sense of safety and self-esteem by making them feel like their reactions are invalidated or unreasonable.
It can have long-term effects on mental health and wellness if left unchecked, especially if it becomes part of an ongoing pattern of abuse.
As such, it’s essential for those experiencing gaslighting to seek support from friends or family members who can provide validation and help them recognize these tactics for what they are.
#16. “You always jump to the wrong conclusion.”
A typical example of gaslighting is, “You always jump to the wrong conclusion.” The statement implies that the victim is always wrong or has made incorrect assumptions.
This invalidating approach undermines the victim’s capacity for critical thinking, decision-making, and self-advocacy, which makes them more vulnerable to further manipulation.
It also suggests that their leadership capabilities are questionable or nonexistent, thus causing them to feel powerless and disempowered.
Additionally, this can lead to shame or embarrassment when they make decisions they believe are correct but later realize they were wrong due to being manipulated by the gaslighter.
#18. “I criticize you because I like you.”
The phrase “I criticize you because I like you” is often used as an example of gaslighting.
The phrase seeks to undermine the victim’s sense of reality, making them question their judgment and perception.
Here, the manipulator implies that criticism is a sign of affection, making it difficult for the target to recognize it for what it is – a form of emotional abuse.
The phrase implies that any criticism others give is invalid since it purportedly only comes from people who don’t care about them.
It can create an environment where the victim feels constantly judged and criticized but cannot trust anyone else’s opinion because they believe only their abuser truly cares about them.
The phrase further reinforces the idea that any criticism directed at them must be wrong since it doesn’t come from someone who likes them.
#19. “You’re the only person I have these problems with.”
The phrase “You’re the only person I have these problems with” is a classic example of gaslighting and implies that if the problems are solely occurring when interacting with one person, then it must be the fault of that individual rather than the gaslighter’s behavior.
The phrase suggests that no one else has experienced similar issues with themselves can be a powerful tool for discrediting someone’s feelings and making them believe that there must be a problem with them instead of their abuser.
It’s a very effective way for abusers to convince their victims that no one else could possibly have any issue with them and thus make them doubt themselves and continue enduring the abuse.
#20. “I’m not arguing; I’m discussing.”
One common type of gaslighting is when someone denies that an argument is even taking place, instead insisting that it’s simply a “discussion” or debate.
This phrase — “I’m not arguing; I’m discussing”—is one example of this type of gaslighting.
By denying any conflict, the person attempting to manipulate can make their victim feel like they’re overreacting or irrational for feeling upset or disagreeing with them.
In addition, since no actual argument has taken place, it makes it difficult for the victim to articulate why they feel so uncomfortable or defensive.
As such, this type of gaslighting often leaves its victims powerless and confused about what happened.
#21. “Stop taking everything I say so seriously.”
The phrase, “Stop taking everything I say so seriously,” can be a form of gaslighting because it is an attempt to delegitimize the feelings or thoughts of another person.
It can often serve as a defense mechanism for someone who does not want to take responsibility for their words or actions and wishes instead to blame the other person for “overreacting” or “being too sensitive” to specific topics.
The abuser may be attempting to discredit the victim’s opinion, emotions, or experiences by telling them they are wrong for feeling or believing what they believe.
Gaslighters will use the phrase to assert power over someone else, making them feel powerless and unable to express themselves adequately without being discounted or disregarded.
Ultimately, it is highly destructive when used deliberately to control another person’s thoughts and feelings in an unhealthy way.
#22. “I should have known this was not a good time to talk.”
The phrase, “You should have known this was not a good time to talk,” implies that the victim should have had the power to know what somebody else was thinking and feeling – something which is impossible for any person to do.
Like other phrases, it enables perpetrators to actively try and make victims doubt themselves and their own judgment – denying them agency over their own lives.
#23. “Why are you upset? It was just a joke!”
The phrase, “Why are you upset? I was just a joke!” is a classic example of gaslighting.
In this case, the abuser attempts to invalidate the victim’s feelings by implying they are wrong for feeling hurt or angry about what was said.
By responding with “I was just joking,” the perpetrator tries to shift blame onto the victim instead of recognizing their behavior as inappropriate or hurtful.
This type of response can be deeply damaging because it erodes trust and reinforces a false sense of power and control over the victim.
Often, gaslighting can lead the victim to experience feelings of confusion, anxiety, depression, guilt, shame, and low self-esteem, in essence, driving them further away from having any feelings of autonomy within themselves and their relationships with others.
Additionally, victims may become more dependent on their abuser to receive validation and recognition for who they are as individuals.
This places them in a vulnerable position that can be difficult to escape without help from outside sources such as friends or professionals.
#24. “All I did was just try to help you.”
The phrase “All I did was just try to help you” is another excellent example of gaslighting.
By saying this, the abuser insinuates that any good done was only done out of altruism and suggested that questioning their motives is entirely unfounded.
In addition, it implies that criticism or disagreement with their behavior is wrong and should be disregarded.
Gaslighting can happen in various contexts, such as intimate relationships, family dynamics, or work environments; however, it tends to remain hidden due to its subtlety.
People in these scenarios need to recognize when they are being manipulated to protect themselves from further psychological harm.
Furthermore, if someone notices this behavior in another person’s relationship or environment, they must express their concern so that proper intervention can occur.
#25. “What does that say about you?”
The phrase “What does that say about you?” is particularly insidious because it implies the victim themselves are responsible for whatever situation they may find themselves in, that they are somehow deficient or wrong because of their actions.
This subtle attempt to shift blame onto the victim can create feelings of guilt, confusion, and an overall sense of helplessness.
Gaslighting usually occurs within intimate relationships and can be challenging to spot due to its subtlety.
It can manifest in many ways, such as minimizing a person’s experiences, denying statements or claims made by the victim, accusing them of being overly sensitive or exaggerating problems, questioning their memory or perceptions, making them doubt their sanity, etc.
While some individuals may use this phrase innocently enough when trying to understand another person’s behavior, it can be highly damaging when used regularly and coercively.
Therefore, those in abusive relationships must recognize this type of gaslighting behavior, so they can respond appropriately and break free from such manipulation.
#26. “That’s not what happened.”
“That’s not what happened” is a form of gaslighting, implying that the victim has got their facts wrong or misremembered an event.
This puts the victim in a difficult position where they must defend themselves against something that may not even exist to protect their sanity.
Repeated use of this type of phrase could eventually lead to the victim becoming more dependent on their perpetrator, which allows them to exert greater control over the situation.
While gaslighting can happen anywhere between two people in any kind of relationship, it can be especially prevalent when there is an imbalance of power, such as in work environments, abusive relationships between adults and children, or adults with disabilities.
It can also occur during social interactions with friends when one person tries to convince another that they are wrong even though they know better.
In all cases, “that’s not what happened” serves as an example by purposely creating confusion around events or conversations, leading victims to defend themselves from something that may not even exist.
#27. “You’re crazy.”
When someone uses gaslighting tactics such as “You’re crazy,” it creates an environment where a person does not feel heard or believed, making them doubt themselves more and more over time.
It is essential to recognize when someone is using gaslighting tactics so that you can protect yourself from psychological manipulation and begin to restore trust in yourself.
Suppose you think someone may be trying to gaslight you. In that case, it’s important to reach out for support from friends, family members, or professionals who can help validate your feelings and experiences without judgment.
#28. “If you care about me you would…”
The phrase “If you care about me, you would..” is another example of a form of gaslighting.
By relying on this phrase, the manipulator implies that the victim should accept whatever demand or request they make, even if it does not align with what the victim actually wants.
The phrase seeks to manipulate emotions in order to gain power over an individual by convincing them that whatever demand or request is made must be accepted in order for someone else to prove that they care for them.
#29. “This is why you don’t have friends.”
The phrase “This is why you don’t have friends” is an example of gaslighting that serves to give power to the abuser by making them appear knowledgeable and authoritative when it comes to what does and does not constitute successful interpersonal relationships.
The abuser may then use this control over the victim’s emotions and behavior to gain more influence or further manipulate them.
In addition, by suggesting that any lack of friendships is due entirely to the victim’s shortcomings, this type of gaslighting ignores systemic issues such as sexism, racism, ableism, classism, and other forms of discrimination which can create barriers for people trying to make connections with others.
The phrase isis deeply harmful as it disregards both individual experiences and structural disadvantages while reinforcing oppressive systems that keep people isolated.
#30. “You made me do it.”
“You made me do it” is meant to psychologically manipulate the victim into believing that they are responsible for something done by the perpetrator.
Using this tactic, the perpetrator seeks to shift blame onto the victim and make them believe they had some influence or control over what happened.
The phrase not only undermines the victim’s sense of autonomy but also serves to further erode their self-confidence and self-esteem.
It is particularly potent in its ability to foster guilt and shame in victims while simultaneously absolving perpetrators from taking responsibility for their actions.
As such, it can completely undermine someone’s sense of themselves, causing them to question their own decisions and ultimately become more dependent on the person perpetuating this type of abuse.
By understanding how phrases like “you made me do it” can be used as a form of gaslighting, individuals are better equipped to recognize when it might be happening in their own lives so that they can protect themselves from furthering harm inflicted by perpetrators.
This article was produced by Mama Say What?! and and syndicated by Career Step Up.
Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Diego Cervo.