There are many phrases that you may hear over and over that have led to you distrusting yourself, such as:
“You’re too sensitive.”
“You never remember things correctly.”
“How would you know? Your memory is awful.”
“You’re always making something out of nothing.”
“You weren’t right about this last time.”
“You can’t even remember [where you put your keys/where you parked the car/what you had for breakfast]. Why should I trust your memory of this?”
“You don’t even know what abuse is.” (Or “You have never seen real abuse.”)
If people in your life are using phrases like these ones to convince you that you’re wrong about what you remember and how you feel, you may be experiencing gaslighting.
3. When You Call Someone Out on Hurtful or Abusive Behavior, Are They Quick to Dismiss Both You and the Situation?
Another way of belittling someone’s experiences and memories is to outright dismiss claims of hurt or abuse.
This includes diverting the conversation, ignoring what you’re saying, and refusing to engage in a conversation about things that have hurt you.
Some red flag phrases for this dismissive behavior are:
“Why do you always have to bring this up?”
“I’m not dealing with this nonsense right now.”
“I [worked all day/am tired/have more important things to deal with] and don’t have time for this shit.”
“You’re ruining my night.”
“Shut up. Nothing happened.”
In fact, words aren’t the only way to dismiss someone. Scoffing, eye rolling, smirking, laughing, and removing themselves from the room and the conversation are other ways that people can show disregard for your feelings and needs.
4. When You Try and Bring Up Hurtful or Abusive Behavior, Do They Immediately Turn It Around and Play the Victim?
Another way to manipulate someone into thinking that they’re not experiencing harm or abuse is to constantly turn the conversation towards the abuser, making it seem like you are doing harm by even bringing up what’s hurting you.
If someone in your life cannot (or will not) let you speak to your experiences, and instead insists on turning it into a conversation about themselves, the conversation is not a healthy one.
Some red flag phrases for this tactic are:
“You always make me out to be the bad guy.”
“Constantly bringing stuff like this up makes me feel bad/is hurtful to me.”
“I’m actually the one hurting.”
“You don’t know what abuse is. Saying that I’m abusive is hurtful to me.”
“Pretending I’m hurtful/abusive makes you the bully.”
If these phrases are a constant in your life, if you feel like you’ve been conditioned into mistrusting your own memories and experiences, you have most likely been the victim of gaslighting.
So, What Can I Do?
Now that you understand what gaslighting is and maybe identify with it, it’s time to think about how you can work through and change the situation.
1. Recognize It
The most important, and sometimes hardest, part of dealing with gaslighting is realizing that it’s happening.
If you start to think that you’re experiencing this, go over the warning signs. Make sure you know what the red flags are. And when you’re put into situations where your experiences are dismissed or belittled, start looking for these warning signs.