Those who gaslight others use their words as a form of control.
If you’ve ever dealt with a gaslighter, you may have picked up on a few key gaslighting phrases that they’ve used during disagreements or arguments in order to sway the situation in their favor.
They may get annoyed that you can’t “take a joke” when they deliberately say something that hurts your feelings. This can leave you confused and make you second guess yourself and your feelings.
Relationships are not a steady climb to the top, each one has its ups and downs, like a rollercoaster ride. Nor are relationships easy, simple, or absolute. But dealing with gaslighting within one can make those ups and downs seem more like a steep drop that never ends or a rollercoaster ride that you don’t remember how you got on in the first place.
Amusement park analogies aside, gaslighting can make a relationship extremely hard.
In addition, it can turn a healthy relationship into a toxic one, so it’s important to be able to pick up on this bad behavior and know how to deal with it quickly and efficiently.
But how do we do that? First, let’s look at what exactly gaslighting is.
What is gaslighting?
Gaslighting is an emotional abuse tactic.
A gaslighter will attempt to manipulate facts, deflect responsibility, and cause self-doubt in the person they are gaslighting. They want to feel power over the other person, and they accomplish this by making them question their own reality.
The term gaslighting comes from the 1938 play Gas Light and was later adapted into a movie.
The 1944 movie Gaslight depicts a relationship in which the husband continuously manipulates his wife until she questions her sanity.
Although gaslighting can be used by one or both parties of a relationship, it’s often hard to tell when it is happening to you. Emotional abuse is hard to realize at first, so those who become aware that they are being gaslighted by their significant other often have been victims of this behavior for a while.
Gaslighting signs and techniques
Some gaslighting techniques include:
- acting as if they don’t understand the other person’s feelings
- turning the situation on the other person rather than admitting fault
- playing dumb or pretending they don’t remember a situation or conversation to confuse the other person and lead them to feel doubtful
- stating that the victim’s needs, thoughts, or feelings aren’t important or as important as their own
- preventing the other person from talking about what bothers them by refusing to answer or finish the conversation
- changing the subject so the other person cannot fully express their feelings or thoughts
How to know if you’re a victim of gaslighting
Gaslighters use techniques that make their gaslighting victims question their sense of reality.
While you may be sure that your gaslighter said this or that in an earlier conversation, they may ask you what you are talking about when you bring it up again. Enough of this behavior will grow the seeds of self-doubt within you, which is exactly what they want.
Gaslighters want someone else to have control of, to manipulate, and essentially, abuse.
Victims of gaslighting are often exhausted after it has gone on for an extended amount of time.
There is only so much tolerance one can provide when they are constantly met with bad attitudes, criticism, and even rage from a gaslighter. After a while, a victim of gaslighting may give up and just deal with the treatment from the other person.
Gaslighting is common within relationships, but it can also be a part of work-life, as well.
For example, if your boss tells you that you can take off early if you get your work done, and then you come to him with your finished reports, and he says, “You know I was just kidding, right? There’s no way you can leave now, you knew that!”
This is absolutely a form of gaslighting, even if it may not seem like it when you’re in the situation.
Additionally, if your interactions with some of the people in your life lead you to question your point of view, it’s time to take a closer look at them.
Are you constantly apologizing for expressing your feelings or the “way” you’re acting? Do you make excuses for their bad behavior? Do you find yourself bending to their will to make them happy? Do you constantly feel guilty?
Sometimes gaslighters will also use the silent treatment as a form of punishment for their victims.
They will wait for you to bring up something that arises into an argument, then go silent instead of talking it through and figuring it out. This silence may last until you apologize for your behavior, when, in reality, you are not the one overreacting.
This is all within the gaslighter’s techniques: to make their victims feel miserable and helpless and like everything is their fault.
Phrases gaslighters use
It’s important to recognize the occurrence of gaslighting as soon as possible.
If you are unable to fix your relationship with a gaslighter, it’s best to figure it out early so you can decide how to cut off contact with them quickly and efficiently.
Gaslighters often use their words as a weapon against the person they are attempting to manipulate.
If you’re unsure if you’re a potential victim of this behavior, here are some common gaslighting phrases to be aware of:
“I never said that”
One of the easiest ways for a gaslighter to leave their victim feeling confused is to say something never happened or that you’re putting words in their mouth. This phrase alone can lead a person down a slippery slope of feeling crazy or that you may have a mental illness, just as the main character did in the 1944 movie, Gaslight mentioned earlier.
Additionally, a gaslighter could use similar gaslighting phrases, such as:
“You’re remembering it wrong”
This causes doubt in the victim’s mind. Gaslighters will often attempt to create their own narrative that puts them in a better light in the victim’s head.
If you feel like your partner rearranges what happened in a different order or tells the story a different way, they may be trying to manipulate you.
“You’re just misconstruing my intentions”
Again, this is another phrase that attempts to reconstruct what the victim remembers or interprets from their interactions with the gaslighter. If they shift how they come off to others, they are less at fault for any bad feelings or repercussions that may occur after.
“We talked about this. Don’t you remember?”
Asking a question is what makes it hard for the victim to believe their own memory.
When we are given a doubtful statement to ponder, such as the one above, we may start to blur the lines between what happened and what didn’t.
So that the other person can’t truly make sense of what occurred, a gaslighter may attempt to make them recall specific details of a conversation. When they are wrong, the gaslighter can use other gaslighting phrases to convince them further, such as, “You never listen,” or “Your memory sucks.”
This way, they can make them believe facts they originally didn’t know or remember.
Other gaslighting phrases include:
“You’re being irrational”
This phrase will often lead to rethinking a previous memory in a way that favors the gaslighter and leaves you the villain for the way you acted or reacted.
“Don’t take everything so seriously”
This is along the same lines of the phrase we mentioned earlier, “I’m just joking.”
If something bothers you, you should be allowed to speak up about it and discuss it with your partner, regardless of the context of how they meant it or how intensely you feel because of it.
Being told to “take a joke” or that things aren’t a big deal is only a way to deflect their actions onto you.
“You’re too sensitive”
Dealing with a gaslighter can make us emotional.
Crying or getting upset is something they will not want to deal with, so they can try to turn the narrative away from themselves by pointing out your emotional flaws that can make you feel worse about yourself as time goes on.
“You are always twisting things”
In reality, they are the ones twisting things. But dealing with a toxic gaslighter can make us feel like the person that needs to change, rather than them.
“Stop being insecure”
This is a common gaslighting phrase because it, again, highlights the victim and their flaws.
If you bring up something to your partner and they tell you that you are insecure, it’s often a way to make us fold in on ourselves and live up to their incredibly high expectations.
“I’m not angry. What are you talking about?”
This may come up after a bout of the silent treatment from your toxic partner. When you know they act differently and ask what’s wrong, they may come back with this response.
Gaslighters can use this tactic to make you continually confused about their actions. Sometimes, so much so that you realize you don’t know what they’re feeling in any situation at all. Therefore, you walk around them on eggshells.
This gives them that dominating sense of power that they seek.
“You’re just being jealous”
Gaslighters are also known to be narcissists.
Therefore, they love the power and being the center of attention that gaslighting gives them. They may try to convince you that you’re being jealous for validation when you’re really just expressing your concern over something.
“You need help”
Again, this tactic can make the victim doubt themselves and, in this case, their mental stability.
Although some (or most) of that feeling may be coming from dealing with their abuser, the victim may start to question their sanity or mental health instead of validating their feelings to the gaslighter. This shifts blame once again.
“If you were listening…”
Pointing out flaws is a common gaslighting tactic. The abusive person in the relationship may use this phrase to make you seem like the reason you’re confused or upset at them is your own fault.
“Your friends are idiots”
Often, our friends and family members are the first to notice our partner’s gaslighting tendencies.
If they have brought it to your attention and consequentially, you have brought it to your partner’s attention, the first thing they will do is discredit the opinions of others, just as they discredit yours.
What’s incredibly important to note here is that losing your support systems and the people that care about you is also a gaslighting technique. By putting others down and convincing you that they are toxic, a gaslighter can isolate you into feeling like you can only rely on, trust, and listen to them.
Make sure that you consider the opinions of your friends and family, rather than just shooing them away as your gaslighter may suggest. They can be helpful in getting you to understand that your partner has become toxic to your self-awareness.
Once this realization sinks in, though, your relationship with your gaslighter may change drastically. If it starts to go sour, your gaslighter may then say things like:
“If you’re lucky, I’ll forgive you”
This puts the abuser above you in the hierarchy of your relationship. This type of manipulation tactic may leave you feeling as though you need to seek their approval and forgiveness to move past whatever is causing a disagreement between the two of you.
“No one else would ever love you”
For gaslighting to go well, the gaslighter needs you to depend on them and think that they are better than everyone else. Hence the power dynamic that needs to be established early on in your romantic relationships.
This is why they ultimately seek to tear down your sense of self. A person capable of self-love and high awareness will not fall for a gaslighter’s tricks. This is why they attempt personal attacks on your self-esteem and self-worth. The less you think of yourself, the more you will fall for some of the common gaslighting phrases mentioned above.
Often, their narcissistic tendencies make it, so they need you to depend on them. This way, you won’t leave them for their toxic behavior.
“The problem is with you, not me”
Another way to make the victim of gaslighting feel bad about themselves is to pinpoint them as the cause of everything that is wrong.
When dealing with an abusive partner, you may feel like nothing you do is good enough for them. Sadly, this is what they want you to think because they want you to continue to try to live up to their expectations, only for them to break you down further.
“You’re supposed to love me”
This guilts the victim into feeling as though they have to accept the gaslighter’s negative personality traits and their manipulation tactic.
When dealing with narcissists, they have a tendency to make everyone around them feel bad for not accepting them as “who they are.” Essentially, this is a psychological abuse that leaves the gaslighted person feeling guilty for thinking otherwise.
“You should never…”
Gaslighters use hard phrases such as this one because they want to feel in control of every aspect of the person’s life.
This can include telling the person what to wear, how to feel, what to say, who to hang out with, what to do, etc.
This is a harmful cycle of dominance that can lead the victim of gaslighting to become less capable of making decisions without the gaslighter’s input. Therefore, depending on them more as time goes on and making their guidance absolute.
Finally, a gaslighter may use the ultimate gaslighting phrase:
“You’re gaslighting me!”
As with most gaslighting phrases mentioned above, this one attempts to point the finger back at the victim. A gaslighter will never admit that they are wrong, so when confronted about their behavior, they will try deflecting the situation back at the other person.
How to deal with a gaslighter
Trying to convince a gaslighter of your side of the story will only lead them to attempt to tamper with your sense of self and memory. Because they need to control you, they will use the manipulation tactics and phrases above to break down your reality and make you feel confused and to blame.
The best way to deal with a gaslighter in your life is to cut them out.
Now, this can be incredibly difficult in an extended relationship or when you are highly attached to this person and their company. When you leave, they may attempt to lure you back in with high promises or gifts or even talk of a better, more positive future between the two of you.
However, sticking with them can do major harm to your mental health, and it’s better to think long-term rather than how you would feel right now if you were to leave them.
Often, their narcissistic tendencies will not allow them to take their victim walking away lightly. They may attempt to argue or tell you that you’re leaving because you never loved them in the first place. But it’s important to remember what’s best for you.
Do you want to continue feeling miserable, confused, and like you can’t do anything right, no matter how you attempt to tackle your problems or concerns with your partner?
This is all a gaslighter will have to offer you if you continue to stay.
If the gaslighting ever escalates to violence, reach out to someone immediately for help or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) or text “START” to 88788
If you’re only comfortable with a friend or family member, try to figure out a plan to get yourself safely away from your gaslighting abusers and into a better state, mentally and physically.
Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse and manipulation, and it often happens within relationships.
It’s a way for someone to have control over their partner. It can lead to break down of the other person’s self-esteem, self-worth, and even their memory and general emotional state. Gaslighting can lead to other mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety and make the person believe they will never overcome anything without their gaslighter’s help.
Often, gaslighting goes on for a long time before it is recognized as a form of abuse by the victim since the gaslighter has convinced them they are the reason for the relationship’s mishaps.
A gaslighter will often use common gaslighting phrases such as “It’s just a joke,” “You’re being sensitive,” or even “You just don’t remember correctly” because “You don’t listen.” They will also deflect responsibility and make you feel like everything negative that happens is somehow all your fault.
The truth is, it isn’t. A relationship is a two-way street, and there are some things that both parties can work out together, rather than one person taking all of the blame themselves.
If your partner tries to convince you that they never said something when you know they did, or if they undermine your true feelings by telling you that you are too sensitive, they could be gaslighting you.
Gaslighting is hard to recognize sometimes, but once you do, you can work on distancing yourself from that person and their abuse to improve your self-worth and mental health for long-term stability and happiness.
Again, if you believe that the conversation is taking a violent turn, don’t hesitate to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline.