What is Gaslighting and What are the Signs 

Gaslighting or to be gaslit has become popular terminology in recent years. In 2018 it was among the runners up for Oxford dictionaries word of the year (the winner ultimately being ‘toxic’). 

It is a topic that has growing popularity on platforms like TikTok, where people often turn to exchange stories of when they have been gaslit, or suspect they are currently being such. The platform is a place many today turn to as a way to cope, and learn from others about how to move on and heal during difficult periods. 

Coining the term

Do you know where the turn gaslighting comes from? 

It was first coined in 1938 from the play (adapted to film in 1944) Gaslight. It is a referral to gas lighting that used to be within homes. The idea being that if you turn the gas down low enough it will cause the flame to flicker ever so slightly. When the wife in the film (or anyone really) asks if the lights are indeed flickering they are made to believe there is no reason for them to think such a thing. They are made to feel crazy, even though they are correct. 

Gaslighting today

Today the term is used far less literally. Referring to psychological manipulation intended to lead the gaslight-ee to question their own sanity and reality. 

Does this sound familiar? 

Gaslighting is a tool used within all different relationships by one or more parties to convince the victim they are “the problem”, “crazy”, “unreasonable”, “mistaken”, “undeservising”, etc. 

Gaslighting can be found within parent-child or romantic relationships, working relationships such as between coworkers, or between employer-employee. It can be found in friendships or between siblings. It can be argued that within any relationship there is the chance and opportunity for one of the parties to manipulate and gaslight the opposite party. 

People are often blindsided by the realization that they are being gaslit in the first place. Slowly a person is picked at and they slowly turn into a shell of who they once were as their counterpart – the one doing the gaslighting – has picked away at them over many weeks, years, even decades. 

Some people will one day realize they are just that – a shell. They will realize what this other person is telling them is not true and they will move on from the relationship stronger. 

Others will need it pointed out to them. This may be by a parent or friend, a sibling, a partner, a therapist or others. Those involved will likely not want to listen. This is not their fault and they should not be treated as if it is. The gaslit party has been broken down to believe that everything these good hearted people are saying are out right lies. 

It can take time to support them in seeing they are in fact not at fault.

What are the signs you are being gaslit? 

It can be helpful to learn the signs of being gaslit for future use for yourself or those you care about. 

  1. The other party lies often 
  2. The other party denies often
  3. You find you don’t know who you are anymore
  4. You are confused often
  5. They are projecting onto you 
  6. It is everyone else’s fault never their own 

* This list has been adapted in part from Grampian Women’s Aid for more information you can follow this link.

How to help/How to break free

Be it for yourself or for someone you love, learning and undoing the harm that comes with being gaslit for any amount of time can be challenging. 

You may find yourself reverting back to old habits even after cutting ties from the toxic party. Maybe you find yourself having negative self-talk long after the gaslighting has ended. You may find they apologize often and are constantly working to please you even when they have no reason to need to try so hard to gain your affection. 

Trauma is a tricky and taxing thing to overcome. It can also be hard to watch those you care about go through the pain and work to undo the self doubt that has been inflicted onto them. 

This is often a tool used in cases of abuse (domestic or otherwise) it can take years to undo and will likely not come easily. It is vital you have patience in all regards, with yourself, or with your loved one(s). If you or someone you know may be in an abusive situation you can reach out to helplines local to you or find resources here for Canada-wide support. 

Other support

If you need support after a toxic relationship, or perhaps you need support in order to end or mend a relationship. You can reach out to one of our team members. 

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