Identifying Gaslighting Tactics And Protecting Yourself From Emotional Abuse

Updated February 3, 2023by ReGain Editorial Team

Emotional abuse is toxic and often manifests in unhealthy relationships. Unfortunately, emotional abuse is not always readily apparent from the outside—or even the inside. Those who experience emotional abuse can often be manipulated to believe that they are the problem rather than the abuser. This type of manipulation is known as “gaslighting,” and it’s dangerous to one’s mental health to be around someone who gaslights, also known as a “gaslighter.” For these reasons, the ability to identify gaslighting tactics is essential for defending yourself from emotional abuse. Read on to learn more about specific gaslighting tactics so you can easily spot this kind of manipulative behavior.

Gaslighting Can Be Hard to Spot - Learn the Signs

A Closer Look At Gaslighting

What is gaslighting? Gaslighting is defined as “an extremely effective form of emotional abuse that causes…[the experiencer] to question their feelings, instincts, and sanity.” When an individual gaslights someone, it is generally intended to exert control and gain power via manipulation. By getting into the experiencer’s heads and making them question reality, perpetrators of gaslighting can proceed with their abusive behavior. Someone unaware of gaslighting and its various tactics is likely to struggle with breaking free from abuse.

If you are facing or witnessing abuse of any kind, theNational Domestic Violence Hotline is available. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or Text “START” to 88788. You can also use theonline chat.

The Dynamics Of Gaslighting

Often, gaslighting occurs progressively. This is another toxic factor that makes the behavior even more difficult for experiencers to recognize and stop. In many scenarios, it can initially come off as genuine misunderstandings or cases of miscommunication. Over time, these supposed “misunderstandings” become more frequent, and the target is eventually led to mistrusting their feelings and gut instincts. In situations that involve gaslighting, it is important to remember that the perpetrator of abuse, or gaslighter, is always at fault.

How To Identify Gaslighting Tactics

As previously stated, it is vital to identify gaslighting tactics. Learning and understanding the methods of gaslighters is imperative to help shield yourself from experiencing this type of abuse.

In many cases, gaslighters count on those experiencing the abuse not to process what is happening. Ignorance of gaslighting tactics is another dynamic that tips the scales to favor the perpetrator.

Dismissal Of Your Personal Feelings

Dismissing your personal feelings is a common tactic of emotional abusers. When someone expresses anger or frustration about certain behaviors, a gaslighter may tell them that they’re overreacting or making a “big deal out of nothing.”

Gaslighting can also occur more subtly when the perpetrator condescends or patronizes the person they are abusing. While the latter may not be as obvious as an outright dismissal of someone’s personal feelings, it can be equally toxic in its own right and quite damaging to one’s mental health.

Changing The Topic When Things Get Uncomfortable

Many gaslighters tend to deflect and change the topic when important topics are being discussed. When individuals are directly confronted about something they did, common moves involve redirecting by asking a question back, one that’s slightly related yet still off-topic.

This tactic of gaslighting is employed for the sake of throwing the experiencer off their game and causing them to lose focus on the matter at hand. This is extremely manipulative behavior on all counts, and the inability to face honesty and truth is a telltale indicator of a gaslighter.

Rewriting History

Individuals who choose to gaslight others tend to rewrite history in their favor. Rewriting history is a form of lying, and it’s done so the individual experiencing gaslighting will begin to question their memory. A gaslighter may suggest that the one they are abusing isn’t remembering what happened or is otherwise mistaken. Of course, whenever a gaslighter chooses to rewrite history, it’s always rewritten in their favor. This feeds into the perpetrator’s compulsion to maintain power and control.

Badmouthing To Friends And Peers

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse, and abuse of all kinds tends to thrive when the targeted person remains isolated and alienated from others who could help them. For this reason, it’s not unusual for a gaslighter to attempt to turn other people against the one they are abusing. They may spread untrue rumors or shed doubt on their experiencer’s sanity, reasoning, or account of events.

Sometimes outsiders can see what’s happening through the charade, but this is unfortunately not always the case. Perpetrators of gaslighting know that the abuse they’re inflicting is likely to carry greater power if the experiencer has nowhere else to turn.

How To Defend Yourself From Emotional Abuse

Knowing various ways to defend yourself from emotional abuse is imperative. This makes a difference because your health and wellness matter. Gaslighters and other forms of emotional abusers don’t care about your feelings or how their mistreatment impacts you.

For these reasons, taking the necessary steps to shield yourself is something that could save you from major heartache and even potentially save your life.

Cut Ties With Them

The ultimate form of defense against emotional abuse is to cut ties with the abuser. Often, emotional abusers engage in this type of behavior because they believe that the person they’re targeting won’t fight back or recognize their behavior for what it is.

As long as abusers think they have the green light to continue, it is unlikely that they will change. Waiting for an emotional abuser to finally wake up, see the light, and change is unwise. By cutting ties with the perpetrator of this mistreatment, you will move towards freeing yourself and opening the door to other relationships in life, which will likely be healthier and more conducive to your well-being.

Don’t Feed Into Them.

If you are in a situation where you cannot cut ties with an emotional abuser, then not feeding into them or giving them what they want is the next best step; it’s important to remember that emotional abusers thrive on confusion, chaos, and unrest.

By not allowing yourself to fall into arguments with this individual, you can take back power and control for yourself. This can serve as major kryptonite to emotional abusers who rely upon manipulating others.

Confide In Others

Gaslighting Can Be Hard to Spot - Learn the Signs

Letting other trusted individuals know about what you’re facing is always helpful. First and foremost, this ensures that you are not completely isolated with no one else to turn to. Secondly, confiding in other reliable individuals ensures that they know what’s happening if an emotional abuser tries to get to them and manipulate them against you.

Remember, perpetrators of emotional abuse thrive on alienating those experiencing the abuse from other people who could be of aid.

Take Note Of What’s Happening

At some point, there is a very real possibility that the behavior of emotional abusers could escalate. Having a written, documented pattern of this individual’s mistreatment and bad behavior will come in handy if this happens. This will especially be advantageous in a situation where law enforcement or other authorities have to get involved.

Notes of abuse instances should be kept safely, preferably in more than one place, and dated. Dates and repeated written testimonies establish a pattern of bad behavior, one which an abuser will not be able to manipulate their way out of.

Don’t Begin To Doubt Yourself

Everything that an emotional abuser does is consciously or unconsciously calculated to get you to doubt yourself and what you know to be real. If something feels off, trust that. If you have a clear memory of events and find yourself in a situation where an abuser is trying to taint that memory, remain firm in what you know to be true.

When you stand your ground and don’t allow yourself to waver, you retain the power which the emotional abuser is trying to take from you.

Knowing When To Seek Professional Help

Dealing with gaslighting and abuse emotionally can be extremely challenging. Even when you know the necessary ways of defending yourself, the overall experience still has a way of presenting challenges. In many cases, gaslighting and emotional abuse can happen when we least expect it and from unexpected sources.

As previously stated, perpetrators of gaslighting and abuse emotionally thrive off control, power, confusion, and dominance.

If you find yourself in a situation where you face emotional abuse or some other hardship, signing up for online therapy with ReGain can be life-changing. No matter who you are or what you are going through, a therapist is an excellent and professionally qualified confidant. Taking therapy furthermore ensures that you are not isolated.

You can take advantage of online therapy regardless of who you are or where you live. The ability to get professional help and advice, which is specifically tailored to your needs, is something that everyone deserves.

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