Top 20 Ways People Try to Gaslight You… and How to Shut it Down

Published By Justin Baksh, LMHC, MCAP
January 16, 2024


Gaslighting is when someone tricks you into doubting your own thoughts and feelings. It gets its name from a 1944 film with Ingrid Bergman, Gaslight – where her husband keeps dimming the gas lights in their home and then denies it is happening. This makes his wife think she’s losing her grip on reality. But gaslighting isn’t just in old movies or between couples. It can happen in all kinds of relationships – with family, friends, or at work. Unfortunately, it is a common kind of psychological abuse, and it is important to know how to spot it.

Understanding Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a sneaky and harmful way someone can mess with your head. Imagine someone constantly telling you that what you know to be true isn’t real, or that the things you remember never happened or didn’t happen the way you remember them. That’s gaslighting. Gradually, you start doubting what you remember and the choices you make. It’s a way to control someone by twisting their reality, and it is abuse.

The impact of gaslighting on a person’s mind can be serious. When someone is gaslighted, they often feel confused, anxious, and like they can’t trust their own thoughts. They might constantly second-guess themselves or feel like they’re always in the wrong. This can lead to bigger problems like depression or feeling isolated, because they don’t know who to trust anymore. It’s a deep kind of abuse that harms the person’s confidence and badly impacts their sense of self.

Top 20 Ways People Gaslight Others

Common Gaslighting Tactics

  1. Denying Reality: The gaslighter flatly denies something you know is true. For example, you saw them say or do something, but they insist it never happened.
  2. Twisting Facts: They change key details in events or stories, making you question your memory. This tactic often involves altering small but significant parts of a shared experience.
  3. Trivializing Feelings: Your emotions or concerns are dismissed as unimportant or irrational, often with phrases like “You’re being too sensitive” or “You’re overreacting.”
  4. Withholding Information: Withholding Information: The gaslighter refuses to listen or pretends not to understand what you’re saying, effectively shutting down communication and making you doubt your expression. They will also sometimes tell you something that happened, but leave out key details, so that later the can claim they told you about it, and make it seem like your don’t remember the parts they never told you.
  5. Countering: They question your memory of events, even when you remember them clearly. It’s a tactic that makes you second-guess the way you remember past events.
  6. Diverting: When confronted, they often switch topics or cast doubt on your ideas. This redirection is an attempt to avoid accountability by shifting the discussion.
  7. Blame Shifting: The gaslighter makes you feel responsible for their actions. When they do something wrong, and can’t deny it, they turn it around to make it look like it was your fault. A common version of this is statements like, “If you hadn’t done x, y or z, I wouldn’t have been so mad and acted like that.”
  8. Using Compassionate Language as a Weapon: They pretend to show concern or support as a way to subtly undermine and control you. This can be very confusing because it appears caring on the surface.
  9. Projecting: The gaslighter claims you are the one doing the things they are guilty of. If you tell them you know they are lying, they accuse you of being the liar.
  10. Using Friends and Family: They bring others into the dynamic, often telling them false stories to turn them against you or to validate their perspective.
  11. Telling Others the Victim is Crazy: The gaslighter spreads rumors or suggests to others that you are unstable or irrational.
  12. False Praise: They give compliments or gifts to create confusion and make you question your perception of their harmful behavior.
  13. Gaslighting by Proxy: They enlist or manipulate others to help in their gaslighting efforts, essentially using third parties to further their agenda.
  14. Repeating Lies: The gaslighter frequently repeats their fabrications until you start to doubt your own version of events.
  15. Fake Concern: They show insincere worry about your well-being to manipulate situations in their favor.
  16. Withholding Affection as Punishment: They refuse to show affection or give attention as a way to punish or control you.
  17. Love Bombing: Throwing affection and attention your way to manipulate and control you. This often occurs in cycles, with periods of negative behavior followed by over-the-top displays of affection.
  18. Rewriting History: Changing the narrative about past events to benefit themselves. This can range from outright denying past abuse to changing subtle details about their actions to make themselves look better.
  19. Isolating the Victim: Encouraging or forcing you to distance yourself from friends, family, and support networks, thereby increasing your dependency on them.
  20. Threatening: Using threats or intimidation to control your behavior or thoughts. This can include threats of harm, exposure, or other forms of coercion.

These tactics are often sneaky and hard to spot, and they can be even harder to fight against, especially if they’ve been happening for a long time. Recognizing these patterns is the first step to protecting yourself from this kind of mental abuse.

How To Handle Gaslighting

“Gaslighting by definition is to manipulate someone by psychological means into doubting their own sanity. The ‘losing-my-mind’ game is not a fun one to play.

‘You just gotta trust me, Muffins. You’re seeing stuff that isn’t there,’ Patrick would say during our relationship.

Patrick made me question my own mind. Every issue I raised, he turned around to me or wrapped it up in ribbons of lies. Often the lies were so elaborate I couldn’t have imagined they were untruths.

I know now he lied about everything. Drugs, fidelity, even inconsequential things, but I also know that it was a gradual wearing down over time that took away my sense of reason.

-Danielle Colley,, New York Post

Handling gaslighting effectively involves a combination of self-awareness, external support, and practical strategies. By employing the following methods, you can safeguard your mental wellbeing and maintain a clearer sense of reality.

How to Shut Down Gaslighting

  • Trust Your Instincts: Begin by trusting your own feelings and perceptions. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. These feelings are there to let you know something is off, and you should always take them seriously. Trusting yourself is crucial in recognizing when you are being gaslighted.
  • Keep a Record: Write down everything you can remember about conversations and things that happen. This can be in the form of a journal or notes on your phone. Having a record helps you keep track of the reality of situations, especially when someone is trying to distort your memory of them.
  • Seek External Validation: Talk to trusted friends, family, or a therapist about your experiences. They can offer an outside perspective and confirm whether your perceptions are accurate. It’s important to choose people who are supportive and not influenced by the gaslighter.
  • Set Boundaries: Establish clear boundaries with the person gaslighting you. Decide what behaviors you will not tolerate and communicate these boundaries firmly. If these boundaries are crossed, have a plan for how you will respond or remove yourself from the situation.
  • Stay Connected to Support Systems: The support of friends, family, or a therapy group can provide emotional stability and a sense of understanding.
  • Educate Yourself about Gaslighting: The better you understand gaslighting, the better you’ll be able to handle it. Read articles, books, or watch videos that explain gaslighting in detail.
  • Practice Self-Care: Take care of your mental and physical health. Maintaining your well-being and mental clarity is important all the time, but even more when you are dealing with a gaslighter. Physical exercise and regular sleep will keep you fit, while hobbies you enjoy and mindfulness practices, like meditation, will help your mental clarity.
  • Stay Focused on the Facts: In situations where you’re being gaslighted, focus on the facts rather than the emotional manipulation. Refer to your records anytime you need a reminder of what actually happened.
  • Avoid Arguing About Reality: Engaging in arguments with a gaslighter about your perception of reality can often be counterproductive. State your truth and, if necessary, disengage from the conversation.
  • Seek Professional Help: Consider talking with a professional counselor or therapist. They can provide strategies to cope with the effects of gaslighting and support you in healing from the emotional damage.
  • Consider Your Options: If the gaslighting is severe or persistent, evaluate your options for removing yourself from the situation. This might mean ending a relationship, changing jobs, or distancing yourself form certain individuals.
  • Learn Assertive Communication: Practice communicating your thoughts and feelings assertively, but without aggression. This helps in expressing yourself clearly and standing your ground in a healthy way.
  • Rebuild Your Self-Esteem: Gaslighting can damage your self-esteem, so work on rebuilding it through positive affirmations, achievements, and surrounding yourself with people who appreciate and respect you.

The Bottom Line: The Only One You Can Change is Yourself

Gaslighting is not just a buzzword or a fleeting concern—it is a very real form of abuse. It can be challenging to confront and navigate, especially since those who gaslight rarely recognize or change their harmful behavior. Remember, though, that you do not have to endure it. Recognizing gaslighting is the first step on the road to self-empowerment.

The path to a life free of abuse might seem daunting, but it is vital to hold on to hope. You have the right to a life where people respect and acknowledge your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. While the journey of healing and reclaiming your power might be gradual and require resilience, the path is paved with the promise of a healthier, happier you.

Here’s to moving forward into a life defined by respect, understanding, and genuine love—a life you truly deserve.

  • Colley, D., & (2018, February 12). I was gaslighted and nearly lost my mind. New York Post
  • ‌How to recognize gaslighting and respond to it. (2022, April 18). Washington Post.
  • Sweet, P. L. (2022, October 1). How Gaslighting Manipulates Reality. Scientific American.

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