It doesn’t take much time scrolling through Twitter, TikTok, or any other social media app before we start noticing a trend: the topic of gaslighting, a manipulation tactic used in romantic, familial, or professional relationships, where the manipulator makes their victim question their own reality. Most commonly, gaslighting is spoken of in the context of a romantic relationship.
TikToks and articles featuring young women recounting their experiences with an abusive ex who gaslighted them throughout their relationship are common to stumble upon – and often, these tales are saddening and worrisome. But sometimes, it seems like there’s something else going on.
The Gaslighting Craze
Gaslighting really came into the limelight a few years ago, according to Google trends. Before this, it’s likely that psychologists, therapists, and their clients who fell victim to it were more aware of it than anyone else.
But over the past few years, gaslighting earned itself a recurring role on everyone’s newsfeed, popping up as one of the warning signs of an abusive relationship that women need to keep an eye out for.
Gaslighting is a manipulation tactic where the manipulator makes their victim question their own reality.
And with this growth in our awareness of gaslighting came a new trend of a sort: suddenly, any time our boyfriend disagreed with our perception of something, told us our memory was off, or expressed a differing assessment, our gaslighting senses started tingling. We were sure he was gaslighting us.
But gaslighting is a serious thing to accuse someone of – and we shouldn’t take doing so lightly. So it’s worth it to ask ourselves: is he really gaslighting us, or are we just in the wrong?
What Is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a way of manipulating a person or situation by causing others to question their ability to perceive reality. Here are a few common signs of gaslighting:
They blatantly lie and deny having said/done something that they did, in fact, do. They might say, “You’re crazy. I never said that,” when we bring something hurtful they said to their attention.
They invalidate our feelings whenever we bring them up. They might say, “You’re too sensitive. Learn to take a joke,” after they humiliated us in front of their friends.
They shift blame any time there’s a disagreement, telling an untrue version of events that puts them in the clear and us in the wrong.
They act as if they’re the arbiter of truth and refuse to consider someone else’s perception – anything they say is gospel, and everyone else is wrong.
Gaslighting is certainly very real and distressing, especially to those who’ve endured it. Its sneakiness might make it challenging to see when we fall victim to gaslighting — seeing as how we could begin questioning our perception regularly and trusting our gaslighter’s instead.
What Gaslighting Isn’t
Gaslighting is not being told we’re wrong about something; it’s not someone having an opposing idea; it’s not our boyfriend telling us we’re remembering something incorrectly; it’s not hearing that, due to our past experiences, trauma, or upbringing, we perceived something that wasn’t totally true – necessarily, at least.
The issue with the trendiness of gaslighting is that it’s all too common to accuse whomever we’re disagreeing with of it, thereby leaving zero room for human error in ourselves and our opponent by jumping to the conclusion of gaslighting at the first sign of being challenged or questioned.
We leave zero room for human error in ourselves and our opponent by assuming gaslighting when we’re challenged.
Our idea of gaslighting has, unfortunately, despite the pain it inflicts upon those who’ve experienced it at the hand of someone they trusted, been reduced to what was actually a simple, unmalicious, or innocuous disagreement. We jump at the chance to use gaslighting as a mask for our inability to admit our own miscalculations, errors, and blunders.
Sometimes We’re Just Wrong and That’s Okay
Here’s one thing we all have in common: we’ve been wrong before. We’ve felt hostility from someone’s comment when they didn’t mean any. We’ve taken a joke as a pointed insult when it was supposed to be lighthearted. We’ve assumed the worst about someone’s intentions when there wasn’t an actual reason to.
Maybe we grew up in a family that always did mean something bad by seemingly harmless comments. Maybe we had a friend growing up who would hide their snubs behind “It was just a joke.” Or maybe we learned to always assume bad intentions by being hurt one too many times.
The point is, sometimes, we aren’t being gaslighted, but instead reacting out of past experiences or our own pride and difficulty admitting our errors. The next time we’re tempted to charge our boyfriend with attempted gaslighting, it would benefit us to take a moment to examine our motives, his motives, and question if we’re actually just in the wrong this time.
Gaslighting is an incredibly toxic and abusive way to manipulate someone, and it’s in our best interest, as well as that of its victims, to not reduce its meaning by misusing it.
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