“You’re crazy – that never happened.”

“You see everything in the most negative way.”

“It’s all in your head.”

“You’re making that up.”

Hearing any of this from your partner can have your brain, memory and perceptions spinning.  You begin to distrust your instincts, your memory and ultimately your ability to discern reality from fiction. Sounds like brainwashing right? However, these kinds of words are often a form of emotional abuse known by mental health professionals as “gaslighting”.

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse in which a victim is manipulated into doubting their memory, perception, and sanity. Gaslighting has several different techniques that an abusive partner may use:

  1. Withholding: the abusive partner refuses to listen or pretends not to understand
  2. Countering: the abusive partner questions memories of events, even if the victim accurately remembers
  3. Blocking/Diverting: the abusive partner changes the subject or questions the victim’s thoughts
  4. Trivializing: the abusive partner makes the victim’s feelings or needs seem insignificant
  5. Forgetting/Denial: the abusive partner pretends to have forgotten what happened or denies promises made

This destructive pattern often occurs gradually and over time, seemingly harmless in the beginning but slowly manipulating the victim’s trust of their mind and experiences. However, as the relationship and the gaslighting progress, the abuser erodes their partner’s ego, strength and self-worth. This can lead to the victim feeling anxious, depressed and isolated giving the abuser power and control to the point where leaving the relationship becomes much more challenging.

Gaslighting is incredibly harmful because it makes the victim question everything about their reality and distrust their instincts. But, how do you know if you are being gaslighted? According to psychologists signs of gaslighting include constantly second-guessing, feeling confused or crazy, frequently excusing or even apologizing for your partner’s behaviour and feeling as though you cannot do anything right. Understanding gaslighting and the various forms it comes in is a critical first step in creating healthy relationship dynamics.

If you or someone you know is experiencing emotional abuse, help is available. Call our counselling team at 403-536-2878. No one deserves to be abused, ever.