“Gaslighting” is a term that has gained popularity due to TikTok and other social media, but it is often misused and misunderstood. Gaslighting is so much more than lying or changing a story. It is purposeful psychological manipulation to make victims question their own memory, reality, and sanity. This tactic is often seen in abusive relationships, seeking to gain even more power and control over their partner.

Quaker House Advocacy in 2004

When victims of abuse start to question their own sanity and judgment, they can lose faith in themselves. If victims start wondering if they are being abused, treated poorly, or are even at the point of terminating the relationship, gaslighting can take the wind from their sails and make them question their ability to make decisions.

Gaslighting is categorized in different ways:

  • Trivializing: “You’re mad about that?” “You’re overly sensitive!”
  • Withholding: “Not this again!” “You’re just trying to confuse me.”
  • Blocking/Diverting: “Who gave you that crazy idea, your friend?” “I bet your mother told you that, she’s never liked me.”
  • Countering: “You must have forgotten.” “You’re forgetting things again.” “We’ve already discussed this.”
  • Forgetting/Denying: “I never said I was going to pick the kids up.” “I told you I wouldn’t be home until later.”

Abusers are often insistent and unrelenting, making their victims truly believe what the abusers are saying, even when they have proof (text messages, witnesses to their conversation) that proves otherwise. The isolation from family and friends that often comes from military transfers can make it harder to avoid accepting the lies.

Several Quaker House clients have been victims of gaslighting, often from their partner, and it is difficult to get them to start trusting their own judgment again, especially if they have low self-esteem. In session, we focus on regaining their self-esteem, trusting themselves, and developing a strong and healthy support network.