Five Insidious Phrases People Use To Gaslight You

by Holly Garcia

Gaslighting behavior has always existed, but until the past few years, it wasn’t discussed openly. Maybe you have a friend that’s in a not-so-healthy relationship? Or perhaps you’re in it yourself. There are red flags and indicators that something isn’t quite right, but you just can’t put your finger on it. This toxic behavior sounds like gaslighting to me. Now, not everyone who engages in this behavior is a narcissist, but more often than not, there is a connection (more on that in a minute). But, before we dive in, let’s talk about what it is exactly.

According to Psychology Today, gaslighting refers to a situation that causes you to question your reality. They do this by insisting they never said or did things you think they did. And when they can’t convince you of this, they turn the tables on you and tell you that you’re crazy and making things up.

Gaslighting was introduced in popular culture in a 1938 play called ‘Gas Light.’ This production and several that followed show examples of gaslighting as an integral part of the storyline. Like when the wife tells her husband she’s hearing noises in the attic, he tries to convince her she’s losing her mind and hearing things that aren’t there. In reality, he is in the attic searching for something making the noise.

As I said in the beginning, not everyone who engages in gaslighting is a narcissist. But be aware many people who do are narcissistic. According to Dr. George Simon, narcissists use gaslighting sadistically because they lack remorse, empathy, or conscience. While that may sound intense, it’s because it is. Being the victim of this behavior can have an impact on you even after you’re out of the relationship. So we rounded up the top five red-flag gaslighting phrases you shouldn’t ignore.

“You’re Crazy/You Need Help”

Ugh. First off, more likely than not, this phrase is being thrown at you because you’ve either said something the person you’re talking to doesn’t agree with, or you said something totally honest that makes them feel uncomfortable. PSA: Just because you honestly communicate how you are feeling doesn’t make you “crazy,” nor does it mean you need help. Unless you do need help getting out of that relationship, then, by all means, we’ve got your back.

Secondly, gaslighting helps the person to maintain control over the conversation and relationship. Nothing drives me up a wall more than using someone’s mental illness (or mental health condition) as a weapon against them. Mental health issues are caused by things you cannot control, like chemical imbalances, family history, or past trauma. Being anxious or living with bipolar depression does not mean you are crazy.

“You’re Overreacting”

This is probably one of the most infuriating things to hear. How can the same person, who said something to hurt or offend you, also tell you that you are overreacting?! Make it make sense, Frank. Again, this is another clear case of gaslighting and one-sided conversation. The person who says this to you is trying to minimize their role in your feelings — and minimize your feelings in general. By doing this, they condition you to accept what they are saying as normal and expected, so they can continue to abuse you.

“Stop Living In the Past”

Once it becomes clear what is going on, you might find yourself reminiscing on past events. Was this the first time he called you that name and promised it would never happen again, or was that the time before? Didn’t she say last week that she would stop screaming at you? So how are you at it again today?

Anytime someone gaslights you, they’re distorting your reality, which includes keeping you from ruminating on past truths. Because the moment you realize you’ve been told it will be the last time, several times, they lose their control. Gaslighting 101: Never be held accountable for your words and actions.

“I Never Did That”

This goes along the same lines as not living in the past. Except for this time, they leave you no space to question what happened. They’re telling you nothing happened. This is where documented evidence comes into play.

Keeping a journal and writing down events that occurred or how you’re feeling is never a bad thing. Not only is it therapeutic, but it helps keep everything straight when your mind may feel incredibly foggy. Make no mistake, constantly being gaslighted by someone over an extended period causes trauma and is usually only a symptom of underlying abuse.

“Can’t You Take a Joke?”

When all else fails, the person gaslighting you might try and make light of the situation. Yeah, I called you a bitch, but it was a joke. Get a sense of humor. If you can’t laugh at yourself, I feel sorry for you. When the people making these jokes are doing so at your expense, it’s not a joke, and it’s not funny. There is a difference between someone laughing at you and someone laughing with you. When the jokes are made with ill intent, they aren’t jokes. They are insults.

While this is not an all-encompassing list of red flags, please be aware of how people communicate with you. Keep in mind these red flags aren’t limited to romantic relationships. Gaslighting occurs in familial, work, and other relationships. Don’t get me wrong, every relationship will have tough seasons. We all are human and say things we don’t mean, but that doesn’t give anyone license to be manipulative, disrespectful, or abusive to you.