How to Scorch a Casual Gaslighter

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1. Learn what gaslighting is…

The word comes from a 1938 play and subsequent film adaptation called Gas Light, about a murderous thief who tricks his wife into thinking she’s insane in order to cover up his crimes.

  • Subtly undermine your confidence and self-esteem
  • Make you second-guess yourself
  • Devalue you as an individual
  • Trivialize your opinions and ideas (and experiences)
  • Force you to justify yourself to everyone else
  • Infest you with guilt for no good reason

2. Understand its insidious nature

Anytime someone tries to throw you off, get under your skin, or make you overreact, they’re gaslighting you. Maybe they’re trying to make you feel crazy, or just plain insecure.

3. Learn how to spot the signs

Anyway, what strategies do gaslighters use?

Presenting lies and half-truths as total honesty

Let’s say you catch someone in a lie. A normal person apologizes and begs forgiveness. Maybe they try to explain what they were thinking. A gaslighter falls back on technicalities. They say things like, “I didn’t tell you everything because you’d get upset, like you always do.” Somehow they find a way to make the lie your fault.

Saying something that only you interpret as an insult

They won’t insult you outright. That doesn’t hurt as bad. Instead they’ll study you for a little while. Somehow they figure out the perfect comment to make, something that digs into all your self-doubts.

Couching insults inside jokes and fake compliments

Gaslighters lack the courage to say what they’re really thinking. Instead they give you a nickname. They bury criticisms in phrases like, “I love you anyway.” They make insults in the forms of compliments and observations. When you ask them to stop, they call you sensitive.

Fact-checking you on trivia

So you offer an opinion during a conversation. A normal person either agrees or disagrees. You can debate them. A gaslighter doesn’t engage you on the issues. They quibble over factoids (they’re not even right half the time). They can’t win the argument, so they try to throw you off — usually for no reason other than validating their fragile egos.

Trivializing your opinions and emotions

In healthy relationships, you can tell someone what bothers you. A conversation happens. Not with gaslighters. They want to convince you that you’re being unreasonable.

Why casual gaslighting is so insidious

It’s not a generic attack. Nope, they special order it for you. They deliver it in stealth mode, and leave you guessing:

4. Respond with nothing

You have to go with the flow. You can’t react the way they want. So do whatever social norm dictates.

5. Hold your own

I’m thinking about that guy again — the one who asked me where my family was. Later on, it occurred to me that guy didn’t ask anyone else at the work party where their families were. Just me. He didn’t do it for any other reason than to make me feel bad.

6. Reclaim your confidence

A gaslighter simply wants to deflect attention away from themselves, and onto you. They want you to feel insecure, they want you to question your grip — which today means tearing you down passive-aggressively.

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She’s the funny one.

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