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Gaslighting: Examples, Effects and How to Confront the Abuse

Mental Health

Gaslighting examples and explanation – First of all, gaslighting is a form of brainwashing and manipulation that happens on a regular basis.

What is Gaslighting?

The goal of the gaslighter is to make the victim doubt themselves. Gaslighting abuse causes a person to lose their sense of identity, perception, and worth. Gaslighting is a form of narcissism and sociopathic tendencies as they look to gain power over someone.

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What is Gaslighting

Pathological gaslighting is a severe form of abuse through mind control. It can happen in the workplace, with society, friends, family, and relationships. Gaslighting abuse is extremely destructive to victims. Before you ever have to deal with this mode of abuse, learn how to defend yourself against gaslighting. As it is so subtle and manipulative, you will likely need to do some research. Online, you can take an, “am I being gaslighted quiz.”

Where Does the Term Gaslighting Come From?

To understand the gaslighting meaning, you would have to look at the 1930’s stage play called Gaslight (or Angel Street in the U.S.) The play portrays a husband trying to convince his wife and other people that she’s crazy. He manipulates her environment in subtle ways.

He makes her believe that these things aren’t happening and that she hasn’t remembered things correctly. In the play, there is a dimming of the gaslights in the house. She discusses the dimming lights with her husband but he tells her she has imagined this too.

In the 1960’s, gaslighting became a term to describe manipulating someone’s perception of what is real.

Gaslighting Behavior Examples

Gaslighting Behavior Examples

There are stages of gaslighting behaviors that start from subtle to more severe. With any type of abuse, the gaslighter doesn’t want to push the boundaries too far at first. It is a slower form of abuse that takes you by surprise. Here are some examples of gaslighting:

Lying and Exaggerating

The gaslighter will say negative things about you indicating inadequacies, causing you to be defensive.

A husband might say, “my wife is so pathetic, and she should know it.”

A boss may say something like, “Your department is the weakest link to the company, why do you think you should even have a job here?”

Repetitive Gaslighting Behavior

Gaslighting wouldn’t be effective if it were just every once in a while. To gain total control, one has to constantly maintain their offense. Gaslighting narcissists and sociopaths will play psychological warfare in order to dominate the relationship and keep everything in their control.

Disputes are Escalated if Gaslighter is Challenged

Gaslighting tactics will escalate if you attempt to call them out on the lies they are telling. They will start to come up with evidence to prove they are right about your inferiority and uselessness. They will refute the evidence. The gaslighter will deny, blame, sow doubt, and add more false claims. You will become so confused that you don’t know what’s right from wrong anymore.

The Gaslighter Will Wear You Down

The gaslighter abuser will be on the offense at all times which will wear you down. You will feel so low that you start to doubt yourself. You become discouraged, fearful, and debilitated. You question reality, who you are and whether you’re perceiving things properly.

Codependent Relationships Form

Codependency is defined as “excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner.” If you’re in a gaslighting relationship, you will begin to feel insecure and anxious. This leaves you vulnerable to them having total control and power over you. They grant acceptance, respect, safety, and security and will often threaten to take it all away. These relationships are based on fear, vulnerability, and marginalization.

The Gaslighter Will Give You False Hope

In gaslighter abuse, they will treat you with superficial kindness and remorse from time to time. This is to give you false hope in the relationship. You might start to think things with them aren’t so bad and believe things could get better. This mildness is actually part of their plan to manipulate you. You will be off-guard which allows them to begin the next stage of their gaslighting abuse. Know this too, they are reinforcing the codependent relationship.

Total Domination and Control

For a narcissistic gaslighter, their main goal is to totally dominate and control you. When they can do this, they are able to take advantage of you with no consequence. Gaslighters can do this to a whole society. The lies that they tell about you will keep you insecure, in doubt, and afraid.

Narcissist Definition

Narcissist Definition

So as a gaslighter is the action, it is the narcissist who is most likely to execute such behavior. It’s important to understand the mental thoughts and beliefs that occur with a narcissist. Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NDP) come with symptoms of grandiosity, no empathy for others, and an obsessive need for admiration. The gaslighting behaviors they exhibit are manipulation and a self-centered attitude. They are arrogant and demanding.

They believe they should have better treatment than anyone else even though they don’t give others the same rights. The narcissist characteristics happen early in their adult life. They will gaslight in the workplace, in relationships, and their social groups. They think they’re unique and gifted which gives them a greater sense of self-esteem. In actuality, their self-esteem is fragile. They need others to think highly of them. They can’t handle criticism or losing and are easily and deeply humiliated.

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Gaslighting in Relationships

Gaslighting in Relationships

It’s most common that gaslighting will occur in romantic relationships. Once the gaslighter has taken over control, they can pretty much get away with any behavior. Marital infidelity will often occur and although you know they are cheating, they lead you to believe you’re crazy for thinking so. You may be physically abused but they will deny they were violent. For the victim, it can cause nervous breakdowns and sometimes suicide.

Gaslighting at Work

Gaslighting at Work

Gaslighters at work will often assert things with extreme conviction or indignation. They will often shame co-workers and distort truths. They may ignore you when you respond to something they’ve said. They will counter, block, divert or trivialize what you say.

This often causes people to work harder in order to prove their worth to the gaslighter. You’ll feel like you could get fired at any point so the work environment feels unstable. Anxiety and stress increase as you bend over backward to try to please an abusive personality. You may feel confused and second guess all your decisions. When dealing with a gaslighter in the workplace, you will likely go through disbelief. You may become defensive and potentially even become depressed.

You have more power to manage a gaslighter at work then with loved ones or family members. Like any type of abuse, you may feel trapped but this isn’t the case. Document all the interactions you have with the gaslighter. Talk to your HR department. Talk to co-workers and try to summon up witnesses during a time they are abusive to you. This kind of mental warfare shouldn’t be acceptable in any workplace.

Gaslighting in Dysfunctional Families

When children are victims of gaslighting, it is a form of child neglect and is one of the most severe forms of abuse. Here are four of the common gaslighting abuse tactics that occur in the family dynamic:

Double Bind Parenting

There has been a connection between schizophrenia and Borderline Personality Disorder for parents who double-bind their children. They will go back and forth randomly either smothering their children or rejecting them with no emotion. This leaves children feeling like they are nothing. As they become an adult, they don’t have faith in themselves. They constantly seek out validation from other people. Things seem surreal at all points in life. They have no tools to rely on themselves but don’t know how to lean on others for help.

Unpredictable, Contradiction Parenting

There is an unpredictable environment for children who grow up in this parenting dynamic. A parent who is influenced by drugs or alcohol one day may not be the next day. Parents may be manic depressive and substance abusers so their moods fluctuate greatly. Any plans made will likely not come to fruition. Birthdays will be pushed aside due to some unpredictable pattern with the parent.

The ground feels shaky for children dealing with this upbringing. Their might be a calm environment that turns violent quickly. As an adult, the gaslighter will not trust their abilities or understand people’s body language. They have a hard time managing their emotions. There is very little trust for themselves and other people.

Appearance Conscious Family

For a child growing up in this kind of family, style is more important than anything else. They are also ensuring that their family looks perfectly happy even if it’s falling apart. It’s a strict upbringing with no room for mistakes or emotions. As they look to build the perfect family, they are actually creating dysfunction. Parents and kids alike are described as Running on Empty. These parents are often narcissistic. The adult grows up to believe that imperfection is not acceptable. They will hide feelings and any shortcomings.

Emotionally Neglectful Family

In this dysfunctional family, emotional needs are ignored. Nobody pays attention to a child when they show emotion. If you were to cry in this family, you’d be told that you’re too sensitive. Needs are not met and this causes kids to hide their emotions at an early age. Any deep relationship in adolescence and adulthood will pose a major challenge for the child trained to keep their feelings to themselves. There is a feeling of numbness within these children. It can cause a person to become narcissistic or sociopathic as an adult.

How to Stop Being Gaslighted

How to Stop Being Gaslighted

How do you deal with gaslighting? A gaslighting narcissist ultimately wants to have control over you. Not giving them that control can often damper their attack on you. Quietly standing up for yourself and emotionally removing yourself from the conversation will cause a gaslighter to feel uncomfortable. They have likely been working on breaking you down for a long time. It’s not going to be easy but here are some things to keep in mind to avoid being gaslighted.

  • When you’re with a gaslighter, be very aware of what they’re saying and doing around you. Pay attention to all the fine details.
  • Create an untouchable belief of yourself and what you know to be true. Your intuition is your guidance system, make sure to listen to it.
  • Keep it simple when dealing with the gaslighter and know their true motive is one thing. They are trying to make you believe what you know to be true as untrue (or the other way around.)
  • Don’t allow the gaslighter to think you believe what they’re saying. This gives them permission to continue on with gaslighting abuse.
  • Remember that nothing the gaslighter is doing has anything to do with you. They are the one who is sick.
  • Be okay with not “winning” in a bout between yourself and a gaslighter. Chances are, you probably won’t. This is part of the game they play. It’s few and far between that you will convince them you’re right and they’re wrong.

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Can a Gaslighter Change?

Many people that will gaslight have antisocial personality disorders such as borderline personality disorder. They have a great deal of anxiety, they often do what they do to feel a sense of control in their lives. They tend to also abuse substances to numb the negative feelings they have. They will often have a personality that is authoritive so they think in absolutes. Things are either 100% right or 100% wrong. Gaslighters are hard to get into treatment because they don’t see themselves as having a problem.

Gaslighting in relationships may result in couple’s therapy. Even when the narcissist is going through counseling, they will often blame their partner. If a therapist suggests the gaslighter try to make some changes, they will often believe them to be incompetent. Even in therapy, they will have a hard time acknowledging they have a behavioral issue that’s causing the problems.

Ultimately, when you’re in company with a gaslighter, they are trying to make you second guess your choices and yourself. You will have a hard time knowing if you’re the problem or the victim. Subconsciously, you know when you’re being gaslighted. Your brain warns you of a sense of danger which becomes an uncomfortable feeling in your gut. Listen to it. If you believe you’re being abused by a gaslighter, pay attention to all the details. It may be that they will never get the help they need so in the end, you may have to walk away and recover from the mental abuse.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are Some Common Gaslighting Tactics?

There are several forms of gaslighting and this type of behavior often happens in stages. Some of the most common tactics people use include:

  • Denying something for the purpose of confusing you. They may have said something, but even if there is clear proof, they will deny it. The purpose is to deny the reality of the situation and to get you to feel as though you imagined it.
  • Telling lies about you. Gaslighters frequently tell lies and they act as though they are shocked when they are confronted about it. These individuals do not try to be sneaky about their lies; instead, they tell them with such conviction that it can make you doubt the truth.
  • Actions that do not line up with what they are saying. Gaslighters will typically twist the truth to make you question your own sanity. But their actions are very different from what they are saying.
  • Projecting onto others. Gaslighters will frequently accuse others for their own faults or shortcomings. Cheating spouses will often accuse their partners of cheating in an attempt to take the focus off themselves.
  • Manipulating you by using your friends or loved ones against you. They may try to get you to turn against people you care about as a way to isolate you and give the gaslighter more control over you.

What is a Gaslighter Personality?

While there is no such disorder as gaslighter personality disorder, perhaps there should be. These individuals tend to have authoritarian personalities. They find absolutely no fault in themselves, but they find it very easy to point out the shortcomings of other people.

Many gaslighters do have some type of personality disorder. Antisocial personality disorder is very common among people who display this type of behavior. They may be referred to as a sociopath or psychopath because of their lack of empathy for others, manipulative tendencies and desire for mind control. Some people with antisocial personality disorder can become violent.

Another personality disorder that is common among gaslighters is narcissism. People with narcissistic personalities tend to have an inflated sense of self-esteem. They make it a point to make everything about them and they get offended if they are not getting enough attention. A lot of narcissists will appear to be helping others, but they always have some type of self-serving agenda underneath.

What are Some Steps You Can Take if You are Being Gaslighted?

First and foremost, it is important to consider therapy if you feel you have been a victim of gaslighting. A therapist can help you understand these behaviors and they can assist you in deciphering the truth from the lies you may have been told.

Additional steps to take include:

  • Understanding what is happening between you and the gaslighter and calling it what it is – a dysfunctional relationship that is not benefiting you at all.
  • Learn how to tell the truth from the lies. It might help to write down your conversations with this person in a journal so you can look at them later. Do you see any patterns? Write down how this person makes you feel too.
  • Decide if you are engaging in a power struggle with the gaslighter. If you find that you keep having the same conversation over and over again, but no results are forthcoming, you might be getting gaslighted.
  • Think about what your life might be like without that destructive relationship. This may cause you to feel anxious, but keep your perspective positive and imagine what good things could come of not talking with that person anymore.
  • Journal about your feelings and give yourself permission to feel anything you are feeling. Look for triggers that cause negative reactions in yourself.
  • Open up with your friends about what is going on. Ask them to be honest with you about the other person’s behavior. Do they see it as gaslighting?

What is it That Turns People Into Gaslighters?

People are typically born introverts or extroverts, but they are not born to be gaslighters. This is learned behavior that comes from repeated social conditioning. Gaslighters will often experience it for themselves so they feel the effects of it. Or, they may see it evidenced elsewhere in their lives. Regardless, they come to view it as a tool that can be used to help them get what they want. It is a cognitive strategy that can work when it is not being seen for what it really is.

A lot of people who gaslight do not realize they are being manipulative at all. Instead, they see themselves as being expressive and simply telling it like it is. For instance, if a wife questions her husband about coming home late, he might accuse her of caring too much about when he comes home.

Gaslighting is learned behavior and the good news is that it can be changed with a lot of therapy and perhaps other types of treatment.

How do You Know if You are a Victim of Gaslighting Emotional Abuse?

A lot of people who are being gaslighted do not realize it. These individuals are actually victims of gaslighting emotional abuse, which can be incredibly psychologically damaging. You might be a victim if you:

  • Find that you frequently second-guess yourself on just about everything.
  • Find yourself asking yourself if you are too sensitive several times a day.
  • Find that you often feel confused or crazy.
  • Find that you are constantly apologizing to people when there is no need to.
  • Feel unhappy, even though there are good things happening in your life.
  • Find yourself making excuses for your partner’s behavior.
  • Withhold information from people so that you can avoid having to make excuses.
  • Feel as though there is something wrong, but you cannot put your finger on what it is.

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By |2020-10-12T19:10:19+00:00September 10th, 2020|

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  1. John Kaeding June 9, 2018 at 6:51 am

    My step daughter is gas lightong my wife and has been for years. I am a retired therapist but of course im too close to yhe situation. How can i get my wife to accept help?

    • Northpoint Recovery June 15, 2018 at 4:11 pm

      So glad that this article resonated with you. Since you are too close you may want to consider an intervention and have others confront her with their concerns in addition to yours. You can share your concerns but having others mentioning the same or similar concerns might be enough for her to realize the issues. Wishing you and your family the best!

  2. J July 15, 2018 at 12:59 pm

    I’ve been struggling to escape a situation that I recently discovered to be gaslighting. There are so many different factors involved, I honestly don’t know what to do. I’ve honestly wanted to seek legal help but I am unsure if my claim would be solid enough for that? If at all possible, could someone contact me directly to discuss my situation more?

    • Northpoint Recovery July 26, 2018 at 3:22 am

      So glad that this article resonated with you. Wishing you the best as you escape that situation and start fresh.

  3. Danielle August 19, 2018 at 3:43 pm

    My daughter is in a relationship with a gaslighter. I knew when I met him that he was narcissistic. But I gave him the benefit of the doubt……multiple times. A few months ago he hit on me, I was mortified and wanted to puke!! I told her immediately and he lied his way out of it even though I had proof! (Text messages) His pathological lies have gone way too far, and now she just found out she’s pregnant (first pregnancy for her). Now his grip is even tighter. Emailing her this article!! Thank you!!!

    • Northpoint Recovery September 8, 2018 at 4:41 pm

      Glad the article was helpful to you and your family!

  4. Survivor April 19, 2019 at 12:01 pm

    My husband is an extremely gifted gaslighter.. It took me years and many therapy sessions to understand him!!! When once I tried to leave him, he turned all against me.. even my parents believed that I was the sick one. I got scared due to financial and got back to hell..
    I’ m stronger now.. I believe in my self and my instinct is very sensitive and warns me.
    My kids love their dad.. of course they are afraid of him too..He plays with their mind. I try to stop it when it occurs by getting myself in between. If we get divorced we will share custody and he will brainwash my kids even worse. Now, I feel they are safer because I’ m always there. Do you believe someone can be so strong to keep up such a relation…

    • Northpoint Recovery April 25, 2019 at 4:40 pm

      Only you can decide what is best for your family, as to whether you should stay with him or divorce him. There are many factors to consider, but only you can determine what is best. We wish you and your family all the best!

  5. David Becker April 22, 2019 at 9:10 pm

    my brother in law refuses to talk to me or acknowledge i exist, his wife ignores me, my in-laws don’t know how to deal with it except not have me visit when they are in town but my wife still goes to see them. this leaves me at home like i did something wrong. all because i called my brother in law out on his gas lighting.

    they all refuse to acknowledge his narcissistic behavior and defend him. and then minimize my criticisms by saying that my brother in law “hate each other.” i don’t hate him, i just don’t like being treated this way.

    i’ve made my points over and over and they fall on deaf ears and everyone refuses to acknowledge anything unusual about his behavior and they all seem okay with defending him.

    the thing that bothers me especially is that if i were to behave in the way he does people would get angry at me. it’s a very distressing double standard.

    • Northpoint Recovery April 25, 2019 at 4:16 pm

      So sorry to hear about what is happening with your family! Unfortunately, when dealing with gaslighters because of the narcissism, many times they have those believing that this is normal and okay. We wish you and your family all the best!

  6. BARBARA May 17, 2019 at 3:05 pm

    I’ve been in a 7 year relationship with an alcoholic (living with him), I just recently realized that he has been gas lighting me for years. I am in the process of moving out for the 2nd time, I’ve requested that he seeks professional help for his alcoholism and he tells me I have mental problems. I don’t want to go back and forth anymore, we have a pet in common which I cannot take to live with me. Although he loves our pet he uses him to manipulate me by telling me that he is going to get rid of him or put him outside. I’ve even contemplated leaving the state just to get away from him but how fair is that ? I am planning to move away eventually but not for a couple of months (contemplating to retired next year). When I moved out 4 years ago we continued to have a relationship, never without drama, he was better for a couple of months last year with promises of going back to AA I moved back with him, this June will be a year, we were fine for a couple of months and then in November 2018 he just fell off the wagon once again. The past 7 months have been a roller coaster, he attacks me verbally whenever he drinks. After the fact he swears that it’s the last time, I feel like a fool for ever thinking that he would change. He refuses to get professional help, says that he can handle it on his own. I am done just want to get out with my mental health intact.

    • Northpoint Recovery June 3, 2019 at 4:20 pm

      Sorry to hear about all that you have gone through (and are continuing to endure). Great job spotting this and getting out! We wish you all the best on your journey of healing!

  7. Graham May 27, 2019 at 12:37 pm

    Thank you for this ,,, I am being gaslighted at work by my HOD, all his behaviours are described ,,, but he is also apraising me thus with the GM and owners , but as I dont work closely with those , and he has exclusive contact with them,,, I’ve already had emails from the owner stating things that are not true about me and my work ..
    He actually asked me a week ago if I’d had a stroke because he was so worried about me and my memory seems to be very very bad.!, of course he did this out on a lawn a long way out of any cameras or other people.. he lies constantly,, example ,, i ask, do you want me to get that tool,,,? He does not reply or even acknowledge I’ve spoken ,, so I repeat the question… nothing ,, he then shouts at me because I ignored his request to get a tool.
    Hes an alcoholic and will bang his hands and arms on the desk shouting that he very good at his job ,, hes started to put mr down in public ,,, I’m 48, Male, have run an engineering company and then a building company ,, I am now in hotel maintenance and thoroughly enjoy it,, I have found out in my 5 months there now that he does it to others and hes a bully to others in lower positions ..
    Hes lazy and incompetent yet is making me out to be this with those around him .
    It’s like he’s telling everyone I can’t walk properly ,, then pushes me over in public pointing and shouting “SEE , I TOLD YOU HE COULDN’T WALK.! …
    And there I am,, sprawled out.
    I’ve been here before with a close friend who applied this narcissistic gaslighting to me when I was grieving for a close family member , it took me 2 years to realise what was happening but by then I was questioning everything I was doing at work and at home ,, it led me into nearly another 2 years of depression that took another 2 to get out of and regain my confidence in my working abilities.
    I felt the old bell ring after working for this man for only a few weeks of working with him and should have seen it. Now I’ve been there for 5 months and my working life is plagued by anxiety and self doubt . I find myself standing idle unable to make a decision for fear of getting it wrong and then having to endure his wrath ,, he is very very careful to never say it do anything in public .
    But I read this ….
    Thank you ,, it was a trigger pulled and I’m in with HR first thing in the morning .

    • Northpoint Recovery June 3, 2019 at 3:45 pm

      Thank you for sharing your experiences! Glad the article resonated well with you and gave you the confidence needed to come forward. We wish all the best for you!

  8. Trish June 5, 2019 at 8:26 pm

    Oh boy………I finally realized my “crush” is a gaslighter. Never could pin it down. This guy does exactly what you describe. I DID go through a major breakdown and it took over a year to get some kind of grip. Then he showed up again…… Still…I hadn’t figured him out. Goes on and on. My heart is destroyed. I’ll never ever trust a man again. And the worst part? I can’t get him out of my head. I’m actually in love with this guy! It’s killing me. I want to get even…….that’s not like me.
    So….ok…..I met the number one specimen. And can’t get over it.

    • Northpoint Recovery June 6, 2019 at 5:30 pm

      Sorry that you are going through that, but now you know how to classify his behavior. We wish you all the best.

  9. Laurie Monington June 27, 2019 at 12:53 am

    Being I’m getting my B’S in psychology and have lived this I think this is spot on am out of a narsisstic relationship but the funny thing is I still love him with all my heart I won’t go back he has destroyed my self esteem and crushed my soul

  10. Judy Rafferty July 23, 2019 at 4:40 am

    I found out I have been a victim of gaslighting in 2016. I have been married for 47 years and couldn’t figure out what was wrong with ME.First of all it is a relief to know I am ok and not going crazy.
    I told my husband he needed help to stop it. He read the book my Doctor gave for me to read and said he was not doing any of it. The psychologist got him to stop physically abusing me but he is still an angry person and everything else is worse. He left that Dr. because he did not know what the Doc.was doing . The second psychologist who did deal with abuse said he needed couples counseling….I had given my husband a note he could read for that Dr. so she would know what was going on.
    First of all before any couples counseling I feel he needs to at least agree he is gas’ me…… I refused to go until he does. He is a very SICK man .

    • Northpoint Recovery August 1, 2019 at 3:24 pm

      Sorry to hear you are going through all of this! It is definitely hard when a spouse or significant other is physically and/or mentally abusive. We wish you both all the best during this difficult time!

  11. Ross Marzarella August 20, 2019 at 1:41 pm

    I turned to alcohol 8 years ago to sooth the pain and lack of self-worth/confidence I developed after 15 years of being gaslighted. We have been going through a divorce for 18 months now and she brought the term to my attention when she accused me of doing it to her. I scored a 20% on the test when she scored an 85%. I am now 50 years old, mostly sober aside from a few lapses, haven’t worked in 5 years (successful entrepreneur) and despite my financial success, I have no self-confidence, drive, mental clarity, etc. She recently told me she had the best dream of her life – “You (me) killed yourself and no one cared”. Hello vodka and I temporarily lost custody of my children – her ultimate objective to keep her very public narrative alive. I’ve been going to a therapist and psych for years now but neither of them have diagnosed me with anything aside from depression and anxiety. Is there an official diagnosis for someone that has been gaslighted? Is there something I can provide my attorney and judge to help them understand what I’m dealing with. She gives my attorney plenty of evidence to support my claim but there is definitely a lack of understanding in the Domestic Relations world.

    • Northpoint Recovery August 21, 2019 at 4:56 pm

      You could provide evidence of messages where she is emotionally abusive, but there isn’t a diagnosis to support the Gaslighting. We wish you both all the best!

    • Gaslighter or Gaslightee August 27, 2019 at 10:08 pm

      Is it possible for a gaslighter to accuse you of gaslighting? I pointed out a hurtful pattern of behavior to someone recently, and he accused me of gaslighting him because he said he didn’t remember the particulars of any of these incidents. I’m 99 percent certain I’m not making any of these memories up, but now I’m doubting myself and terrified that I’ve been hurting him.

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