“You always say that you love me unconditionally. Then why do you question my intentions? I point your flaws out of love, but you always defend your behavior. Strange!”
That above could be a classic gaslighter’s remark.
Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse where a person knowingly manipulates the victim into doubting their own reality.
The gaslighters deny and twist your perceptions, truths, and feelings. Then they tell you that you are too sensitive to even trivial things, or you are imagining things. Their goal is to make you, the victim, believe that you are losing your grip on reality and going crazy.A gaslighter would most likely tell you after hurling a pen at you, "That pen wasn't aimed at you. I was only trying to swat the fly sitting on your brow." Click To Tweet
The term “gaslighting” comes from the 1944 film Gaslight, in which a man tries to disorient his wife by making the gaslights flicker on and off. He then tries to convince her that she is hallucinating them and going insane.
In the past, people who were being gaslit would be diagnosed with hysteria and told they needed to be institutionalized.
What is unintentional gaslighting?
Unintentional gaslighting happens when the offender does not know that they are gaslighting a person. In fact, when challenged, they are being honest when they decline to have done it. Although the unintentional gaslighter has no intention to harm, their statements do end up harming their victim.
Unintentional gaslighting is sometimes referred to as mild gaslighting since there is a clear lack of a malevolent intention to unhinge the victim.
In plain words, an unintentional gaslighter presents you with false information with a mild intention of convincing you to their point of view, but not disabling your ability to think for yourself.
Unintentional gaslighting can be hard to identify. A person could be telling you that you are misremembering or exaggerating a personal experience of yours. It’s not always clear whether they are trying to manipulate you on purpose, just being insensitive, or gaslighting you unintentionally.
Is unintentional gaslighting abuse?
Unintentional gaslighting is a form of mental abuse perpetrated on the victim. Though these gaslighters cannot be faulted directly since they are unaware of their behavior. Most of them actually do not want to manipulate people into feeling confused, insecure, or insane.
Examples of unintentional gaslighting
If your friend was going through a difficult period recently and you still chose not to text them back for days, you could be unintentionally gaslighting them without realizing it.
You may have been busy, overwhelmed, or simply trying to avoid the subject they want to chat about. But when they ask why you did not contact them, you may come up with a story that you had a severe backache that made you too mentally disturbed to ping them up.
Gaslighting can also happen unintentionally when you are trying to help a person with something. For example, if you’re helping your friend and they get upset with you for not doing it the way they wanted or expected, then you might have been unintentionally gaslighted by them.
Why does unintentional gaslighting happen?
Unintentional gaslighting can occur as a result of unconscious parental influence (a parent who was a habitual gaslighter), a covert narcissistic urge to establish oneself as more correct, or a toxic tendency to humble down the other person by proving them wrong.
The victim of gaslighting, whether typical or unintentional, is often unaware of what is happening to them. They usually do not know that they are being manipulated and often believe that they are the ones who are in the wrong. This can lead to a great deal of confusion and frustration in the victim.
Who are the victims of unintentional gaslighting?
Gaslighting, whether deliberate or unintentional, can happen to anyone, although it is more likely to occur to persons who have low self-esteem, were raised by gaslighter parents, or are overly dependent on the other person in a relationship and want them to be right.
What are the signs of unintentional gaslighting?
There are a few telltale signs that one is being victimized by unintentional gaslighting:
- One feels like they can’t trust their own judgment or perceptions.
- They have trouble understanding why they feel so upset when they know they should not.
- They feel like no one cares about what they are feeling or that their feelings don’t matter.
- They feel like no one believes them even when there is proof that what they’re saying
How to find out if you are unintentionally gaslighting someone?
It is possible for an unintentional gaslighter to gaslight and not know it. To find out if you are the one who is unknowingly gaslighting someone, check these signs:
- The other person often questions your version of their reality, and you do not know why you wanted to convince them of your point of view with a made-up story.
- You feel an intense urge to prove the other person wrong, even when you fully realize that they are right.
- You feel envious of the other person’s popularity or superiority that you want to downgrade them by proving them wrong.
- You want to overcome your inferiority complex or low self-esteem by putting the other person down since you know they would not oppose you too strongly.
- You copy the way a parent of yours responded and reacted to your other parent, by frequently telling them lovingly how and why they were wrong.
- You “blackmail” them by hinting that you would do something bad to yourself if they don’t do what they want them to do.
- You observe that the other person in your relationship has started to lose confidence, often acts confused or even paranoid, doubts their own sanity, and turns to you to make even little decisions for them.
How do you respond to unintentional gaslighting?
Here is how you can tackle unintentional gaslighting:
- Identify and document their behaviors.
- Address the gaslighter directly with proof.
- Ask questions (and record their replies) for clarity.
- Offer support and reassurance. Take them to a mental health counselor.
- Offer an alternative perspective (like being more aware of their behavior).
- Maintain your self-esteem and do not let yourself be belittled or insulted or attacked.
- Avoid or minimize exposure to gaslighters, and leave the relationship if you realize they are not going to change their behavior.
Remember, gaslighting in relationships is the result of a power imbalance between the people in that relationship. To recognize it early, be vigilant of these classic gaslighting phrases.
Gaslighting is one of the most commonly used and successful types of manipulation. Typical gaslighting is intentional, and the gaslighter does it knowingly, even when it’s not always obvious to the victim when it’s happening.
While unintentional gaslighting is less harmful, it is more frequent in relationships. Keep a vigil for it and save yourself from self-doubts and indecisions.
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What is unconscious gaslighting?
Unconscious gaslighting is emotional manipulation that occurs without any clear intent to exploit. The gaslighter is unaware of their own deceptive mind games, so when confronted, they respond with reflexive denials. The end result is the same as in classic gaslighting: victims start questioning their own mental sanity.
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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy—a medical doctor, psychology writer, and happiness researcher. Founder and Chief Editor of The Happiness Blog. Writes on mental health, happiness, positive psychology, mindfulness, and philosophy (especially Stoicism).
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