Here's Exactly What To Do When Someone Gaslights You, According to a Psychologist

Manager gaslighting employee

Gaslighting is a harmful tactic that distorts a person's understanding of reality, potentially causing them to second-guess everything and everyone—including themselves. It's essentially an emotional form of whiplash, and it's not a fun experience, to say the least.

Knowing how to respond to gaslighting can be challenging because your head might be spinning so fast you can't determine which way is up. However, understanding what to do when someone gaslights you can prevent further harm.

"Responding to gaslighting can be a form of protection," explains Dr. Elisabeth Crain, Psy.D., a psychologist. "You don't want to waste your time arguing with a gaslighter, as it's not productive for either person. Name it and walk away from it."

In other words, the best way to respond to gaslighting is not to respond at all to the person doing it and turn inward. Side-eying us? Dr. Crain provided more in-depth tips on exactly what to do (and avoid) when someone gaslights you so you can protect your peace and feel good inside. 

Related: 14 Genius Phrases To Shut Down Gaslighting, According to Psychologists

OK, But What Is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting was the Merriam-Webster word of the year in 2022, but its definition has gotten lost in the sauce on social media.

"Gaslighting, at its core, is anything brought on by another that makes you question your own reality," Dr. Crain explains. 

When being gaslit, you may find yourself wondering if you're making everything up in your head. 

"What's happening is a mental form of manipulation meant to make you out to be the problem," Dr. Crain adds.

The goal is to deflect blame and shame. According to Dr. Crain, some of the many harms of gaslighting include:

  • Demoralization

  • Shaken self-confidence

  • Questioning reality

  • Depression

Related: 35 Common Gaslighting Phrases in Relationships and How To Respond, According to Therapists

What Is an Example of Gaslighting?

Gaslighting occurs when someone distorts reality. For instance, Dr. Crain says gaslighters often engage in revisionist history, explaining, "They might deny events or experiences that actually occurred or re-interpret them in a way that undermines the victim's understanding of the situation. They might say that a certain conversation never happened or that it happened differently than the victim remembers."

For instance, a gaslighter might swear that you never told them to stop texting political memes to your best friend. They may stick to that story even if you show them a literal text message you sent requesting that they stop sending these things ASAP. The kicker? Even you start wondering whether you told the person to knock it off despite clear evidence to the contrary. 

"Gaslighters may, at times, completely deny or ignore certain events or conversations," Dr. Crain says. "This can make the victim feel as though their experiences and feelings are invalid and contribute to a sense of isolation and self-doubt." 

Related: 8 Things a Narcissist Absolutely Hates, According to a Psychologist

What To Do When Someone Gaslights You, According to a Psychologist

Here are five dos and don'ts when responding to a gaslighter.

1.  Don't try to talk your way out of it

You may be tempted to prove the gaslighter wrong and have all the receipts to do so. Don't bother, Dr. Crain says.

"If you’re being gaslit, you don’t want to talk your way out of it because the person doing it to you either doesn’t know or does know and is trying to manipulate you," Dr. Crain says. "You can’t talk your way out of gaslighting when that is on someone’s agenda."

2. Walk away

As empowering as it may be to prove a gaslighter wrong, Dr. Crain says walking away speaks louder than any words.

"Disengage as fast as possible," Dr. Crain says. "Gaslighters are trying to take your power away, and you rob them of that opportunity by disengaging."

3. Stay strong

Gaslighters are trying to nip away at your self-confidence and awareness bit by bit, all while warping your sense of reality. Try not to let them.

"Stay strong in your own sense of self and conviction around your beliefs and experience," Dr. Crain says.

This tip is easier said than done, but it's an inside job.

"Keep a journal to document your memories and experiences, and then trust yourself for the rest," Dr. Crain recommends.

Related: 9 Subtle Signs of Gaslighting That Are Often Easy to Miss, According to Psychologists

4. Identify gaslighting

You can use your experience as a chance to read up on gaslighting so you can better respond (externally but, more importantly, internally) the next time it happens.

"Name it when you see it," Dr. Crain says. "Read up on gaslighting and get educated so that you can recognize when it is happening to you. The signs are anything that makes you...question your own reality."

5. Indulge in self-care

The response doesn't stop when you walk away from a gaslighter. Being gaslit is such a toxic experience. Make sure you're taking care of yourself.

"It’s important to prioritize your mental and emotional health," Dr. Crain says. "Participate in activities that bring you joy or make you feel relaxed, such as taking a hot bath, going for a walk or meeting with a trustworthy friend."

That friend can remind you of who you are.

Next: 13 Red Flags of Gaslighting at Work and How to Respond, According to Psychologists

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