Being the victim of gaslighting can be an incredibly challenging and distressing experience. When faced with gaslighting, it is normal to feel a range of emotions including anger, sadness, and confusion.
You might feel compelled to retaliate or expose the gaslighter to regain control of the situation, seek justice, or prevent further harm. However, this can be difficult, and even dangerous to do. It is essential to approach the situation with caution and consideration for your own well-being.
In this article, we will discuss the potential consequences of retaliation or exposure. We will also share some advice on how to respond to gaslighting in a safe, healthy way.
Table of Contents
What is gaslighting, and how would I know if it is being done to me?
Gaslighting is a type of psychological manipulation where the gaslighter seeks to make the victim doubt their perceptions, memory, and reality.
By persistently lying, denying, and turning the tables, the gaslighter attempts to confuse the victim and make them question their sanity and judgment.
This gives the perpetrator power and control by making the victim more dependent on them. Essentially, gaslighting is used to exert dominance and manipulate someone into submission.
To identify gaslighting, pay attention to the way you feel when you are with the other person; if you find yourself constantly feeling confused and doubting your memories and perceptions, this can be an indication that you are experiencing gaslighting.
The following are examples of gaslighting behaviors to look out for:
- They deny ever saying or doing something, even when there is clear evidence to the contrary.
- They fabricate information or distort the truth to confuse you.
- They dismiss your feelings and emotions as irrational or unimportant.
- They ignore and discount what you say or think.
- They constantly bring up your past mistakes to question your credibility.
- They question your memory and perception of things (e.g., “it did not happen like that” or “I do not know what you mean, it is all in your head”).
- They make you feel responsible for their behaviors or emotional reactions.
- They accuse you of doing things that they are actually doing to deflect attention away from their own behavior.
Should I expose a gaslighter?
Deciding whether to expose a gaslighter is a complex and personal decision that depends on the specific circumstances and your overall well-being.
Ultimately, how you choose to respond to gaslighting is a personal decision. You should weigh the potential benefits and risks carefully and make a decision that aligns with your personal healing and goals. Whatever you decide, it is essential that you prioritize your health and safety.
Exposing a gaslighter can provide validation for your experiences and feelings. It may also bring a sense of closure to the situation.
However, make sure you first consider the potential consequences of exposing the gaslighter as it may lead to further manipulation, denial, or even retaliation.
Sometimes, focusing on your well-being may be more important than confronting the gaslighter directly.
What happens when you expose a gaslighter?
Exposing a gaslighter can have various outcomes, and the specific consequences will depend on the individual and the situation.
Generally, individuals who gaslight are higher up on the narcissism scale (read more about this here). As such, their motives for gaslighting tend to be related to seeking attention, admiration, and control over their victims.
Gaslighters who display narcissistic traits often have a strong desire to feel superior and dominant. By making their victims question themselves, they can assert a sense of power and control over them.
It’s important to note that while gaslighters often have narcissistic traits, not all individuals with narcissistic tendencies engage in gaslighting.
Depending on the gaslighter’s personality, exposing them could lead to an escalation of their manipulative behavior as they try to regain control over the situation. Gaslighters, specifically those with narcissistic traits, will likely retaliate because:
- You are questioning their superiority and dominance
- You are threatening their narcissistic supply (i.e. you are not giving them the admiration they crave)
- They might feel like they are losing control over you and the situation
As such, they will do whatever they can to take back control. They might deny their actions, attempt to gaslight you further, or even retaliate with verbally or physically aggressive behavior.
It is rare that a gaslighter will apologize, admit they were wrong, or stop gaslighting. Instead, they are likely to escalate the situation.
Confronting a gaslighter directly may not be the best course of action, especially if they are likely to fight back. Rather than direct confrontation, try limiting contact with the gaslighter to protect your emotional well-being and focus on healthy coping mechanisms such as self-care, mindfulness, and therapy.
How to expose a gaslighter
Exposing or confronting a gaslighter is generally not advised. Therapist Alyssa Mancao recommends “the best way to outsmart a gaslighter is to disengage.”
She continues, “You can show up to the discussion with a mountain of evidence, videos, recordings, and more, and a gaslighting person will still find a way to deflect, minimize, or deny. It is more worth it to walk away with your perception intact.”
However, if you do decide to expose the gaslighter, here is some advice to keep in mind:
Exposing a Gaslighting Partner
If you believe your partner is gaslighting you and using other manipulative or abusive tactics, it is probably best to leave the relationship. If this is not possible or if you are not ready to leave but want to confront them, ensure that you have collected evidence of their manipulative actions.
Keep records of incidents, conversations, and any other relevant information. Avoid making assumptions or exaggerating, as this may give the gaslighter an opportunity to undermine your credibility.
They will still likely deny or deflect, so it is important that you remain calm and assertive and stand firm in what you are saying.
It is also important to set boundaries. Clearly communicate these boundaries and what behavior you will no longer tolerate. Be firm in asserting that gaslighting is unacceptable.
Before taking any action, seek support from a trusted friend, family member, or therapist. Having support can provide emotional validation and guidance and help you identify ways to cope. These individuals can also ensure that you are safe.
Exposing a Gaslighting Parent
Ending a relationship with a parent can be an incredibly challenging and emotionally complex process. Therefore, the best way to manage a relationship with a gaslighting parent is to limit your contact and set firm boundaries.
These boundaries might include personal space and time (e.g., clearly communicating when you need space or time to focus on personal activities); emotional boundaries (e.g., letting them what topics or discussions are off-limits or triggering for you); or physical boundaries (e.g., setting limits on the frequency and timing of physical interactions).
A gaslighter will likely want to test your boundaries, so it is important that you are firm and consistent with enforcing them.
As with any confrontation, it is important that you remain calm and do not rise to their attempts at provocation. Share your feelings and experiences, rather than attacking or blaming them.
Exposing Gaslighting at Work
Exposing gaslighting at work can be a sensitive and challenging task, but it’s essential to address the issue to maintain a healthy work environment.
Before taking any action, collect evidence of the gaslighting behavior. Keep a record of incidents, conversations, emails, or any other relevant information that demonstrates the manipulation. Be detailed as to not to give the perpetrator a way to deny or deflect.
When addressing the issue, remain calm and focus on presenting the facts objectively. In some cases (and if you feel comfortable), consider reporting the gaslighting behavior to your HR department or management. They are responsible for ensuring a safe and respectful work environment and might be able to support you.
When addressing the gaslighting issue, maintain a professional demeanor and focus on presenting the facts objectively. Avoid emotional outbursts, as they might be used against you.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do You Explain Gaslighting to a Gaslighter?
If the gaslighter is unaware of or resistant to acknowledging their manipulative behavior, you should provide specific instances of gaslighting behavior that you have observed. Use clear and objective language to describe what happened and how it made you feel.
Remain calm and composed during the conversation. Explain where the term comes from and describe how their actions undermine you and your sense of reality.
Avoid getting defensive or confrontational, as this may trigger further gaslighting attempts. Be realistic about the potential outcome of the conversation as the gaslighter might deny or dismiss your concerns without acknowledging their actions.
What Happens When You Ignore a Gaslighter?
Ignoring a gaslighter can have various effects.
In some cases, ignoring their attempts to manipulate you can reduce their manipulation tactics as you are depriving them of the reaction they seek.
In other cases, the gaslighter may intensify their attempts to get your attention and elicit a response. They might escalate their gaslighting behavior in an effort to regain control over you.
Some gaslighters may move on to find new targets who are more responsive to their manipulation. Others might become angered by your refusal to engage and may retaliate by spreading rumors, gossiping, or further attempting to undermine your credibility.
Ignoring a gaslighter is not a one-size-fits-all solution. While it may be effective in diminishing their influence, it might also escalate their aggression.
Can You Gaslight a Gaslighter?
It is possible for two people in any type of relationship to gaslight each other. It is not always the case that there is only one abusive or manipulative person in a relationship – sometimes it is both people.
A gaslighter is not immune to being gaslighted. However, it is not advisable to intentionally attempt to gaslight a gaslighter as this can lead to a dangerous cycle of manipulation and a deterioration of trust.
Addressing gaslighting in a direct, open, and honest manner is generally more effective than attempting to gaslight a gaslighter.
How Do You Prove Gaslighting?
Pay close attention to the gaslighter’s behavior and words. Take notes, collect evidence, and record your side of the story. This will allow you to notice any patterns and help you remain stable in your sense of reality.
You could also discuss certain behaviors with trusted friends and family or a mental health professional. In this way, you can obtain an objective view and assess whether gaslighting is happening in your relationship.
Klein, W.B., Wood, S. & Li, S (2022). A Qualitative Analysis of Gaslighting in Romantic Relationships. Preprint from PsyArXiv.
Petric, D. (2018). Gaslighting and the knot theory of mind. Research Gate.