Emotionally abusive husband characteristics

What is emotional abuse? | The National Domestic Violence Hotline

“I don’t want you going out with them. I trust you; I just don’t trust them.”

“You know you can’t get anyone better than me. You are lucky to be with me.”

“Are you sure you want to eat that? I’m just attracted to someone who takes care of themselves.”

“You’re so dumb. I knew this would be over your head.”

Do any of these sentences sound familiar? If so, you might be in an emotionally abusive relationship.

Many people hear the word “abuse” and think of physical violence. Physical abuse is one type of abuse, but it is certainly not the only one.

According to  The Hotline’s 2020 Data, 95% of contacts stated they were experiencing emotional abuse. Emotional abuse may not be what most people think about when they picture abuse, but that does not make it any less real or less serious. Because of its subtleties, emotional abuse can be quite difficult to detect when it is being experienced. Emotional abuse is also a foundation for other forms of abuse. Often, it is used erode a person’s self-esteem and self-worth and create a psychological dependency on the abusive partner. Let’s look at what emotional abuse is and how to know if emotional abuse is present in your relationship.

Emotional abuse includes non-physical behaviors that are meant to control, isolate, or frighten you. This may present in romantic relationships as threats, insults, constant monitoring, excessive jealousy, manipulation, humiliation, intimidation, dismissiveness, among others. Sometimes emotional abuse is more obvious, like a partner yelling at you or calling you names. Other times it can be more subtle, like your partner acting jealous of your friends or not wanting you to hang out with someone of another gender. While these emotionally abusive behaviors do not leave physical marks, they do hurt, disempower, and traumatize the partner who is experiencing the abuse.

Over time, emotional abuse can wear down a person’s self-worth, confidence, and their mental and emotional strength.

It’s difficult to feel sure of yourself when a partner is demeaning, dismissing, and second-guessing you constantly. Additionally, when you care about someone and have invested time in the relationship with them, you want to believe the best of them, and you may convince yourself that you were overreacting in how you interpreted their hurtful actions or words. An emotionally abusive partner may try to gaslight you by telling you outright that you are overreacting, being dramatic, being too emotional, or that you can’t take a joke.

For these reasons and more, it can be tough to detect emotional abuse and see it as a dangerous concern. Even then, survivors of emotional abuse are often hesitant to seek help or tell friends and family about their relationship concerns because they fear they will not be believed or taken seriously. Nonetheless, emotional abuse is serious, and it is not uncommon for emotional abuse to escalate to physical violence. In some relationships this escalation to physical abuse is slow, and in others it can happen rapidly.

So how do you know if you are in an emotionally abusive relationship?

Here are some red flags:
  • Your partner name calls you or demeans you.
  • Your partner tries to control you, your time, and your actions.
  • Your partner tells you what to do and what to wear.
  • Your partner often makes you feel silly or dumb.
  • Your partner questions your reality and says that things that you know happened didn’t happen. This is called gaslighting.
  • Your partner is critical of your appearance.
  • Your partner is jealous of time spent with your friends or family.
  • Your partner punishes you by withholding attention or affection.
  • Your partner doesn’t want you hanging out with someone of another gender.
  • Your partner makes threats to hurt you or others to get what they want.
  • Your partner wants you to ask for permission before doing something or spending time with other people.
  • Your partner monitors where you go and stalks your whereabouts.
  • Your partner doesn’t want you to work.
  • Your partner embarrasses you in public.
  • Your partner does not trust you and acts possessive.
  • Your partner threatens breaking up or divorce to manipulate an argument.
  • Your partner wants access to your phone, your passwords, or your social media.
  • Your partner threatens suicide during arguments.
  • Your partner is constantly accusing you of cheating.
  • Your partner blames you for their unhealthy/abusive behaviors.
  • Your partner makes you feel guilty or immature for not wanting to have sex.
  • Your partner overloads you with compliments and gifts, and then uses that to manipulate you later (love bombing).

If any of these red flags feel familiar to you, know that you do not deserve to be treated that way and that you are not alone. It can be hard to decide what your next step should be, after learning that your relationship is not healthy. You might consider reaching out to a trusted friend or family member to talk about what you have been going through. You can also reach out to our Hotline advocates to talk about next steps and options available to you.

We are here 24/7 via phone, online chat, and text to provide you with education, support, and safety planning. The Hotline is completely free and confidential.

Answers shouldn’t be hard to find.

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What It Is and Signs to Watch For

You might be familiar with many of the obvious signs of emotional abuse and manipulation. But when you’re in an abusive situation, it’s easy to miss the subtle early signs that build up to a a persistent undercurrent of abusive behavior.

Emotional abuse involves attempts to frighten, control, or isolate you. This type of abuse doesn’t involve physical violence, though it might involve threats of violence directed toward you or your loved ones. It’s characterized by a person’s words, actions, and the consistency of these behaviors. Abuse may start gradually, but it happens again and again.

People of any age or gender can abuse or experience abuse. And abuse doesn’t just happen in the context of romantic relationships. The person abusing you could be your spouse or romantic partner — but they might also be your business partner, parent, caretaker, or even your adult child.

Regardless, you don’t deserve the abuse, and it’s definitely not your fault.

Continue reading to learn how to recognize the signs of emotional abuse and get some guidance on what to do next.

Someone abusing you may use different tactics to undermine your self-esteem.

Examples include:

  • Name-calling and derogatory nicknames. They’ll blatantly call you “stupid,” “a loser,” or use other insults. Maybe they use terms of “endearment” that actually highlight things you’re sensitive about — “my little nail biter” or “my chubby pumpkin” — and ignore your requests to stop.
  • Character assassination. This usually involves the word “always.” You’re always late, wrong, screwing up, disagreeable, and so on. They might say these things to you, or use them to describe your behavior to others.
  • Yelling. Screaming, yelling, and swearing can intimidate you and make you feel small and inconsequential. Maybe they never hit you, but they do pound their fist, throw things, or damage property.
  • Patronizing. They belittle you by saying things like, “I know you try, but this is just beyond the scope of your brain.”
  • Public embarrassment. They pick fights, share your secrets, or make fun of your shortcomings in public.
  • Dismissiveness. You share something important to you and they reply with, “What? Who cares about that?” Body language like eye rolling, smirking, head shaking, and sighing help convey the same message.
  • “Joking.” When you express discomfort with something they’ve said, they snap back, “Can’t you take a joke? Grow up. ” You’re left feeling foolish and wondering whether you are, in fact, too sensitive.
  • Insulting your appearance. As you head out, they stop you at the door. “You’re wearing that ridiculous outfit? No wonder you can’t get a date.” Or they constantly say you’re lucky they chose you, since they could find someone so much more attractive.
  • Belittling your accomplishments. They brush off your achievements, saying they don’t matter, or claim responsibility for your successes.
  • Putting down your interests. They suggest your hobby is a waste of time. “You’ll never be any good at the piano, so why do you keep trying?” Really, they’d rather you not participate in activities without them.
  • Pushing your buttons. Once they find something that annoys you or makes you uncomfortable, they begin to mention it every chance they get, ignoring your requests that they stop.

Abusive behavior relates to the desire to maintain power and control. Someone abusing you might attempt to manipulate you into doing what they want you to do, often by making you feel ashamed of your inadequacies.

They may try to control you by:

  • Making threats. They imply — or say outright — that they’ll fire you or report you for being an unfit parent. They might even say something like, “There’s no telling what I might do,” to keep things vague and leave you afraid.
  • Monitoring your whereabouts. They want to know where you are, always, and insist you respond to calls or texts immediately. They might show up at your work or school, just to check you did actually go there.
  • Spying on you digitally. They demand your passwords, or insist you go password-free, and regularly check your internet history, emails, texts, and call log.
  • Gaslighting. Someone abusing you may deny that specific events, arguments, or agreements ever happened. This tactic can leave you questioning your own memory, not to mention your mental health and well-being.
  • Making all the decisions. This might involve closing a joint bank account and canceling doctor’s appointments. They may insist you withdraw from school and resign from work — or do so on your behalf. Or maybe they tell you what to wear, what to eat (and how much), or which friends you can spend time with.
  • Controlling your access to finances. They keep bank accounts in their name and make you ask for money. They also expect you to keep your receipts and account for every penny you spend.
  • Emotional blackmailing. Someone using this tactic will attempt to get you to do things by manipulating your feelings. They might use tricky questions to “test” you, take on the role of victim, or try to guilt-trip you.
  • Lecturing you constantly. After you make a mistake, no matter how minor, they catalog all of your errors with a long monologue. They describe all the ways you’ve fallen short and make it clear they consider you beneath them.
  • Giving direct orders. From, “I don’t care what happened. You stay here until you get that client back, or you’re fired,” to “Stop taking the pill,” they expect you to do everything they say without question.
  • Having frequent outbursts. They told you to cancel that outing with your friend, or put the car in the garage, but you didn’t. So, they become enraged, angrily shouting about how inconsiderate and uncooperative you are.
  • Feigning helplessness. They say they don’t know how to do something, hoping you’ll simply do it yourself instead of taking the time to explain it.
  • Unpredictability. They explode for no clear reason, then suddenly shower you with affection. Or maybe their mood shifts from upbeat to dark and angry with little warning, leaving you never sure what to expect.
  • Walking out. A partner or parent might leave a social event suddenly, so you have no way home. A supervisor might exit during a discussion about your assignment, so your questions remain unresolved.
  • Stonewalling you. During a disagreement or conflict, they shut down, refusing to respond to your attempts to communicate.

People who abuse others often try to create a hierarchy that puts them at the top and you at the bottom.

Examples might include:

  • Jealousy. They accuse you of flirting or cheating, or say you’d spend all your time with them if you truly loved them.
  • Using guilt. They might try to guilt-trip you into doing something by saying things like, “You owe me this. Look at all I’ve done for you,” in an attempt to get their way.
  • Unrealistic expectations. They expect you to do what they want, when they want you to do it. They think you should always prioritize their needs, do things according to their standards — and you absolutely shouldn’t hang out with your friends or family if there’s any chance they might need you.
  • Goading and blaming. People who manipulate and abuse typically know just how to upset you. But once you do get upset, they pin the blame back on you — after all, it’s your fault for being so sensitive and incompetent.
  • Denying the abuse. When you express concerns about their behavior, they might deny it, seemingly bewildered at the very thought. They may even suggest you’re the one with anger and control issues, or say they only get angry because you’re such a difficult person.
  • Trivializing. When you explain how much something they said or did upset you and hurt your feelings, they accuse you of overreacting or misunderstanding the situation.
  • Blaming you for their problems. When things go wrong, they always blame you. If only you’d been a more loving child, a more supportive partner, or a better parent, they might say, their life would be fantastic.
  • Destroying and denying. They might throw your phone down to break it, “lose” your car keys, or destroy other important possessions, then deny it or say it happened accidentally.

Someone abusing you will generally try to get you to prioritize their needs and neglect your own.

Often, they’ll also make an effort to isolate you by coming between you and your supportive loved ones — a step which, of course, leaves you more dependent on them.

Tactics they might use include:

  • Dehumanizing you. They’ll intentionally look away when you’re talking or stare at something else when speaking to you in an effort to make you feel unimportant.
  • Keeping you from socializing. Whenever you have plans to go out, they come up with a distraction or beg you not to go.
  • Invalidating you. They might suggest or say straight out that your needs, boundaries, and desires don’t matter to them.
  • Trying to come between you and your family. They’ll tell family members you don’t want to see them or make excuses why you can’t attend family functions. Later, they might tell you that your loved ones don’t care about you or think there’s something wrong with you.
  • Using the silent treatment. They might ignore your attempts at conversation in person, via text, or over the phone.
  • Withholding affection. They won’t touch you, even to hold your hand or pat you on the shoulder. They may refuse to have any intimate contact if you offend them, or they want you to do something you don’t want to do.
  • Shutting down communication. They might wave you off, change the subject, or simply ignore you when you want to talk about important concerns.
  • Actively working to turn others against you. They might tell other people in your life, including co-workers, friends, and even your family, that you lie, have lost touch with reality, or have had an emotional breakdown.
  • Denying support. When you need emotional support or help with a problem, they might call you needy, say the world can’t stop and wait on your problems, or tell you to toughen up and fix it yourself.
  • Interrupting. They might get in your face when you’re in the middle of an activity and take away your phone or anything else in your hands to let you know your attention should be on them.
  • Disputing your feelings. No matter what feeling or emotion you express, they might insist you shouldn’t feel that way. For example, “You shouldn’t be angry over that,” or “What have you got to feel sad about?”

Learn more about codependency and how to overcome it.

If you believe you’re experiencing emotional abuse, trust your instincts.

Abuse is never your fault, and you don’t have to live with it

If you fear immediate physical violence, get to a safe place if you can. You can also call 911 or your local emergency services for help.

If you aren’t in immediate danger and you need to talk or find some place to go, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233. This free, confidential 24/7 hotline can put you in touch with service providers and shelters across the United States.

Find more resources here.

These tips offer a place to start:

  • Don’t try to fix them. You may want to help, but it’s often difficult for abusive people to change their behavior without professional support. You can encourage them to work with a therapist, but they have to make the choice themselves.
  • Avoid self-blame. Remember, you never deserve abuse, no matter what you’ve said or done. The only person responsible is the one engaging in abusive behavior.
  • Prioritize your needs. Taking care of your physical and emotional needs can help you move forward to a place where you feel comfortable setting boundaries, reaching out for support, and leaving the abusive situation.
  • Avoid engaging with them. Don’t reply to their text messages, phone calls, or emails. If you can’t avoid working or spending time with them, try to keep another person with you and limit your conversation to essential topics.
  • Set personal boundaries. Decide how you’ll avoid responding to manipulation or getting pulled into arguments. Express those limits to the person using abuse tactics and stick to them. You might say, for example, “If you call me names, I’ll go home,” or, “If you start teasing me in public, I’ll leave.”
  • Build a support network. It might feel frightening to open up about what you’ve experienced, but reaching out to loved ones and a supportive therapist can go a long way toward helping you get the support you need to heal.
  • Exit the relationship or circumstance. State clearly that the relationship is over and cut all ties, if possible. Block their number and social media accounts, and ignore attempts to reach out.
  • Give yourself time to heal. Take space to focus on your needs and recovery. This might involve rediscovering your sense of self, creating a new self-care routine, and talking with a therapist who can offer guidance with recovery.

Leaving an abusive relationship often proves more challenging if you’re married, have children, or have shared assets. If that’s your situation, a good next step involves seeking legal assistance.

A domestic violence advocate or mental health professional can also help you develop an exit plan to leave the relationship safely.

The following resources can also help you come up with a plan:

  • DomesticShelters.org. Visit this website for educational information, a free hotline, and a searchable database of services in your area.
  • Love Is Respect. This nonprofit organization offers teens and young adults a chance to chat online, call, or text with advocates.

3 actions when blamed

Emotional abuse in a marriage or committed relationship…

Taking a deep breath, Sharon asked, “Am I being emotionally abused?” As a professional marriage and family therapist, I often get asked this question.

I referred Sharron to my online emotional abuse test. After confirming that her husband had been emotionally abused, I then discussed with her the characteristics of an emotionally abusive relationship and some options for what to do if a person is in an emotionally abusive relationship. I advised Sharon to learn more about marriage, which causes emotional abuse.

Did you know that almost half of the women in the United States have experienced psychological abuse? Emotional abuse, which is interchangeable with psychological abuse, is common in marriage. Blows, slaps, pushes and verbal abuse have destroyed many people and families.

According to the American Psychological Association, physical abuse results in three women a day being killed by their male partners, and many more being physically and emotionally traumatized.

The above statistics do not mean that only men are rapists. Women also contribute to the overall level of marital abuse. There is no difference between a verbally abusive husband and a verbally abusive wife. The difference is that women are more vulnerable to physical abuse because men tend to be stronger and more aggressive.

In my more than twenty-five years as a marriage and family therapist, I have heard from countless people that men and women psychologically and physically abuse their partners.

If there is physical abuse in your intimate relationship, here are some tips. where to find help.

An emotionally abusive husband and an emotionally abusive wife destroy an otherwise potentially good marriage and home for themselves and their children. Domestic violence is a place of conflict, fear, anger and mistrust - no one deserves a life like this. You and your loved ones have the right to kindness, respect, understanding and love.

Is your marriage or serious relationship abusive?

When you know for sure that you are in a psychologically abusive relationship, what then?

What you do next will change a life of loneliness, degradation and emotional pain, or a life of love, respect and peace.

For starters, know for a fact that your emotionally abusive husband or emotionally abusive wife can stop their misbehavior...but only if he or she wants to!

If your partner admits that he or she is abusive towards you and regrets it, this is an important step forward in making unacceptable behavior acceptable.

You want a good marriage, as does your partner on some deep level. He or she simply does not know how or cannot control himself to behave properly.

Why does stopping emotional abuse seem impossible? Because in an emotionally abusive relationship, the abuser typically refuses to take responsibility for their aggressive, demanding, angry, critical, unreasonable, and belittling actions.

An emotionally abusive husband or emotionally abusive wife blames their partner for their "abusive behaviour". When this happens, there is no way to improve a marriage—to remove “abuse” from the relationship equation.

For example, false excuses and excuses for abuse of a husband or wife by the husband or her are numerous:

  • He or she is bullies because you are not cooperating.
  • He or she requests because you are not giving him or her what he or she deserves.
  • He or she is angry because you are not doing what you should.
  • He or she critical because you are wrong.
  • He or she unreasonable because as a "man" he has the right to have things his way, and as a "woman" she deserves to have what she wants.
  • He or she belittling because he or she is trying to show you a better way.

When your partner blames you for your abuse, he or she is saying, "There's nothing I can do to stop my abuse - it's all your fault," which means "the abuse will continue." .'

Once your partner starts blaming you for their bad behavior, the guilt will never stop. Your abusive partner will criticize everything you do because you are the cause of the abuse, not he or she! The mad dog will bite anyone who gets close. It is not the victim of the dog bite that is to blame - the “blame” falls on the dog because it is sick! The same applies to victims of emotional abuse or any other type of abuse. The cause of violence lies solely with the offender!

Are you in an emotionally abusive marriage? If so, does your partner take responsibility for their bad behavior? Does he or she blame you for being critical, angry, unreasonable, or violent?

Take my FREE Emotional Abuse Quiz to find out if you are emotionally abused. No email required and immediate results. ONE MILLION PEOPLE have already taken this science-based emotional abuse test!

Emotional Abuse Test - Take it now!

Here are 3 things to do when an abusive husband or wife blames you and doesn't take responsibility for their bad behavior:

1. Don't take the blame he or she!

For example, no one can force a person to eat in a certain way. If someone does not want to eat meat, he does not eat, and no one can force him. Similarly, no one can force a person to behave in a certain way. Your verbally abusive husband or wife is abusing you because he or she chooses to be that way or doesn't know how to behave differently, but it's not your fault.

2. Seek outside help if needed Most people are not experts in how to stop psychological or physical abuse. You should never expose yourself to physical harm or danger. When physical abuse is taking place, standing up to your abuser may not be a safe option. You can ask your abuser to stop, but since most of us are not experts in dealing with abusive people, you may need outside help.

This is not to discredit you. Once you realize that you don't know how to stop the abuse, or that you need help, it's time to seek help from others. We all use the services of doctors, lawyers and accountants when we need them. Police, social services, hospitals and qualified private practice therapists are on hand to help you change your daily experience from abuse to respect. Then you will be able to live your future with dignity.

3. Don't compromise You are responsible for taking care of yourself and not putting yourself in danger. Just as you take care not to endanger yourself when you cross a busy street, so be careful not to be around people who hurt you.

If someone hurts you, you can either leave them or ask them to change and treat you with respect; treat you with love and kindness, not hate and cruelty.

If you take a firm stand and adhere to the above three positions, you will stop the abuse. When your partner takes full responsibility for their bad behavior, then he or she can move on to change their bad behavior into loving, caring behavior. If the abuser does not change, you can and should separate from him or her.

Here are some places to learn more about domestic and emotional abuse:


Department of Justice.

CDC - Centers for Disease and Prevention

Women's Health


Department of Justice.

Conclusion: You have a human right to be treated with respect, and no one has the right to steal that from you. Abusive behavior towards another person is a choice. If you are being insulted, DON'T ACCEPT IT. If you are a rapist, STOP IMMEDIATELY.

Canadian Women's Fund

Conclusion: You have a human right to be treated with respect, and no one has the right to steal that from you. Abusive behavior towards another person is a choice. If you are being insulted, DON'T ACCEPT IT. If you are a rapist, STOP IMMEDIATELY.

About the Author

Abe Kass, MA, RSW, RMFT, CCHT. , is a Registered Social Worker, Registered Couples and Family Therapist, Certified Hypnotherapist, and Award-Winning Educator. He maintains an active clinical practice in Toronto, Canada and around the world via phone or Zoom.

After many years of clinical practice and research, Abe came to the conclusion that practical solutions were urgently needed, requiring concentrated efforts of no more than a few minutes a day to solve very specific relationship problems. GoSmartLife Publishing was created to meet this need.

What is gaslighting: signs and methods of struggle

Typical phrases of gaslighters: “I did not say that”, “You are confusing something”, “It's just a joke”, “You are too sensitive”. If you often hear this in your address, we advise you to beware. Gaslighting can take on many different dimensions, and most importantly, it is much more common than it seems.

"Gaslighting" is the 2022 word of the year according to Webster's American Dictionary. The compilers noted that the term is also often used in a political context.

  • What is gaslighting
  • Signs of gaslighting
  • Gaslighting Tactics
  • Examples of gaslighting
  • Why gaslighting is dangerous
  • How to deal with gaslighting
  • Comments of psychologists

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What is gaslighting

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse in which the manipulator denies what happened, trying to make the victim doubt their own memories and change their perception of reality.

Gaslighter systematically devalues ​​the words, experiences, deeds and successes of another person [1]. In the end, his victim begins to feel helpless and insecure. A person is increasingly thinking about his emotional stability and adequacy, while a gaslighter gets almost complete control in a relationship [2]. Such manipulation tactics are found everywhere - in a couple, in a family, at work, in a circle of friends. However, gaslighting may or may not be intentional.

The term began to be used in the middle of the 20th century. It owes its appearance to George Cukor's 1944 film Gaslight. According to the plot, the insidious husband manipulates the mind of a young wife, forcing her to consider herself mentally ill. First, he convinces his beloved that she has no talent for singing, persuades her to leave her career and return to her hometown. And then he begins to arrange strange incidents, convincing the girl that nothing unusual is happening around. As it turns out, the hero does all this in order to take possession of the inheritance of his wife.

Still from the film "Gaslight"

© Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Signs of gaslighting

Gaslighting can be calculated by a number of characteristic signs. To do this, you need, first of all, to carefully listen to your own feelings. Here is a list of "symptoms" that may indicate that you are in a relationship with a manipulator:

  • you think you are doing everything wrong;
  • you push your desires into the background;
  • you feel anxious and insecure;
  • you always blame yourself if something goes wrong;
  • you have difficulty making even simple decisions;
  • you suspect yourself of excessive sensitivity;
  • you stopped enjoying your favorite activities;
  • you think that you used to be more confident and cheerful;
  • you often apologize to your partner, parents, colleagues.

As a rule, psychological abuse occurs gradually and imperceptibly. A person being gaslighted usually goes through three stages. They are not always consistent and may overlap.

1. Denial

At this stage, the first signs of gaslighting appear. The victim notices unusual changes in the behavior of the gaslighter, but does not attach much importance to this. For example, he may say something offensive to you or deny previous actions. You are surprised by this, but still confident in your point of view.

2. Protection

A person begins to doubt himself and his perception of reality. He is increasingly criticized by the manipulator and feels frazzled, but continues to defend himself. You argue frantically with the gaslighter and are constantly looking for evidence to convince him of your case and win his approval.

3. Depression

The victim does not have the strength to fight and argue - she loses her "I". The person begins to believe the words of the gaslighter and agrees with all the accusations in order to gain his favor. He feels helpless, overwhelmed, disorganized. In the third stage, clinical depression and anxiety disorders may develop.

© Soulful Pizza/Pexels

Gaslighting Tactics

A gaslighter uses a variety of tactics to mislead a victim and influence their perception of reality. It's about methodical brainwashing. As a result, after some time, the victim becomes emotionally dependent on the aggressor - his mood, opinion, behavior.

Here are six of the most common gaslighting strategies. Observe yourself and those close to you. You may be able to recognize yourself or someone you know as the victim or manipulator.

1. Denying the facts

Gaslighters love to rewrite history. To make a person doubt their own memory, they distort the facts and change the details of events. The manipulator may categorically deny having said or done anything, even if the evidence suggests otherwise.

Instead, he will accuse the victim of lying: “Why are you composing? This has never happened!” Gaslighters can be so convincing that people really start to believe their version of events. The situation is aggravated if a distracted and forgetful person becomes a victim.

2. Bad jokes

The gaslighter is usually someone from a close circle. These are the people who have the greatest influence on us. They know about our vulnerabilities, weaknesses and experiences, which means that if they wish, they can easily use this knowledge to their detriment.

For example, gaslighters often make caustic and rude jokes about the victim, make inappropriate remarks, or give offensive nicknames. All this is disguised as friendly banter, when in fact the task of the manipulator is to hurt and humiliate.

3. Devaluation of emotions

Gaslighters often discount and ignore other people's feelings. If you are offended by his joke, be prepared to hear: “You are too sensitive! Don't make an elephant out of a fly." If you say that you feel bad, he will answer: “You thought of everything, it seems to you. Better do something useful."

The manipulator shifts the focus to his own feelings and needs, ignoring the state of mind of the victim. Over time, a person begins to believe that all his emotions and reactions are wrong, and ceases to trust his feelings. As a result, the gaslighter gains even more power.

4. Emphasizing the inadequacy of perception

From time to time, each person needs to "check the clock" with other people. We are looking for evidence of the accuracy of our perception of reality and the adequacy of statements. The gaslighter, on the contrary, tries to convince the victim that her reaction to the events that are taking place is abnormal.

He can say: "You've been very strange lately", "You're reacting inappropriately", "Are you sure everything is all right?", "You clearly need help." All this leads to the appearance of doubt, guilt and helplessness in the victim. This is exactly the effect that the manipulator achieves.

5. Shifting Responsibility

Under no circumstances will the Gaslighter admit to being manipulated. Instead, he will look for the guilty around him and will always come up with an explanation for his actions - he was provoked, forced or framed. A typical example of a reaction is: “I didn't mean anything bad. You took me out."

With this method of psychological abuse, the manipulator often projects his shortcomings onto others. He blames the victim for the behavior that is characteristic of himself. As a result, a person begins to make excuses and switches attention from the gaslighter to himself.

6. Aggression and hostility

The gaslighter is always on the offensive. His favorite form of defense is attack. For example, if you suspect such a person of treason, he will accuse you of pathological jealousy, low self-esteem and self-doubt. And if you show him evidence, he will become aggressive.

In addition, the gaslighter tends to belittle the successes and achievements of his victim. Marker phrases: “At your age, I knew how to do this for a long time”, “Nothing special”, “Everyone can do it”, “And you try to do it faster / better”. His job is to make the victim feel inferior.

© Jure Siric/Pexels

Examples of Gaslighting

Gaslighters are not always easy to identify: they don't bruise and often masquerade as harmless humor, constructive criticism, or concern. It is easiest to understand this phenomenon with specific examples.

Couple gaslighting

Example: a woman is sure that her husband is cheating on her. She notices long hair on his shirt, lipstick marks on his neck. The man is increasingly late at work and does not pick up the phone. At the same time, to her suspicions, he says: “You are paranoid! Instead of feeding me dinner, you ask stupid questions. See a psychologist and don't distract me from work!"

Bottom line: after some time, the woman loses the ability to accurately assess what is happening. She begins to doubt her conclusions, blames herself for being too suspicious, and finally apologizes to her husband for baseless accusations.

Gaslighting for children

Example: A boy gets an A in chemistry, a subject that is very difficult for him. After school, he hurries home to please his parents. He proudly shows the diary to his father, and in response he hears: “So what? What are you so happy about? Also a great achievement for me! At your age, I generally had only fives. And you're not trying hard enough."

Bottom line: according to the father, this is how he stimulates his son's interest in learning and motivates him to strive for high results. In fact, the child ceases to trust his own emotions, becomes convinced of his insolvency and grows up insecure.

Gaslighting with a friend

Example: One friend regularly criticizes another about her appearance, hobbies, interests, and tastes. “I’m only telling you all this because I love you,” the girl explains. In addition, she likes to make sharp jokes about her friend and tell her about what they say about her behind her back. Most often, these are offensive things. But sometimes you can hear a compliment from her.

Bottom line: girl's self-esteem drops, but she continues to communicate with a toxic friend, because she gives the appearance of caring. In addition, the gaslighter wants to isolate the insecure girl from other people in order to gain more control over her. And her rare compliments are a way to confuse and keep on the hook.

Gaslighting in the workplace

Example: A new employee receives an assignment from a supervisor. He writes down everything that needs to be done and gets to work. When the assignment is completed, the boss reprimands the subordinate in front of everyone. He claims to have asked for something else. The employee shows the notes, but the manager replies indignantly: “Are you kidding me? How could I give you such an order! Are you all right?"

Bottom line: after a few remarks, the employee begins to believe that he misunderstands the words of the management. He gets confused, feels insecure in meetings, feels guilty, and is constantly under stress. As a result, its performance drops [3].

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In addition, experts distinguish the following types of manipulation.

  • Self-gaslighting: when a person denies and devalues ​​their own feelings (“I always exaggerate everything”, “It’s a shame to be upset about this”, “I am too sensitive”).
  • Physician gaslighting: when a physician ignores a patient's complaints, mistakenly believing that their symptoms are the result of a psychosomatic disorder.
  • Racial gaslighting: when gaslighting techniques are applied to a person because of their race or ethnicity.
  • Political gaslighting: when politicians refer to the mental instability of opponents, distort facts or hide information in order to gain control over people.

Why gaslighting is dangerous

A person who has become a victim of gaslighting ceases to trust his feelings. Over time, due to the actions of the manipulator, he may seriously begin to think that he is suffering from a mental disorder. In addition, systematic gaslighting often leads to real psychological and emotional problems. Among them - increased anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, the formation of codependency. All this makes it difficult for the victim to get out of the influence of the manipulator.

“Victims of gaslighting usually have very low self-esteem. It is difficult to have a good opinion of yourself when you are constantly being proved that this was not or cannot be felt, what you feel is all “nonsense” and “fiction”. Immediately you begin to feel somehow different, ”explains Anastasia Afanasyeva, a psychiatrist, psychotherapist, specialist in the Alter psychologist selection service.

Another important point: emotional abuse often develops into assault. So, if a person experienced gaslighting at the beginning of a relationship, they are more likely to experience physical abuse in the future.

Some experts suggest that gaslighting can cause schizophrenia. “Psychosis can potentially happen, but gaslighting is unlikely to be the main trigger for this. Most likely, the person already had a genetic predisposition. But to stop understanding and distinguishing your emotions, to lose confidence in your own memory, to start devaluing what is happening to you - these are the direct consequences of gaslighting, ”adds Anastasia Afanasyeva.

A vivid example of the devastating effect of gaslighting on a person is the Zersetzung technique. Its name can be translated from German as "biodegradation" or "decomposition". In the 1970s and 1980s, this method was actively used by members of the GDR secret services to fight the “internal enemy”.

They entered dissidents' houses and made minor changes to the interior: they hung towels, rearranged papers, opened windows, changed dishes, or poured a different kind of tea into the kettle. At night, people were disturbed by strange calls, their cars were moved to other places, and passers-by on the streets often called them by other names.

Everything was done to undermine a person's belief in his own adequacy. Demoralized victims withdrew into themselves, stopped leaving the house, slowly went crazy. As a result, they not only stopped political activity, but sometimes took their own lives.

How to deal with gaslighting

Psychological pressure can last for years before the victim realizes what is happening. At the same time, relationships with a gaslighter are most often characterized as dependent or codependent, which means that it is especially difficult to get out of them. Here are some helpful tips to help you resist manipulative techniques.

Trust your feelings

Listen to your feelings more often. If you're upset, then you are. Nobody has to convince you otherwise. Remember that you know yourself much better than anyone else, and your judgment of yourself is much more accurate than the opinion of a gaslighter. During disputes, do not try to convince the manipulator - it is pointless. Be firm: stick to your own version of events and facts. This way you can deal with uncertainty even if the gaslighter builds up the pressure. The main thing when communicating with him is a confident tone and a decisive attitude. But you can’t show the aggressor doubts and fears.

“In order to avoid gaslighting, it is important to be aware of your physical and emotional boundaries. That is, you need to understand what is personally acceptable to you and what is not. If a person is well versed in his emotions, knows what his life values ​​​​are and what he aspires to, then it will be extremely difficult to devalue his words and question his perception of reality, ”explains Anastasia Afanasyeva.

Enlist the support of friends

Ask people you trust to look at the situation from the outside. Do you really have the problems that the gaslighter talks about all the time? Do they notice your "oddities"? In addition, experts advise recording events: keeping a personal diary, taking photographs, recording conversations on a voice recorder. Firstly, this way you will always have evidence at hand that can be presented at the right time. Secondly, it will allow you to double-check your own words and memories. If you are convinced that you are right, the gaslighter will not be able to control you.

“The challenge here is not to find the 'correct' solution, but to get a variety of opinions. Perhaps you will see that reality is not as unambiguous as it is presented to you. In addition, sometimes it is useful to sit down and write a story in the third person, as if watching yourself from the side. This exercise will help you understand more clearly whether something is really wrong with you or with another person,” advises Anastasia Afanasyeva.

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Don't Blame Yourself

The next time a gaslighter begins to distort the facts and try to make you doubt your own adequacy, tell him directly that you are not ready to put up with his behavior. Let the manipulator know that you have figured out his tactics. Clearly define your boundaries and calmly explain that his words offend you and in the future you will not tolerate it. If all else fails and the manipulator continues to gaslight you, be prepared to minimize or completely stop communicating with him. The chances that the aggressor will change his behavior are reduced to zero.

Seek help

Often the victim is manipulated just because it is important for her to stay in a relationship with the manipulator, and not break it off. For example, when it comes to gaslighting as a couple or between family members. In this case, you need to reconsider the tactics of your behavior and start following the new rules. It is best to seek help from a qualified professional. The longer a person is exposed to gaslighting, the more devastating the effects will be. A psychologist will help you cope with anxiety and fears, sort out your doubts and get out of the situation with the least losses.

Psychologist's comment

Anastasia Afanasyeva, psychiatrist, psychotherapist, Alter psychologist selection service, lecturer at the Institute of Organizational Psychology

Anyone can become a victim of gaslighting - it all depends on the influence and persuasiveness of the person or group of people who use such manipulations. But there are certain characteristics and personality traits that make people more likely to gaslight.

First, young age and low level of education. Children do not yet have abstract thinking. It is difficult for them to understand their emotions and cause-and-effect relationships, so they take adults at their word. As the parent said, it really is. After all, they have nothing to compare with. The same applies to the level of education.

Secondly, suggestibility. If a person trusts other people more than himself, if the opinions of others and their reactions are more important to him than his own assessment, then the risk of gaslighting is greater. To resist such manipulations, you need to understand your personality well and have a strong internal reliance on things that are important to you personally.

Third, low self-esteem. If everyone around is so smart, wonderful experts, and I am so stupid and awkward - of course, I will believe them, and not myself.

Fourth, codependency. Overreacting to the emotions and actions of other people (especially those who are near and dear to you), a poor understanding of your interests and values, relying on the interests and values ​​​​of a partner is a direct path to gaslighting.

Fifth, the inability to say "no" and defend personal boundaries. If a person is able to fight back and stop disrespectful behavior towards them, they are unlikely to be gaslighted easily.

The last and perhaps the most important point is the experience of violence in early childhood. As practice shows, usually it is he who leads to the formation of all of the above personality traits.

Alena Golzitskaya, systemic family psychotherapist, Alter psychologist selection service specialist, researcher at the Psychological Institute of the Russian Academy of Education

You can't be born a gaslighter. But you can be born with a predisposition to certain behaviors. Due to the type of nervous system or the physiological characteristics of the organism, a person, for example, may be less sensitive to the suffering of others. Abusive behavior is formed when a child observes how a significant adult uses such manipulative techniques when interacting with him or with other people.

Some parents like to say: "You're making it up - it didn't happen", "I didn't say it and couldn't say it", "You dreamed it", "What are you whining about - nothing terrible happened". If you have heard such phrases addressed to you and at the same time began to doubt your memories or feelings, you have encountered manifestations of gaslighting.

People who engage in abusive behavior rarely think about how it affects others. They seek to derive their own benefit from what is happening. And doubts about whether they behave correctly, as a rule, do not visit them - this is due to the protective mechanisms of their psyche. Therefore, gaslighting is usually noticed by the person to whom it is carried out.

If you want to save the relationship, try telling your partner that you feel uncomfortable when he does this to you. Focus on your feelings and ask him to pay attention to it. Most likely, the partner will need professional psychotherapeutic help in getting rid of the gaslighting pattern.

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