Here’s the 411 on Gaslighting: Synonyms & Signs


There’s an acclaimed academic researcher who learned through his research that, “You can’t tame, what you can’t name.”  

His research found that you can reduce stress by up to 50% just by noticing and naming your state.

Can you actually describe what gaslighting is and how it is showing up in your life???

Gaslighting is a popular word that has made it into our everyday vernacular.  

Many people are confused about what the word really means.  

Having words that crisply convey your understanding of the word ‘gaslighting’ to your friends, family, and therapist is important.  It helps you to accurately explain the crazy situation you have found yourself in.  

When you are in a relationship with a gaslighter, it can be like living in a place with fun-house mirrors.

Maybe your life with the gaslighter feels crazy… but sharing your story with precision and detail needn’t be. 


If I can give you any advice:  Share the red flags that cause you concern to people you trust!  


When you are chronically gaslighting it’s nearly impossible to untangle the manipulation and mind games.  Therefore, it’s also almost impossible to have some objectivity. 

The Importance of Gaslighting Synonyms

Here are some techniques a gaslighter might use against per the National Domestic Violence Hotline:


  • Withholding: The gaslighter ignores you or acts like you don’t understand.  
    • Gaslighting synonyms that may apply to your experience include:
      • Restricting/reserving information
      • Treating you like you are stupid
      • Maintaining control by using the silent treatment
      • Dismissing your ideas by acting like you just don’t get it
      • Withdrawing from you
      • Avoiding you


  • Countering: The gaslighter makes up new details about events or denies that something happened.
    • Gaslighting synonyms that may apply to your experience include:
      • Concocting stories that are created out of thin air
      • Manufacturing ‘facts’ to fit the narrative
      • Twisting ‘facts’ to fit the narrative
      • Constructing a ‘reality’ that doesn’t exist 
      • Framing you as the transgressor
      • Formulating  a story to fit their agenda


  • Blocking: The gaslighter uses interrogation-style tactics to question your memories of an event- doing this to ultimately turn things back on you.
    • Gaslighting synonyms that may apply to your experience include:
      • Straying from an important topic that you bring up
      • Running away from important topics
      • Confusing you with questions
      • Digressing from the subject


  • Trivializing:  The gaslighter uses this to make you feel small and unimportant
    • Gaslighting synonyms that may apply to your experience include:
      • Dismissing your concerns
      • Belittling you as a human being
      • Devaluing your contributions to the relationship/family
      • Treating you as unimportant
      • Minimizing your dreams and wishes
      • Downplaying your desires
      • Thinking little of things that are important to you- such as your family, friends, hobbies, desires


  • Forgetting/denial: The gaslighter works to make you question your reality by pretending to forget or deny something ever happened.  This attribute is truly crazy-making!
    • Gaslighting synonyms that may apply to your experience include:
      • Invalidating your experience
      • Contesting your feelings
      • Challenging your point of view
      • Picking apart tiny details of your version of events
      • Refuting your version of events
      • Acting like you are crazy
      • Countering your narrative
      • Rejecting your reality
      • Rebuffing your memory
      • Failing to recollect important details of an event
      • Ignoring key details of what occurred


  • Diverting:  The Gaslighter changes the subject… faster than the speed of sound!
    • Gaslighting synonyms that may apply to your experience include:
      • Disrupting your story
      • Interjecting their needs about a different topic
      • Leaving the room for some more important task
      • Diverting attention to slights that you have done
      • Getting distracted by the dog, cat, or kid
      • Acting bewildered and changing the topic

Do any of these sound familiar to you?  If so, here’s what you need to know:

Gaslighting starts out small


Gaslighters (knowingly or unknowingly) groom you.  

They start out with small ways to question your judgment or reality.  


Over time, there is a snowball effect where you have become so confused, you don’t know which way is up and which way is down.  


How can you keep your wits about you when this happens?  

Talk to people you trust.  

Ask them if what is going on makes sense.  


If you are starting to be confused, say to a trusted confidant, “I could use your opinion, cause I feel like I am going crazy.”

Here's another thing you need to know: Gaslighting isn’t reserved for personal relationships.

Gaslighting can occur in professional relationships and by people you don’t even know (think public figures)!


People that have power positions can use their power for good or for ill. 


In fact, professional relationships- because of the power differential- are ripe for gaslighting to take place.  

Gaslighting is about power… but it doesn’t mean it’s intentional or malicious.

Here’s the hard truth:  If you are breathing and over the age of 2, you have engaged in gaslighting to one degree or another!  


At times, we all omit or twist facts to fit our narrative.  

Other times, we believe we are right and don’t leave space for curiosity and hearing another point of view.  


Or, we make assumptions about another person’s actions… only to find out when we confront them, that we were dead wrong about them. 


We may be so entrenched in our assumptions, we don’t hold room for other facts that don’t fit our narrative.   


In a relationship, a red flag is questioning yourself a lot.  


Going back to the previous point, gaslighting starts out slowly.  You don’t realize that you are the proverbial frog in boiling water. 


Here’s an example of how it starts out and then snowballs: 


A father questions his daughter’s decisions.  Over time, the daughter gets the message that her internal compass is defective and she needs to follow her dad’s commands.  She doesn’t do things that she suspects her father wouldn’t approve of.  She knows she isn’t happy but is so entrenched in the dysfunctional dynamic, she doesn’t realize she can change. 


She has lost her agency.

If you feel confused about the majority of your decisions and are constantly second-guessing yourself, here are steps you can take:

  1. Identify the problem. 
  2. Give yourself permission to feel what you feel. 
  3. Start with making small decisions. Don’t engage in an argument that’s clearly a power struggle.
  4. Get a second opinion. 
  5.  investigate your own values, priorities, and desires. 
  6. Have compassion for yourself!

 In the meantime, are you ready to give therapy a go?  

Free free to contact me directly if you have questions or to schedule a brief call to see if I might be able to support you as you journey forward.


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