If you have been in an abusive relationship, it is when you have escaped that you can recognise the signs of abuse. One typical method of abuse is gaslighting. Predators have a repertoire of gaslighting phrases up their sleeves ready to use at a moment’s notice.
You might think that it is only people with low self-esteem that would fall for such phrases. But you would be wrong. Before I met my ex-partner, I would consider myself to be independent, confident, and outgoing.
My ex did not start our relationship using gaslighting phrases. It was a gradual process. My ex said hurtful things to me out of the blue and then said that I was over-sensitive or that he was joking.
He would highlight my inadequacies and tell me that no one would put up with me the way he did.
He would sulk for days if I went out with the girls. He would criticise the clothes I wore or tell me that my friends were a bad influence on me. He even convinced me not to put my name on the mortgage to the house we were buying because ‘as long as we stayed together, it would be our house.’
I would argue with him at first, but after a while, I began to question myself.
Perhaps he was right.
Now I know that being able to recognise these kinds of phrases is an invaluable tool for dealing with gaslighting.
If you think you may be being manipulated by a predator, see if any of the phrases below sound familiar.
8 Gaslighting Phrases Predators Use
‘I was only joking’
This is one classic gaslighting phrase predators use which allows them to say anything hurtful to you. They can call you all the names under the sun and get away with it. They do this by switching the focus back to you.
You are the one with no sense of humour. You should ‘chill out’ or ‘get a thick skin’. Predators use this early on to see what sort of behaviour you’ll put up with. In other words, are you a suitable victim?
‘You are being paranoid/crazy’
Often the people who are gaslighting are doing something that they are trying to hide from their victims. The victim senses that something isn’t right and confronts them. The predator accuses them that they are paranoid or crazy and so the gaslighting continues.
What the predator is doing is deflecting attention away from themselves and making you feel that you are the problem.
In the film Gaslight, the husband moves objects and flickers the lights in an attempt to make his wife think she is going mad.
‘I’m doing it for your own good’
How insulting is this phrase? It is an excuse for unjustified criticism. Predators like this phrase because they get to exert control over their victim.
I remember my ex would say things to me like ‘The children have noticed dust on the lampshades’ or ‘You didn’t vacuum the hall properly’. At first, I would answer back and tell him that if it bothered him then he should do it. After a while, I just did it.
‘You are being hysterical/overdramatic’
Accusing someone of being overdramatic or hysterical is not validating their feelings. You are telling them they do not have a right to feel how they feel. Feelings are not about being right or wrong. How can you help how you feel?
Telling someone that they are overdramatic lets an abuser increase the level of their abuse without consequences. You are not sure if you are making a scene over nothing. Go with your gut. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right.
‘You made me do that’
Abusers like to blame the victim for their abusive behaviour. What they are saying is it is the victim’s fault.
So they relinquish all responsibility for their actions and place them on their victim. What this does is make the victim change their behaviour. They will do anything to please their partner.
‘I never said that’
Whether it is your choice for dinner or what time you arranged to meet for lunch, questioning your memory and making you doubt what you have heard or said can be very worrying and intimidating.
Predators know that confident people are stable and secure in their minds. By undermining this sense of stability, you are easier to control and manipulate.
‘No one else would ever put up with you’
I used to get this a lot. This kind of phrase usually comes after the predator has established some control over his or her victim. They have successfully managed to chip away at your identity. You are feeling worthless after all the criticisms and putdowns.
You start believing that perhaps you are this damaged person and maybe they are right. You are grateful that they do put up with you. After all, there is so much wrong with you.
‘Just forget about it’
So you are in the middle of this crazy argument that started from nowhere over nothing and all of a sudden he or she says, ‘Just forget about it’ and walks off.
You are left wondering what the hell just happened. What was the problem in the first place? Now your partner refuses to discuss it. The rug has been pulled from under your feet. Of course, you cannot forget about it. You are in a state of anxiety, which is just where they want you.
The sole purpose of gaslighting is to undermine your sense of reality. By using gaslighting phrases, the predator manipulates you. They create doubt in your mind.
They make you question previous experiences. Predators, whether they are partners or abusive parents, use gaslighting to chip away at your confidence.
So, if you come across any of the above gaslighting phrases, remember to trust your judgement. Your feelings are real and valid. You are strong enough to walk away.
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