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Unfortunately, emotional affronts can come in subtle forms. Here are some signs to watch out for if you feel you're being gaslighted

You may have heard of the term "gaslighting". It is, unfortunately, a fairly common occurrence and is among the more subtle kinds of emotional abuse. But take note, it is still abusive and can often cause its victims plenty of distress. When done unto someone, gaslighting can cause a person to question their own feelings, thoughts, and sanity. Their perception of reality can often confuse them as their gaslighter will try to convince them that they cannot trust their own thoughts or instincts. This is often rooted in power imbalances, most usually in gender and sexual inequalities. 

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Gaslighting can happen anywhere and with anyone—with significant others, with families, friends, work colleagues, and even with yourself. Because this kind of treatment is often so subtle in the beginning, people may not immediately recognise it. But here are five telltale signs to note in case you suspect someone may be gaslighting you. 

1. Becoming too defensive when you confront them or express your needs

In any relationship (even with yourself), it's important to stay attuned to your needs; and as adults, we (should) all know the right way to express them to our partners or loved ones. If you've ever gently, honestly, and carefully expressed yourself but find that your partner or friend immediately got defensive, that could be a form of gaslighting. If they immediately get angry and say things like: "you're overreacting" or "you're being too much", or even insisting that you're too sensitive, that could be a subtle yet destructive form of gaslighting. They might even sometimes withdraw and refuse to listen to you at all. Always remember that your needs are valid and must be worked out through compromise with the people in your life. Don't ever let someone belittle the way you feel because only you know what you need or want in a relationship. 

2. Twisting events or perspectives

The human memory is surprisingly fallible. After events have happened, it becomes easy to twist reality and gaslighters often use this to their advantage. If you ever encounter someone who makes you question events—especially the things you clearly remember saying or doing (or not saying and doing)—then it's time to take a step back and assess if you can trust the person. Gaslighters will often lie or subtly skew events to work in their favour: making them look better than how they actually behaved. This makes it incredibly confusing for the victim, which is why it's sometimes important to have a witness or third person perspective on the situation. 

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3. Diversion

This sign of gaslighting is fairly straightforward: diversion. It happens when someone tries to change the subject without fully addressing what it entails (and then later skewing events to their favour). It may also happen when the abuser accuses his or her victim that they might have gotten a certain idea from a trusted friend or family member. What the gaslighter is trying to do is to divert blame or suspicion from himself or herself, even though they can be very clearly at fault. If you notice someone always trying to blame someone else for what you judge to be their misgiving, then you should consider if they are gaslighting you. 

4. Plenty of denial and countering without taking responsibility

This tactic is fairly similar to when a gaslighter tries to skew events to his or her favour, but in many ways it's much more direct. Denial can come as straightforwardly as "I did not do that" or "that was not my intention". No one can ever say that they did not hurt you, because that emotion is up to you and only you. Taking no responsibility for one's actions is a classic gaslighting tactic. 

5. Trivialising

In many ways, gaslighting is about power dynamics. Trivialising is when an abuser tries to make his or her victim feel as if their thoughts and feelings are unimportant. This could come in many ways. Gaslighters may often use his or her victim's failings or mistakes to make them feel as if their needs aren't valid. They can also accuse their victim of being too sensitive or dramatic. They could belittle the person they're gaslighting through even the most mundane of actions: expressing needs or frustration. 

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