A manipulation technique, gaslighting allows the attacker to question his victim’s judgment, but also his memories or his feelings. This type of behavior, often insidious, can be difficult to recognize, but typical phrases, regularly uttered by the manipulator, can help you recognize it.
Gaslighting, which can be translated as “cognitive hijacking”, is a way of making the victim doubt their reason, but also themselves. This allows the abuser to maintain power and control in the relationship. This strategy also helps prevent the aggressor from taking responsibility for their bad behavior.
What are the phrases regularly uttered in gaslighting?
Gaslighting can be difficult to recognize, but certain phrases spoken repeatedly should ring a bell. Several have been updated by different therapists in the Huffington Post US.
“This never happened”
This is the typical first sentence of gaslighting behavior. After having behaved badly, the attacker will simply deny the facts. A way to call into question the memories of his victim, who could possibly have “misunderstood” what happened.
“You’re too sensitive.”
The victim, who suffers the bad behavior of their attacker, will naturally try to express their disappointment and the fact that they have been hurt. But for the aggressor, it will almost be a mark of weakness. It’s a way of minimizing the victim’s feelings, and making them understand that they’re “making a big deal out of it.” The idea being to make her feel stupid for exaggerating the facts like this.
“You’re crazy — and other people think so too”
When the manipulator constantly uses the gaslighting technique with his victim, the victim ends up, over time, doubting his own mental health. The abusive person uses this to their advantage, to make them think they are crazy, and that other people think so too. Generally, the attacker will inform the victim’s loved ones, family and friends, in order to discredit them and create a gap between them. This prevents it from being raw and limits its possibilities of escape.
“You have a bad memory.”
Everyone can forget certain details and that’s normal. But in the gaslighting technique, the manipulator will concentrate his efforts to permanently discredit his victim on his or her omissions. A way to constantly question her, so that she no longer trusts herself.
“I’m sorry you think I hurt you.”
This sentence may sound like an apology, but it is not. By saying these words, the attacker will deflect responsibility and blame his victim for having amplified the facts and misinterpreting the situation. This causes the victim to doubt their own judgment.
“You should have known how I would react.”
Here again, it is a sentence which allows the aggressor to exonerate himself. Instead of being responsible for his own behavior, he accuses the other of having caused it.
Good in his body, good in his head!
How to get out of it? Advice from our expert
Faced with a person who uses this type of stratagem, there is no point in fighting the battle is lost in advance according to Johanna Rozenblum, clinical psychologist and author of the forthcoming book “Déconditionnez-vous”, published by Le Courrier du Livre.
“I advise not to respond to this type of provocation“explains the psychologist.”If it is a spouse, you should also say as little as possible about yourself and try to leave the relationship. It is important not to show any sign of weakness, because it will, like a boomerang, be used again against you“.
If this type of sentence is uttered by a boss, for example, the psychologist recommends remaining silent as much as possible, so as not to give this toxic personality food for thought. “Same recommendation in the professional environment: you must say as little as possible about yourself, your family, your children, your state of health… Everything can be reused against you, even months later“.
Our expert, however, advises keeping records and building up a sort of “evidence” file. “If the person makes comments to you by message or email, about possible delays for example or other criticism, you must keep them as proof of abnormal behavior.” she concludes.