Realizing that you are the victim of gaslighting can evoke a range of emotions, and you might feel compelled to retaliate and/ or expose them. Due to the nature of gaslighting and the characteristics of a gaslighter, this can be difficult and even dangerous to do.
In this article, we will discuss what could happen if you expose a gaslighter and share some advice on how to deal with gaslighting.
In This Article
What is gaslighting, and how would I know if it is being done to me?
Gaslighting is a type of psychological manipulation that allows the perpetrator to feel in control and avoid taking responsibility.
By persistently lying, denying, and turning the tables, the gaslighter attempts to confuse the victim and distort their perception of reality. This gives the perpetrator power over the victim and makes the victim more dependent on them. In essence, gaslighting is used to exert power and manipulate someone into submission.
Gaslighting is not always obvious but there are some signs to look out for. It is important to pay attention to the way you feel when you are with the other person; if you constantly feel confused and doubt yourself and your memories and perceptions, it is an indication that you are experiencing gaslighting.
The following are examples of gaslighting behaviors to look out for:
- Ignoring and discounting what you say, including laughing at you
- Constantly bringing up your past mistakes to question your credibility
- Questioning your memory and perception of things, for example, “it did not happen like that” or “I do not know what you mean, it is all in your head”
- Denial of facts, for example, “that did not happen”
- They always play the victim and blame you for their behavior
- Verbal abuse in the form of “jokes” and name-calling
Should I expose a gaslighter?
Exposing a gaslighter is difficult and even dangerous, depending on their personality and propensity to be violent. If you try to expose them, they will most likely deny what you are saying and attempt to blame you.
The priority should be to look after your well-being and safety, and therefore exposing a gaslighter should be done with caution.
Gaslighting is common, and it can happen in any type of relationship. When you realize it is happening, you might feel angry, sad, and frustrated, and you want to do something about it. But before you consider exposing a gaslighter, ask yourself: what outcome are you looking for by exposing them?
To assess whether exposing them is a good idea, consider the nature of gaslighting and the characteristics of a person who uses gaslighting. The aim of gaslighting is for the perpetrator to feel in control, superior, and “right”.
What happens when you expose a gaslighter?
People who gaslight are often higher up on the narcissism scale (read more about this here), meaning they seek your attention and admiration. They view themselves as above other people, and anyone who questions their position will be met with a hostile and/ or aggressive response.
Not everyone who gaslights is narcissistic but their aim is nonetheless to have control over a situation or person and to avoid taking responsibility.
Therefore, if you expose a gaslighter – that is, you confront them about their behavior and tell them they are gaslighting you – they will not like it because
- You are questioning their position (their superiority)
- You are threatening their narcissistic supply i.e. you are not giving them the admiration they want
- They might feel like they are losing control over you and the situation
The result is that they will do what they can to take back control. They will likely gaslight you further, i.e. lie, deny, and blame you even more, or they could become verbally and/ or physically aggressive.
The outcome of exposing them will not be an apology, and it is very unlikely that they will admit they were wrong and stop gaslighting you. It is much more likely that it will exacerbate the situation.
Arguing with or trying to expose a gaslighter is futile and it could be detrimental to your mental health and safety. The best thing you can do is to end the relationship and disengage completely. If this is not an option, create firm boundaries with that person and interact with them as little as possible.
How to expose a gaslighter
Exposing or confronting a gaslighter is generally not advised. Therapist Alyssa Mancao recommends “the best way to outsmart a gaslighter is to disengage. You can show up to the discussion with a mountain of evidence, videos, recordings, and more, and a gaslighting person will still find a way to deflect, minimize, or deny. It is more worth it to walk away with your perception intact.”
However, if you decide to follow this course of action, here is some advice on exposing a gaslighter.
Exposing a Gaslighting Partner
If you realize that your partner is gaslighting and using other manipulative or abusive tactics, it might be best to leave the relationship. If this is not possible or you are not ready to leave but want to confront them, ensure that you have collected evidence for their behavior.
Categorical, easy-to-understand evidence that demonstrates how they have gaslighted you is best. They will likely deny or try to turn the tables, therefore you need to stand firm in what you are saying and be clear about why their behavior constitutes gaslighting.
Another important factor is boundaries. Creating boundaries means establishing what you will not tolerate and what consequences there are for crossing the line. Communicate the boundaries to your partner and stick to them. For example, if they call you “crazy,” you leave the conversation immediately.
Before you confront your partner, speak to trusted family and friends, or a therapist about it. This can help you to understand what is happening in your relationship and identify ways to manage and/ or leave. It will also mean that there are people who are aware of your situation and can ensure that you are safe.
Exposing a Gaslighting Parent
Ending your relationship with your parents is often not viable or wanted. Therefore, the best way to deal with a gaslighting parent is to set firm boundaries and minimize the contact you have with them.
Boundaries could include the way they speak to you, discussing certain topics, and keeping a physical distance. A gaslighter will likely want to test your boundaries and therefore, it is important that you respond consistently when a line has been crossed.
As with any confrontation, it is important that you remain as calm as possible and do not rise to their attempts at provocation. People who gaslight often thrive on conflict and getting a reaction. Thus, it is best not to respond when you notice gaslighting or other manipulative behaviors.
Exposing Gaslighting at Work
Gaslighting at work is unique as you likely have to spend much time with that person but they are not a close relationship such as a partner or family member. The effects of gaslighting at work are nonetheless just as detrimental as in any other relationship.
The first step is to collect evidence of their behavior. Make notes and record any incidents in as much detail as possible.
Your aim should be to give the perpetrator no way to turn it around on you or to be able to deny the facts. Then, rather than confronting that person alone, you should speak to your line manager or another senior person who will support you.
Approach them calmly and constructively with the aim of setting boundaries and finding a way to work alongside each other if this is unavoidable.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do You Explain Gaslighting to a Gaslighter?
If the gaslighter is unaware of their behavior, it could be helpful to let them know that some of their behavior constitutes gaslighting. In this case, it is important to have some examples to share with them and to be sure that it is indeed gaslighting.
If you are aiming for reconciliation, it is best to approach this conversation calmly and constructively. You could explain where the term comes from and describe how their actions undermine you and your sense of reality.
If you believe that the person is intentionally trying to gaslight you, then confronting them will likely lead them to gaslight you further. They might say something like “you are imagining things again”.
What Happens When You Ignore a Gaslighter?
Ignoring a gaslighter could mean you pretend you did not hear what they said and do not engage or respond to them. This could result in an escalation of their attempts at gaslighting you or make them angry if they feel you have bruised their pride. Similarly, they might try to get your attention in other ways. It is unlikely that ignoring a gaslighter will result in them stopping this behavior.
Arguing with a gaslighter is also futile as the chances of them admitting they were wrong are very low. It is better not to argue and to stop explaining yourself and seeking their approval. Try to accept that you cannot change someone and limit or stop contact with that person.
Can You Gaslight a Gaslighter?
It is possible for two people in any type of relationship to gaslight each other. It is not always the case that there is only one abusive or manipulative person in a relationship – sometimes it is both people.
A gaslighter is not immune to being gaslighted. However, it is not advisable to play games as this could have negative consequences for you and your health. The best option is to leave or create as much distance as possible between yourself and the gaslighter.
How Do You Prove Gaslighting?
Pay close attention to the gaslighter’s behavior and words. Take notes, collect evidence, and record your side of the story. This will allow you to notice any patterns and help you remain stable in your sense of reality.
You could also discuss certain behaviors with trusted friends and family or a mental health professional. In this way, you can obtain an objective view and assess whether gaslighting is happening in your relationship.
Klein, W.B., Wood, S. & Li, S (2022). A Qualitative Analysis of Gaslighting in Romantic Relationships. Preprint from PsyArXiv.
Petric, D. (2018). Gaslighting and the knot theory of mind. Research Gate.