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Toxic Relationships Part 3: Examples of Gaslighting in Emotional Abuse

Written by: Emily Harrison, M.S.
Toxic Relationships Part 3: Examples of Gaslighting in Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse comes in many forms. Often, it can be hard to recognize. It is worth noting that emotional abuse can occur at any time, around friends, family, or in private. It is important to be able to recognize the many different tactics of emotional abuse in order to learn how to respond to it.

1. Withholding: Withholding is a tactic where the abusive partner refuses to listen or understand what the other person is attempting to communicate or convey and actively makes attempts to avoid understanding during conflict

2. Blocking & Diverting: This occurs when an abusive person attempts to move the conversation away from hearing the other person’s thoughts and actively questions the person’s thoughts and feelings

3. Denial & Forgetting: This happens when the abusive partner attempts to invalidate previous hurtful events by saying they don’t remember or denying that a specific event or conversation actually occurred.

4. Countering: Similar to #3, countering occurs when the abusive partner actively questions the validity of their partner’s memory when their partner recalls harmful/hurtful things the abusive partner has done. The abusive partner will make the other person think they are not remembering events correctly.

5. Trivializing: This happens when an abusive partner makes the other person feel meaningless or insignificant after said person conveys their thoughts, feelings, goals, wants, and needs.

This form of emotional abuse can slowly erode a person’s confidence and self-esteem over time. It can cause individuals to second guess their intuitions and experiences, become people-pleasing, become overly critical of themselves, and cause long-term damage to their ability to trust themselves. The best tactic to combat emotional abuse is to remove yourself from the situation. But, because it is not always that easy, there are things you can do as an individual to prevent further damage and respond appropriately to continue to protect yourself.

See Toxic Relationships Part 4: How to Combat Emotional Abuse for ways to do just that.