16 Gaslighting Memes to Help You Feel a Little Less Alone
Here are some memes that may help you learn the signs of gaslighting, understand your own situation, find comfort, get help, or even have a laugh.
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Gaslighting memes may help people cope
Feel like you’re slowly going crazy? Do you hesitate to make decisions because you feel like you can’t trust your own judgment? Do you have to walk on eggshells around your partner? If so, you might be a victim of gaslighting.
Gaslighting is when a loved one uses manipulation and distraction tactics to distort the truth, making you question your own reality. It can happen in any close relationship, including romantic relationships, but also between family members, friends, and coworkers.
However, all the definitions and explanations from psychologists may not sink in if you’re not ready to hear them. What can resonate? Gaslighting memes. The humor mixed with truth and a sense of community can reach people in a way nothing else can. Plus, gaslighters often try to isolate their victims, and social media is a less obvious way to find out more information and get help, according to Stephanie Sarkis, PhD, a psychotherapist and author of Gaslighting: Recognize Manipulative and Emotionally Abusive People — and Break Free.
How to spot gaslighting
Gaslighting is deception, so it can be tricky to identify, especially when you’re in the middle of it, says Sarkis. In fact, gaslighting often begins with a whirlwind romance.
“It is a type of brainwashing and coercive control. It can be so subtle that you may not even be aware it’s happening,” she says. “Part of gaslighting is training the victim not to question it, [gaslighting] depends on you believing that your experiences and your feelings are wrong.” Gaslighting is one of the signs you’re in a toxic relationship.
And make no mistake about it: It’s abuse. It falls under the category of mental and emotional abuse, and while it may not be as visible as bruises, it can be just as damaging, says Robin Stern, PhD, a licensed psychoanalyst, co-founder and associate director for the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and an associate research scientist at the Child Study Center at Yale, and author of The Gaslight Effect: How to Spot and Survive the Hidden Manipulation Others Use to Control Your Life.
“When a loved one undermines your sense of reality, you become trapped in a never-never land, where you feel bad, inadequate, and crazy all the time,” she says. (Here are early signs of abuse you might not recognize.)
Read on to see some of the funniest, smartest, and most poignant gaslighting memes—and learn why it’s called “gaslighting.”
What gaslighting looks like
This graphic is a concise explanation of some of the most common gaslighting phrases that are red flags. Still not sure if it fits your situation? Remember that someone has trained people being gaslighted to doubt and second-guess their every thought, feeling, word, and action, Sarkis says.
It’s not your fault
This post is actually a series of slides, each with a different affirmation for people trying to boost their self-confidence after being gaslit. All of them speak to a source of pain and gently refute it with facts. For example, no matter what your gaslighter told you, it’s literally impossible for every bad thing to be your fault!
Overthinking your overthinking
It’s normal to want to please a loved one and avoid upsetting them, but gaslighters will capitalize on this kind of impulse, using it against you. A sign of this is constantly “overthinking” everything you say or do with them because you’re afraid of triggering their displeasure, Sarkis says.
This is what gaslighting looks like in real life
Confused about what exactly gaslighting looks like in a relationship? Whether they profess to be your best friend, the love of your life, or your boss, anyone who does these things is gaslighting you. Gaslighters are often narcissists. (Here are the signs of narcissistic abuse you should know.)
Calling all the tough ladies
Gaslighting can happen in any close relationship, but the most common pairing is men gaslighting women, Stern says. There’s also a level “of cultural gaslighting” where certain traits—like forcefulness or bluntness—are seen as admirable in men (“he’s a strong leader”) but objectionable in women (“she’s bossy”).
Gaslight. In progress. #gaslighting pic.twitter.com/TAY0Dn6UJa
— Yodeyay Films (@yodeyay_films) November 14, 2020
“Gaslighting” didn’t become a recognized term until the 1944 movie Gaslight. In the film, the husband convinces his wife she’s going insane, by manipulating the gas lights in the home and then denying that the lights are flickering. For anyone who has never seen one, here’s what a real gaslight looks like, in action. So consider this one of the original gaslighting memes.
How many of these have you heard recently?
It’s both comforting and upsetting to realize that so many people have been in the position of being gaslighted by a loved one that a meme of common phrases gaslighters say went viral. Part of the reason gaslighting works is by making the victim feel alone and isolated, so they don’t see the pattern, Sarkis says. Connecting with others is a powerful anti-gaslighting tool.
Gaslighting as a parenting tactic
“Parents undermine their kids’ reality in the most innocent ways, usually as a way to get the child to obey, but the consequences are very damaging,” Stern says. Parental gaslighting can be as simple as telling a child, “You’re not hungry, you just ate,” as it teaches the child not to trust their own body and experience but to rely on others.
Recognizing gaslighting is the most important step
Part of gaslighting is getting the victim to distrust themselves and their own thoughts and feelings—which in turn can make it difficult to recognize the gaslighting because, after all, aren’t you the crazy one? This post highlights some of the common ways gaslighting feels to the victim so even if you don’t have a name for it, you can recognize it’s real.
Love is not always the answer
“A common tactic gaslighters use is telling you that you should love them ‘unconditionally, no matter what’ as a way to ignore or excuse their bad behavior,” Stern says. And, because you love the person, you begin to question your initial reaction and wonder if you aren’t loving enough. But you can love someone, deeply, and still, hold them accountable for their actions.
She’s not my mom anymore!
One of the benefits of adulthood is separating yourself, physically and mentally, from abusive family members. This is one of the simple gaslighting memes that encapsulates this perfectly. Abuse can take many forms; it’s just one thing experts wish everyone understood about domestic violence.
“You’re cheating on me. (But really I’m cheating on you)”
“Gaslighters love to turn the conversation around and blame their victims for their bad behavior,” Stern says. If it’s your fault that they crashed the car, maxed out the credit card, or did something else harmful, then they don’t have to change anything, she explains.
Truth: You’re not “too sensitive”
How many times have you heard that you’re “too sensitive” or that you “can’t take a joke” when you get upset? Did you run out of fingers and toes? Gaslighters treat normal reactions, like crying or getting upset, as being over-the-top or dramatic, as a way to invalidate your feelings and make you question yourself, Stern says. You’re allowed to feel your feelings.
It’s OK to not be OK
Having someone close to you repeatedly dismiss your feelings can eventually lead you to ignore your feelings, too, Sarkis says. But your hurt, anger, sadness, frustration, and fear are all still there, buried deep in your heart, festering.
Being gaslighted is like getting a psychological concussion
Gaslighting is hurtful in the short term but can also have long-term effects, destroying the victim’s self-esteem and confidence. It can have broader health implications, as well. Over time, the person being gaslighted becomes conditioned to trust others’ perceptions more than their own. This habit leads to helplessness, a foggy mind, an inability to make decisions, memory problems, PTSD, depression, and anxiety. Unfortunately, these feelings may not end even if the person leaves the relationship, Stern says.
You deserve to be loved
Victims of gaslighting often come to believe that they are inherently broken and unlovable, Sarkis says. The inconsistent affection of the gaslighter makes them wonder if anyone will ever really love them. Not only does this destroy their self-worth, but it keeps them trapped in an unhealthy or abusive relationship because no one wants to be alone.
“You deserve someone who will love you for you, respect your experiences, and who will treat you with respect and kindness,” she says.
Now that you’ve seen these gaslighting memes, check out the gaslighting examples you should recognize.
- Robin Stern, PhD, a licensed psychoanalyst, Co-founder and Associate Director for the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and an Associate Research Scientist at the Child Study Center at Yale, and author of The Gaslight Effect: How to spot and survive the hidden manipulation others use to control your life
- Stephanie Sarkis, PhD, a psychotherapist in Tampa, Florida, Court Certified Family and Circuit Civil Mediator, and author of Gaslighting: Recognize Manipulative and Emotionally Abusive People — and Break Free