Examples of Gaslighting

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“You’re gaslighting me!” In recent years, the phrase has evolved from a serious accusation to a hot topic of discussion on TikTok, to a joke. With all this talk about what gaslighting is and isn’t, people who are being gaslit and abused may find themselves confused as to whether their partner, parent, or authority figure’s behavior is actually a red flag. Through these examples of gaslighting, you should be able to discern what is gaslighting and what is a normal, although sometimes uncomfortable, conversation between two people. 

What Is Gaslighting? 

Gaslighting is a manipulation technique in which an abuser makes a victim question their own reality. Through techniques like obfuscation, trivializing, and straight-up denial, the victim begins to believe that they are “going crazy,” or that they are something they are not. 

Gaslighting may be used by an abuser to gain power in a relationship or to make the victim weak so the abuser may steal or commit other crimes against them. The term actually came from a 1940s movie but has recently become popular again. In discussions about what gaslighting is, you can also find many discussions about what gaslighting isn’t. 

First, let’s start with what gaslighting looks like. 

Examples of Common Gaslighting Techniques 

Common gaslighting techniques include: 

  • Obfuscation
  • Withholding
  • Countering
  • Blocking and diverting
  • Trivializing 
  • Forgetting and denial 


Obfuscation is the process of making something confusing, unclear, or obscure. All the examples you’re about to read may sound like small instances of miscommunication at first, but over time, they can become dangerous patterns that make a person question their own sanity.

Let’s say you and a partner are discussing your expectations for a Christmas party at your partner’s work. You don’t know their coworkers and want to know what’s an appropriate outfit for the party. Your partner responds back with contradicting terms: they’re laid-back but have high expectations. The venue is nice but you’ll be judged if you dress too formally. You shouldn’t introduce yourself but don’t stay in the corner all night. This is confusing, and you feel like no matter what you do or what you wear, you’ll be doing something wrong. 


An abuser may pretend like they don’t know what a victim is talking about, making the victim believe that they are not communicating their feelings properly, even if they are. An example of this is simply a person telling their partner, “I don’t know what you mean,” over and over again. The partner may try to communicate their feelings in multiple ways, but the person is just refusing to understand the partner’s message without asking follow-up questions or making an effort to be on the same page with their partner.  


Before gaslighting, a person may be pretty confident of what they remember about their experiences. After countering and gaslighting, a person may lose that confidence entirely. A gaslighter may “counter” a victim by bringing their memory into question. 

Let’s say a man goes to a party with his girlfriend. The girlfriend maybe has one or two drinks but remembers everything that happened at the party. When the man tells the girlfriend she did something terrible at the party, the girlfriend says she didn’t. She claims she remembers everything that happened at the party, but the man counters her and says she was so drunk there’s no way she could remember anything. The girlfriend begins to question her drinking habits and whether she actually did the thing the man said she did. 

Blocking and Diverting

When confronted, an abuser may use blocking and diverting as a way to avoid being held accountable for their actions. Blocking and diverting takes place when someone controls a conversation as a way to divert from what a victim actually wants to communicate. 

For example, a woman may confront her partner about their promise to do the dishes and other chores. The chores weren’t done, even though the partner promised they would get them done. Instead of making excuses or promising to do the chores, the partner changes the conversation and asks why the woman was out all day. Was she cheating? Was she hanging out with people the partner doesn’t like? Was she leaving the house to avoid being around the partner all day? This strategy helps the partner avoid accountability regarding the chores, and instead turns the accusations on the woman, who is left questioning whether her partner’s concerns were more valid than hers. 


When a person trivializes another person’s needs or concerns, the person starts to minimize their feelings and ignore their gut reactions. For example, a woman may tell her partner that she wants them to meet her parents. Her parents are a big part of her life, she tells them, and if her parents don’t approve, she won’t feel comfortable in the relationship. The partner refuses to meet the parents and tells the woman that meeting family isn’t as important as she thinks it is. Parents have bad judgment all the time, and their relationship doesn’t hinge on her parent’s approval. Over and over again, throughout years of a relationship, the partner refuses to meet her parents. 

Forgetting and Denial

Gaslighting can start with simply denying something the victim knows to be true. For example, a woman might tell her partner that she is going to make them dinner when they get home. The partner acknowledges and thanks the woman, and comes home that evening excited about their home-cooked meal. When questioned, the woman tells her partner that they never said they would make them dinner. The gaslighter may even go one step further to ask the partner to make dinner instead. 

Examples of Gaslighting in Movies and TV

The term “gaslight” actually came from a story of a gaslighter. The story was first written as a play called Gas Light. In 1940 and 1944, the play was adapted into a movie. In the story, a husband convinces his wife that she is “going crazy” so he can steal from her. One of the methods he uses is by adjusting the gas light for her to notice when she is home alone. The man denies that the gas light is being tinkered with, and the woman starts to question her own reality. 

Rosemary’s Baby

In the classic horror novel and film, Rosemary is a young woman experiencing severe pain during her pregnancy. Her OBGYN, recommended to her by neighbors who seem a little off to Rosemary, tells her pain is normal. The OBGYN tells her not to consult her friends about her experiences because every individual pregnancy is different. If she’s having severe pain, that’s fine. The OBGYN also recommends having a drink made by her neighbors every day. 

When Rosemary tells her friends about this pain, they grow concerned and tell her to get a second opinion. She also finds that when she stops drinking the drink, the severe pain goes away. So Rosemary makes an appointment with another OBGYN and tells him the horrors of what she’s experienced, but her husband, neighbors, and previous OBGYN find out about her seeking a second opinion. They tell her she’s crazy and to start drinking the drink again.

(If you’ve managed spoilers so far and don’t want to know the ending, skip to the next example!) 

As it turns out, Rosemary isn’t crazy. When she does have the baby, it’s taken from her. She’s told that it died, even though she can hear a baby crying through the walls between her and her neighbor’s house. Again, she is drugged and kept on bed rest. She eventually stops taking the drugs, sneaks into the neighbor’s apartment, and finds out she was right all along: her neighbors were part of a satanic cult that planned to use her baby in their rituals. 

Don’t Worry Darling

In the 2022 film Don’t Worry Darling, housewife Alice has a lot of strange experiences in the idyllic, isolated town of Victory, California. She sees a plane crash, and while attempting to help the victims, she ends up finding a strange building at the top of a mountain outside of town. Upon touching the building, she has hallucinations and ends up in her home with no recollection of getting there. She watches her friend Margaret end her life after Margaret tells Alice that she experienced something similar. Quickly, her husband tries to gaslight her, telling Alice that Margaret died by falling. The town doctor offers Alice prescription drugs to help “calm her down.” 

Alice believes something is off, and the creator of the town confirms her suspicions when they speak privately. But in public, he denies their conversation. It isn’t until Alice keeps pushing further that she realizes the truth about this not-so-idyllic town. 

The Stepford Wives is another example of a movie that uses gaslighting to keep women protagonists from realizing the truth about their situation. 

Examples of Gaslighting From Reddit Users 

There are plenty of subreddits that discuss what gaslighting is and what it isn’t. Not all of these subreddits talk about relationships or marriage, either. Ex-members of religious groups or cults may also discuss ways that gaslighting from authority figures kept them in the organization. 

Here are some examples of gaslighting from the Marriage subreddit

“I am calm!” 

My ex husband used to gaslight me about everything. We would be arguing and I would ask him to calm down and quiet his voice and then he would smash something or throw something against a wall and shriek “I AM CALM!!!” Then go on to blame his reaction on me for insinuating he wasn’t calm to begin with, and that his reaction was indeed calm and reasonable.

Feeling denial or telling a person how they feel is something I view as gaslighting. I suffered from crippling depression and my ex husband would pick arguments with me for not getting out of bed, saying that I laid in bed all day because I didn’t care about him or his feelings. He would also insist that the reason I put any effort into my appearance at all, ever, was to get the attention of other men.” 

“How dare you question my spending!” 

“In my experience, an example would be ‘Can we talk about where the extra money is going, from your account, each month? It’s a lot of money and you don’t bring any merchandise home, so I just wondered where it’s being spent.,’ to be answered with ‘God! Can I not stop at the gas station for snacks on my way home or spend a little money in a video game? It isn’t that much money and you shouldn’t be asking me! You are my wife and you should trust me to spend our money responsibly. How dare you question my spending?’ when, it turns out, the spending was very far from responsible and not at all something I would have been okay with, but for a long time, felt like I was being a bad wife by asking questions and ‘not trusting.’”

“You’re ruining the relationship.” 

“My ex was cheating on me but would blame it on my anxiety. It was really just intuition. The gaslighting got to a point where he’d cry to my face begging me to trust him, and convinced me I was ruining the relationship by being too anxious.

I hated myself and went to the doctor begging for them to fix me because I was ruining my relationship, and he is now dating the girl he was trying to hide so much. It’s really fucked up when you’re so far into gaslighting that you breakdown in front of someone to convince them they’re the problem.”

Reference this article:

Practical Psychology. (2022, December). Examples of Gaslighting. Retrieved from https://practicalpie.com/examples-of-gaslighting/.

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