What Does Gaslighting Really Mean?

The term gaslighting is currently used a lot, but many people do not really understand what it really means. In fact, Gaslighting was the Word of the Year according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Gaslighting is an abusive behavior that can be used to undermine a partner in a toxic or problematic relationship.

Common gaslighting behaviors we may see might look like: 

  • Blaming hard or negative experiences or interactions on someone’s mental health diagnosis and/or accusing someone of not taking their medication being the reason the accuser cannot take responsibility.
  • Questioning and/or denying that something happened the way someone else describes it, often claiming to forget it happened or offering a reason why someone else’s perspective is different than their own (e.g., you were PMS’ing that day).
  • Minimizing someone’s feelings because their feelings are more important, no matter what the situation is.
  • Pretending to not understand and/or refusing to even listen when it is something important to their partner.
  • “I’m sorry that you think I hurt you,” “You don’t know what is best for you,” “You know I would never do anything to intentionally hurt you,” or “It’s because I love you.”

These behaviors, no matter the intention, are extremely manipulative and can be abusive in their extremes. Repetition makes things habitual and normalized, so hearing someone you love and trust say these things repeatedly, we oftentimes more than not begin to believe them and our internal self-talk reflects these toxic seeds. Their voice overpowers our own and we can begin to lose trust in ourselves, resulting in and even intensifying a decline in our emotional, physical, spiritual, and mental wellbeing. The isolation can be deafening and makes it feel impossible to ask and seek help, with many who do try to get help second guessing themselves.

You aren’t alone and help is out there. Learning that there is a word for these experiences, it helps us see that these tactics and behaviors are wrong, harmful, and not your fault.


  • Annmarie Ivey

    Activist, artist, and dedicated animal rescuer, Annmarie currently resides in Texas with their exceptionally perfect cats and works as a children’s counselor. Before working at HCWC, they received their undergraduate degree in child development specialized in teaching English as a second language from Humboldt State University. After that, just to shake things up, they went all the way to UTSA to receive a graduate degree in clinical mental health counseling. However, Annmarie’s passion in education and activism began in their first semester of undergraduate when they were a marine biologist major tasked with working with the Yurok tribe to research toxic algae residing in the Klamath River. Through working with the Yurok, Annmarie realized their calling resided in advocating for different marginalized groups and educating the general public. Thus, bringing us today where Annmarie spends their time being their cat’s personal 24/7 photographer and assisting in #stopthehate and other movements to bring justice, equity, healing, and freedom to all.

  • Stephanie Old Bucher

    Steffy was born and raised in Mexico city. Her family migrated to Texas when she was 11 and she has been a self-proclaimed Mexican Texan since. She joined HCWC as the Bilingual Children’s Counselor in June of 2020, left, and came back in October of 2021.Before joining HCWC Steffy graduated form Texas A&M university with a BA in Psychology and a BA in Sociology, at which point she realized she wanted to work with vulnerable and marginalized populations. She graduated from Our Lady of the Lake University with a master’s in counseling with a focus in Marriage and Family therapy. Outside of work Steffy enjoys reading, watching scary movies, and taking care of her 4 cats and dog. (Yes, raising 5 furbabies is like having a fulltime job.)