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5 Gaslighting Examples in Relationships

5 Gaslighting Examples in Relationships

Gaslighting examples, displaying that sneaky form of emotional abuse. It is like a twisted game of “Is it real or is it in my head?” The abuser tries to make their partner doubt their own memory, reality, and sanity, leaving them feeling confused, anxious, and paranoid. It all starts with little things that make you question your own judgment, but then it escalates into a full-blown mind warp. (Also see The Impact of Narcissism on Relationships.)

The following are some examples of gaslighting you may experience in a relationship:

1. Gaslighting Example: Denial of Truth

Your partner denies things that have happened or things you have said, making you question your own memory and perception of reality. Your partner may deny they said something hurtful to you, even though you clearly remember the conversation.


Sarah started to notice Alex would deny things that had happened or things she had said, making her question her own memory and perception of reality. At first, she brushed it off, thinking maybe she was just forgetful. But as time went on, Alex’s behavior became more frequent and intense. He would deny things Sarah was sure had happened, making her feel like she was losing her mind.

Sarah confronted Alex about his behavior, but he told her she was overreacting and nothing was wrong. Sarah started to feel like she was going crazy and began to doubt herself. She became anxious and paranoid, wondering if she could trust her own memory or if she was losing her mind.

It wasn’t until Sarah talked to a friend who had experienced gaslighting when she realized what was happening to her. She began to recognize the signs and sought help from a mental health professional. With the help of therapy, Sarah was able to rebuild her self-esteem and confidence and set boundaries with Alex. Eventually, she realized she deserved to be treated with respect and kindness and ended the relationship.

2. Gaslighting Example: Blaming

Your partner blames you for things that are not your fault, making you feel guilty and responsible for things you didn’t do. Your partner may blame you for her own mistakes or shortcomings, leaving you questioning if everything that does not go perfect in his life is somehow your fault.


The relationship was going great for the first few months for Tom and Rachel. Tom started noticing small indications something was not right. Rachel began blaming him for simple actions or decisions he made that she labeled as “mistakes” or for things that were out of his control. Over time, Rachel’s blaming only became more frequent and intense.

Tom tried to talk to Rachel, but she responded with anger and defensiveness. She told him he was overreacting and he needed to figure out his own insecurities. As time went on, Tom began to feel more and more responsible for Rachel’s behavior. He started to question his own judgment and wondered if he was the cause of all their problems.

One day Rachel said to Tom, “What have you done lately to help my happiness?” and it clicked with Tom that Rachel’s happiness is not in his control. The experience of being blamed for everything had a profound effect on Tom, but with the help of therapy and support from loved ones, he was able to learn to trust his own decisions again.

3. Gaslighting Example: Withholding

Withholding information, affection, or attention can be used as as a way to punish and promote insecurity. Your partner may stop talking to you for days without any explanation, leaving you wondering what you did wrong.


From the outside Emily and Mark seemed like the perfect match for the first few years of their relationship. However, Emily was feeling more and more left out as Mark seemed to be withholding information, affection, and attention leaving her feeling punished and insecure.

It started small, with Mark giving Emily the silent treatment for a few hours or not responding to her messages. But as time went on, Mark’s withholding became more frequent and intense. He would stop talking to Emily for days without any explanation, leaving her wondering what she did wrong.

Emily tried to talk to Mark about his behavior, but he told her she was overreacting and she needed to learn to recognize when he needed space.

As time went on, Emily began to feel more and more insecure in the relationship. She started to question her own behavior and wondered if she was causing Mark to withdraw. Her final straw was during an event they attended. He was kind and friendly to anyone but her – not just his friends, but also strangers or people she knew he did not like. She finally saw Mark’s withholding behavior for what it was.

Emily started on her quest to rebuild her confidence. With the help of her therapist and supportive friends and family she was able to understand her own worth.

4. Gaslighting Example: Projection

Your partner accuses you of doing things they are actually doing, making you question yourself without reason. For example, your partner may accuse you of cheating on them, even though they are the ones who have been unfaithful.


Max was charming and attentive at first, but as time went on, Lily began to notice Max’s behavior was becoming increasingly unpredictable and erratic. He would accuse her of things she had not done, and he would become angry and defensive whenever she tried to talk to him about it.

One day, Max accused Lily of cheating on him. Lily was shocked and hurt by the accusation. She had never cheated on Max, and she couldn’t understand why he would think she had. Max became more and more convinced of her infidelity, even though Lily tried to reassure him that she was faithful.

Lily started to question her own behavior. She wondered if there was something she had done to make Max think she was cheating. She tried to reason with him and explain she had not been unfaithful, but Max refused to listen. He became increasingly paranoid and controlling, even going so far as to check her phone and social media accounts for evidence of her supposed infidelity.

Lily eventually learned Max’s accusations were actually projections of his own infidelity onto her. Max had been cheating on Lily, and he was using gaslighting to make her doubt her own behavior and cover up his own wrongdoing. Through this experience, she learned she was not crazy or irrational. She deserved to be in a relationship where she was valued and respected.

5. Gaslighting Example: Minimizing

Your partner downplays your feelings or experiences, making you feel like they are not important or valid. Your partner may tell you that you are overreacting or being too sensitive when you express your feelings.


Ava loved Jack deeply and thought he felt the same way about her. But, as time went on, she started to notice Jack would often downplay her feelings or experiences. Whenever Ava tried to express her emotions, Jack would tell her she was overreacting or being too sensitive. He would make her feel like her feelings were not important or valid and she was making a big deal out of nothing.

At first, Ava tried to brush off Jack’s behavior, thinking maybe he just didn’t understand her. But as time went on, Jack’s minimizing became more frequent and intense. He would be dismissive of both her feelings and experiences. Ava felt like she was walking on eggshells around Jack. She started to doubt her own emotions and wondered if she was being irrational.

Through therapy and support from her family, Ava learned her feelings were valid and important. She deserved to be in a relationship where she was valued and respected.

Trusting Your Perspective

Recognizing gaslighting can be a difficult and confusing experience. Trusting your instincts is the first step in protecting yourself from this harmful behavior. If you feel like you are being gaslit, know you are not alone and help is available. Seeking support from a mental health professional can help you develop coping strategies to deal with the effects of gaslighting and rebuild your self-esteem and confidence.

It’s important to set boundaries with your partner and communicate your needs clearly. Remember you deserve to be treated with respect and kindness. If your partner is unwilling to change their behavior or seek help, it may be necessary to end the relationship. This can be a difficult decision to make, but prioritizing your mental health and well-being is crucial.

Reclaiming your truth and breaking free from the mind games may feel overwhelming, but working with a therapist or counselor can provide a supportive and empathetic space for healing. With time and support, you can overcome gaslighting and regain your confidence.

Reclaim your truth and break free from the mind games – work with Dr. Guess to overcome gaslighting and regain your confidence.

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Self-Reparenting: A Key to Adulting

Self-Reparenting: A Key to Adulting


I’ve had more than a couple clients roll their eyes at me at the very mention of the “inner-child”. I’ve even had a few head roll back, eyes closed, and deep sighs of annoyance even saying that “inner-child work” is a thing. So, let’s call this self-reparenting.

Self-reparenting is the work of being there for yourself. Being present while you work through childhood situations when you didn’t get what you needed. As a kid, you are completely dependent on the adults in your life for your needs. if you are now an adult, the vital needs were apparently met.

More than just the basics.

What most of this work is about is not so much the “food, clothing, shelter” needs, but rather the emotional needs that are often neglected. They may not be met because there was a tragic loss in your family and everyone was grieving around you. They may not be met because your mother had to work two jobs and your dad was no where to be seen. They may not be met because you had a couple narcissists at the realm of your home. Or, maybe, it was simply a day to day feeling that something was missing.

Sitting with yourself, returning as an adult to difficult moments, and then seeing through your inner-child’s (there’s that word) eyes can be life-changing. This process will look different for each of us. There is no “one size fits all” approach.

Even if you are a functioning adult, there may be parts of you that haven’t had the opportunity to fully develop. For example, if you grew up in an overly restrictive environment, your independence may need some nurturing. On the other hand, if you grew up in an overly permissive environment, you may feel like you lack a safety net to take chances.

What is Self-Reparenting?

Self-reparenting is work. The work is to provide yourself with the emotional support and guidance you may have missed out on during childhood. The work is to acknowledge and validate these historical, and often buried, feelings and needs. The work is to sit with yourself without distraction as you grieve and heal from your past wounds.

Without a prompt, at least half of my clients say something like this at their first session, “I had a great childhood. We don’t need to go there.” They generally get my side-eye and I tap out a little something in my notes.

But, I want to make clear the process of self-reparenting is not about an attack on your parents. Self-reparenting is simply a way to nurture parts of ourselves that are begging for much needed attention. No matter how hard your parents tried and succeeded in providing for you, there will always be areas that could use a little (or a lot) more nurturing and healing.

Self-reparenting is there to help you identify and express your emotions, set healthy boundaries, and improve your overall well-being.

Self-Reparenting Through the Generations

Many of us grew up in homes where emotions were not always acknowledged or validated. I’m a Gen-X’er and believe within my generation and older, the societal norm was to bury those emotions as deep as possible. We did not chit-chat openly about our feelings or about what we talked about in therapy.

I was shocked at how things had changed when I first started my internship hours at a college around 2010. Not only did students not ask for a back door to sneak out after a session, but they would hang out in the waiting room and chat with other students. They consistently gave referrals to each other to my office. They also had open conversations with their coaches about therapy – coaches were my biggest referral source. Things had definitely changed.

How Self-Reparenting is Vital

I have seen so much good work done in this area that has benefited clients personally and with their relationships. Often the idea of caring for yourself can seem like a foreign concept meant for other people. It is hard and sometimes not a ton of fun, but it can be meaningful for you.

Below are some of the benefits you can experience from taking the deep dive into this work.

You can learn to name and express your emotions with self-reparenting

Much of the work of self-reparenting is in identifying and expressing your emotions. For this Gen-X’er I do not like this idea at all … and yet, I am grateful for it every day.

One of the lessons that must take hold is that emotions are not good or bad, they just are. Taking away the judgment of emotions can allow you to start hearing the messages they are trying to convey. Perhaps feeling angry isn’t bad, but rather it is a signal that there is a threat to one of your boundaries. Listening to the message rather than judging the anger can allow you to set and communicate boundaries that are in line with your values.

It is not easy to stop reacting and to start listening to emotions. Those very reactions are what have kept you alive so far. The initial feeling and desire to react may always be there to some extent. But, your job now is to recognize the emotion before you shut it down. Ask yourself, “What is this emotion telling me?” You might get some answers that tell you a lot about your needs and boundaries that have been hiding for most of your life.

You can learn to create boundaries with self-reparenting

“Boundaries” is a tough word to use. What is your gut reaction if someone were to say they needed to set boundaries with you? Would you get defensive? Would you believe they don’t like you? Would you feel anger or shame?

The word boundary, in a therapeutic sense, is much more healthy and loving than it feels when it’s used in conversation. A boundary is not a 20 foot high brick wall with guards and a moat. But, it is a set line that if crossed may make you feel violated in some way. Letting someone you love know your boundaries, will only enhance the relationship.

Time is often a difficult boundary to discuss in relationships. For example, if you love your work and have periods of time when focus and concentration are necessary, you may not want interruption.

A “Whatcha doin?” text or a TikTok link pinging through your phone when the other person expects an instant response can be infuriating – even if you love them.

Here’s the rub: You do want to talk to them about your day and you do enjoy a cute “Remember the 90’s” TikTok, just not at 2:00 when you are in the zone.

Instead of getting more and more annoyed at the interruption and feeling resentful to your partner, let them know your situation. You can then schedule time together for meaningful connection.

Setting boundaries is an act of self-care, and it is necessary to prioritize your own needs. It is necessary to be firm, but it is also necessary to be respectful and empathetic. I am guessing your partner/family/friend also has boundaries that may help your relationship if they are clearly set. Important relationships in your life are worth having these hard conversations.

You can change how you view yourself with self-reparenting

When you grow up in an environment where your emotions and needs are not validated, it can be easy to internalize a negative self-image. All those messages you receive as a child about what you are good at doing or bad at doing combine to create your self-worth and identity.

Childhood messages may point at you specifically . But often, they point at your gender, race, height, weight, or thousands of other variables that could define your identity.

You may come to believe that your are not good enough before you even try. Self-reparenting is one way we can challenge these negative beliefs. We can adopt a more positive and compassionate view of not only ourselves, but also of others.

You can begin by acknowledging and validating your inner child’s emotions and needs. You may start to see where these beliefs began and to then start healing these past wounds.

You now have years of experience to question the messages you received during childhood. It’s your job now to view your self-worth and identity through the lens of experience. You may now be able to recognize your strengths and accomplishments, learn to be kind and forgiving with yourself, and see your behavior in a new light.

You can become a better parent with self-reparenting

By acknowledging and validating your own emotions and needs, you can become more attuned to the emotional needs of your children. You may find you are better able to communicate, set healthy boundaries, and provide the emotional support and guidance they long for.

Learning to validate your child’s emotions and needs can work magic in building their confidence in and out of the home.

When your child expresses their emotions:

  • Listen without instant judgment or criticism.
  • Acknowledge their feelings and let them know it’s okay to feel the way they do

This validation can help they feel heard and let them know that they are valued and do not have to work to earn your love and attention.

Parenting is a journey, and it’s okay to make mistakes or encounter setbacks along the way. With practice and self-reflection, you can build a stronger relationship with yourself and your child.

Learn to Self-Reparent

1. Acknowledge and connect with your younger self.

I get a lot of push back when I talk in therapy about connecting with your younger self. I believe the, “Are you serious?” question has come up at least a dozen times. And, yes I am serious.

Connecting with your younger self involves revisiting memories or experiences from your childhood, and viewing them through a new lens of empathy and understanding.

For this work, I sometimes ask my clients to find a picture of themselves from an age when many of their childhood memories begin. A picture that represents a time that was special to them or simply shows them as “the cutest thing ever.” I want them to see how young they were when they were doing the work to understand their world.

It may also help to go to the places or do the activities from your childhood. Nothing like a random drive past your old home or high school to bring up some of those dormant memories. You could also fill the room with the music or television of your childhood as you color, dance, or play with your child’s legos. Recreate the environment and see where your memories take you.

As you reflect on these images and memories, try to approach yourself with a sense of curiosity and empathy. Self-reparenting is not about blaming yourself or others for past experiences, but rather about nurturing and healing parts of yourself that may need attention.

2. Determine the unmet needs of your inner child.

Look at that picture you found and imagine yourself as a child. Think about what you needed at that time. Were their emotions or needs that went unacknowledged or unmet? What messages did you receive from others about your worth and value?

Exploring your unmet needs can be a challenging and emotional process. But, this exploration is an essential step towards healing past wounds and building a stronger, more fulfilling relationship with yourself.

Questions to ask:

  • Were you ever made to feel ashamed or guilty for expressing your emotions?
  • Did you ever feel like your needs weren’t important?
  • Did you ever believe that your thoughts and emotions were somehow wrong?

Be gentle with yourself. The goals of self-reparenting is to nurture and heal parts of yourself. By identifying your unmet needs, you provide yourself with the emotional support and guidance you may have missed during childhood.

Determining your unmet needs is a process, not a destination. As you go through this journey, you may uncover new emotions and needs that surface. When you create a safe environment, your inner-child may really start to share.

3. Allow yourself to feel any emotions that arise.

I don’t know about you, but allowing myself to feel emotions comes about as naturally as learning advanced calculus is to my pet fish. It can be challenging to confront difficult emotions if you grew up in an environment where emotions were not always acknowledged or validated.

However, there is hope. Allowing yourself to feel your emotions is the gateway to understanding the messages they are trying to convey.

If you find yourself struggling with difficult emotions, try to approach yourself with the same kindness and compassion you would offer your child or your friend. This is the time to use curiosity and empathy rather than the knee-jerk judgment and criticism we normally use to meet strong feelings and emotion.

It’s okay if you feel uncomfortable and vulnerable … mostly because there is no way around it – it is the way.

4. Release any shame or guilt you may feel.

Most of us carry around feelings of shame or guilt from past experiences we had little control over. These feelings can hold us back from fully embracing our true selves. These feelings are a natural part of the human experience, and you are not alone in experiencing them.

To release shame and guilt, start by acknowledging these feelings and exploring their origin. This may involve revisiting past experiences or memories, and allowing yourself to feel the emotions that arise.

Self-reparenting is about nurturing and healing neglected parts of yourself. This process may include learning to forgive yourself for past missteps.

Releasing shame and guilt requires self-forgiveness. One way you can move toward releasing shame or guilt is by writing yourself a letter of self-forgiveness. For example, you might say, “I forgive myself for past mistakes, and I choose to focus on the present and the future.”

5. Practice self-care.

Self-care involves taking the time to prioritize your own needs and engage in activities that promote your physical, emotional, and mental well-being.

Start by identifying solo activities that bring you joy and relaxation. It could be doing yoga, reading a book, going on a hike, or sitting in the sun. Approach these activities with a sense of openness and curiosity. Allow yourself to experience them without judgment or criticism. Prioritize your own needs during these activities and resist the urge to put yourself last.

Self-care involves treating yourself with the same kindness and empathy you would offer someone you love who is going through a difficult time. Approach yourself with a sense of patience and self-compassion. You can build a more fulfilling relationship with yourself and enjoy a greater sense of life satisfaction.

Who Can Benefit From Self-Reparenting

Self-Reparenting can benefit anyone who feels they missed out on certain aspects of emotional development during childhood. This could be due to a variety of factors such as growing up in a household where emotions were not acknowledged or validated, experiencing trauma or abuse, or simply not having access to the emotional support and guidance you needed at any particular time.

Self-reparenting may help:

  • If you who struggle with anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues you can benefit from self-reparenting. By learning to provide yourself with the emotional support and guidance you may have missed out on during childhood, you can heal past wounds and develop a stronger, more resilient sense of self.
  • If you struggle with setting boundaries or communicating your needs effectively, you may find self-reparenting to be helpful. By learning to identify and expression your emotions, set boundaries, and validate your own needs, you can build healthier relationships with yourself and others.
  • If you are interested in exploring your past and building a stronger, more fulfilling relationship with yourself, you can benefit from self-reparenting.

With practice and intention, you can begin to heal past wounds and build a more resilient sense of self that will serve you well.

I encourage anyone who feels they may have missed out on aspects of emotional development during childhood to explore the process of self-reparenting. If you are interested in exploring self-reparenting and how it can benefit you, please consider reaching out. Therapy is a form of self-care and can help you heal past wounds and build a stronger, more resilient sense of self.

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Understanding Generational Trauma

Understanding Generational Trauma

Have you ever felt like some of your struggles aren’t yours? If you’re not sure why you’re feeling anxious or depressed, it could be generational trauma.

Generational Trauma (or legacy trauma) is when traumatic experiences pass from one generation to the next. Trauma occurs when individuals experience trauma, witness violence, or live under constant threat. If any of this sounds familiar to you, know you’re not alone. There is hope for healing and growth, and we can explore it together.

Some circumstances that may set the stage for trauma to pass to the next generation include:

  • Growing up in a household where a parent or caregiver experienced trauma
  • Historical events such as slavery, genocide, and forced displacement
  • Cultural trauma from societal upheaval, war, and other conflicts
  • Oppression and systemic inequalities

Generational Trauma -vs- Individual Trauma

Generational trauma and individual trauma share some similarities, but also some differences. Individual trauma is typically the result of an event, but generational trauma passes down through other’s. This can look like persistent feelings of fear, anxiety, and shame that seem to have no clear source.

Generational trauma can be more complex and difficult to identify than individual trauma. It often involves a web of experiences and emotions that can be difficult to unravel. Additionally, generational trauma can affect entire communities, not just individuals. This can create a sense of collective pain and suffering that can be difficult to address.

Historical Events That Can Lead to Generational Trauma

Historical trauma is the legacy of traumatic events experienced by a group of people. Examples of historical events that have led to generational trauma are many.

A couple examples include:

The atrocities committed during the Holocaust

The terror created from the events of 9/11

As recent as both of these examples are, we can still witness the far-reaching effects today.

There are countless smaller-scale traumas that can accumulate and contribute to generational trauma. These may include experiences of discrimination, poverty, violence, and marginalization. Trauma experiences within the home can include sexual, physical, and emotional abuse. These traumas can pass down and shape the experiences of individuals for years to come.

How Trauma is Passed From One Generation to the Next

Behaviors and Coping Mechanisms

Coping mechanisms and behaviors can pass to the next generation from parents and caregivers to children. Coping mechanisms that have kept the parent alive as a child may still be in use as adults. (Read about the effects of narcissistic relationships on coping.)


  • If a parent had survived by staying out of the way as a child, he may be distant to his own children.
  • If a parent survived by people pleasing as a child, she may be resentful for the needs of her own children

Children may learn to respond to stress in the home in a similar manner as their parents. The parents’ survival and the children’s survival act to continue the cycle of trauma.


Epigenetics is a growing area of scientific research. It is shedding light on how trauma can passes down from generation to generation. While genetics refers to the DNA we inherit, epigenetics refers to changes in the expression of genes.

Gene expression is the process where genetic information changes to create proteins. This process happens when DNA turns into RNA, which is then turned into proteins. This process determines how genes work, how they link to disease, and how they influence behaviors.

Environmental factors can change how genes are expressed. All this happens while the underlying DNA is unaltered. Creating positive environments can go a long way in reversing generational trauma.

Effects of Generational Trauma

Trauma may lead to low self-esteem, difficulty trusting, as well as disconnection from others. You may feel unable to relate to others who have not had similar experiences.

The stress and anxiety associated with trauma can have a negative impact on physical health. Trauma has shown to be a factor in chronic health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

Trauma may also lead to behaviors such as substance abuse or self-harm as a coping mechanism. Even those coping mechanisms are in place for survival, they often impact our physical health and wellbeing.

Healing from Generational Trauma

When we experience trauma, our bodies and minds become stuck in a state of fear and anxiety. Healing from generational trauma difficult and complex journey. But the journey can be incredibly rewarding.

Healing from generational trauma requires an understanding of the process.

The process:

  1. Recognize the ways in trauma has affected you
  2. Develope healthy coping mechanisms and building resilience.

Approach the healing process with empathy and compassion. recognize It may take time and effort to move towards a place of healing.

Seek out support and guidance as you work towards healing. Working with a therapist or joining a support group may help with the work. Groups may expecially help because you will be with others who have had similar experiences. By connecting with others, a sense of community and support can develop and be helpful on your healing journey.

Tips for Self-Care and Building Resilience

When it comes to healing from generational trauma, self-care and building resilience are key components of the journey. Here are some tips to help you take care of yourself and build resilience as you work towards healing:

  • Practice self-compassion. Be kind to yourself and recognize that healing is a journey that may take time and effort. It’s okay to take breaks and give yourself permission to rest and recharge when you need it.
  • Engage in activities that bring you joy. Whether it’s spending time with loved ones, reading a good book, or practicing a hobby, taking time to engage in activities that bring you joy can help you build resilience and feel more positive about life.
  • Connect with others. Building connections with others who understand your experiences can be incredibly helpful on your healing journey. Consider joining a support group or reaching out to trusted friends or family members who can provide a listening ear and a source of support.
  • Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness practices such as meditation or deep breathing can help you connect with your body and emotions, and develop a greater sense of self-awareness. This can be especially helpful in managing symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  • Take care of your physical health. Eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and engaging in regular exercise can all help support your physical and emotional well-being. Additionally, avoiding drugs and alcohol can help you stay focused on your healing journey and avoid potential triggers.

Self-care and building resilience are ongoing processes that require effort and attention. By prioritizing self-care and focusing on building resilience, you can move towards a more positive and fulfilling life, even in the face of generational trauma. (Check out this post about healing through Self-Reparenting.)

You Got This

Healing from generational trauma is not a linear process, and there may be ups and downs along the way. However, by practicing self-care, building resilience, and staying focused on your healing journey, you can begin to break free from the patterns of trauma and move towards a more positive and fulfilling life.

You deserve love, healing, and compassion. You are not defined by your trauma and there is hope.

If this article resonates with you and you would like to talk to someone about generational trauma, please feel free to contact Dr. Guess. She is here to support you on your healing journey.

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