What place does Gaslighting have in toxic relationships? Social Circle debates 💬

As our Tuesday night Social Circle sessions continue, we have introduced specific topics concerning relationships and interaction for our young people to discuss and debate with the help of our youth workers.

This week’s session was a discussion between our youth workers and young people on the definition and examples of gaslighting, and how it can indicate a toxic or abusive relationship.

Our youth workers defined gaslighting as a means to manipulate someone into questioning their own reality. It was a term many of our young people were unfamiliar with but learned through giving examples of relationships in which someone could manipulate or twist another person’s words to make them believe what they want them to believe.

One of the most valuable parts of the session came from a word/phrases game, in which a youth worker would read a phrase aloud and the young people would debate on whether the phrase counted as an example of gaslighting.

When prompted with the phrase “What you’re joking about is upsetting me. I’m not okay with it,” our young people stated: “I would say you’re not gaslighting… the way you were saying it sounds like you’re just trying to have a conversation with someone. Like if you sat someone down and tried to give them your feelings in a way to help yourself and them. If someone was joking about something personal and kept going on about it, you would end up being upset and if you react calmly with that, I don’t think it’s gaslighting.”

In response to the phrase “Take a joke!”, they responded, “Not really, because if you only said it once, that could be just you getting defensive. I think a lot of people do this, when they realise they’re in the wrong they start instead of apologising. I think especially if you’re male, then you might start getting defensive instead of trying to open up and say you’re sorry.”

By contrast, our young people said of the phrase “You’re too sensitive!”,: “I think it is gaslighting … See if you say to someone they’re too sensitive but you mean it in a way of trying to help them out, if someone is dealing with something and getting upset a lot and you say to them they’re too sensitive to try to help them, then I guess in that sense it’s not. But see if you say it over and over again, then I get that it can be then. That would qualify.”

Social Circle highlights the importance of having these conversations with young people, as their contributions are both insightful and informative, leading to them having just as much to teach as they do to learn. It also highlights these terms and dynamics so young people can identify them easily, leading them to recognise what makes a relationship healthy or unhealthy.

Tickets for next week’s Social Circle are available from Eventbrite.

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