Gaslighting psychology today

Gaslighting | Psychology Today

Gaslighting is an insidious form of manipulation and psychological control. Victims of gaslighting are deliberately and systematically fed false information that leads them to question what they know to be true, often about themselves. They may end up doubting their memory, their perception, and even their sanity. Over time, a gaslighter’s manipulations can grow more complex and potent, making it increasingly difficult for the victim to see the truth.

  • How Gaslighting Works
  • How to Recognize a Gaslighter
  • Leaving a Gaslighter

How Gaslighting Works

The term gaslighting comes from a 1938 play, Gas Light, and its film adaptation. Gaslighting can occur in personal or professional relationships, and victims are targeted at the core of their being: their sense of identity and self-worth. Manipulative people who engage in gaslighting do so to attain power over their victims, either because they simply derive warped enjoyment from the act or because they wish to emotionally, physically or financially control their victim.

How does gaslighting begin?

A relationship with a gaslighter may seem to start out quite well. They may praise the victim on a first date and immediately confide in them. Such disclosure, before any intimacy has been established, establishes trust quickly; it’s part of a tactic known as love bombing. The more quickly a victim becomes enamored, the more quickly the next phase of manipulation can begin.

What are a gaslighter’s tactics?

A gaslighter will initially lie about simple things, but the volume of misinformation soon grows, and the gaslighter may accuse the victim of lying if he or she questions the narrative. They typically deploy occasional positive reinforcement to confuse the victim, but at the same time, they may attempt to turns others against the victim, even their own friends and family, by telling them that the victim is lying or delusional.

How do you know that you're being gaslighted?

A victim experiences increased self-doubt as the gaslighter insists that what he or she remembers, thinks, and feels is wrong. The manipulative individual will introduce lies in more sensitive arenas, aiming to disrupt and distort foundational aspects of the victim’s being, wearing them down, establishing confusion, and forcing them to rely on the gaslighter’s version of reality.

Is gaslighting ever unintentional?

It is possible for an individual to manipulate someone without realizing they are doing so. Importantly, though, the gaslighter still enjoys wielding control over the mind and behavior of the victim, even if they cannot articulate or acknowledge this fact. Some people engage in manipulative behavior because they witnessed it frequently as a child, most often in their parents. Regardless of a gaslighter's level of self-awareness, the behavior is never acceptable, and ignorance of the phenomenon should not be accepted as an excuse for manipulative actions.  

How to Recognize a Gaslighter

Gaslighting can be more effective and successful than many people imagine. Almost anyone can be susceptible to gaslighting tactics, which have been deployed throughout history, and continue to be used today, by domestic abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. The most effective gaslighters are often the hardest to detect; they may be better recognized by their victims' actions and mental state.

Who becomes a gaslighter?

Those who employ this tactic often have a personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder and psychopathy chief among them. Manipulators have a tendency to present one face to their prey and another to the rest of the world, leading victims to assume that if they ask for help or speak out, no one will believe that they have been manipulated and emotionally abused. Gaslighters typically repeat the tactics across several relationships. 


What’s the difference between gaslighting and manipulation?

Manipulation is a key part of gaslighting, but manipulation is a fairly common tactic, and almost anyone is capable of employing it while gaslighting, and gaslighters, are more rare. Children try to manipulate parents at an early age, and marketers aim to manipulate consumers, but gaslighting involves a pattern of abusive behaviors with the intent not just to influence someone, but to control them.

What’s the difference between gaslighting and narcissism?

Gaslighting can be part of a narcissistic personality, but it is not a core trait of narcissistic personality disorder. A narcissist may be self-promoting and feel superior to others; a gaslighter aims to make another person question their own self-value.

Leaving a Gaslighter

A primary goal of gaslighters is to keep the victim hooked. If a victim disagrees with or questions their abuser, he or she may try to make themselves seem as if they themselves are being victimized by their targets. Alternately, they may try to lure a partner back with positive reinforcement. Many people eventually find a way to escape a gaslighter’s influence, leaving the manipulator to search for a new target; often, they already have another victim in mind.

What is “hoovering”?

When someone tries to leave a gaslighter, they may employ the tactic of  "hoovering," which takes its name from the vacuum brand. They will tell the victim how much they love him or her, and praise all of their positive qualities. They may also explain how things are going to change between them. But soon after the victims agrees to stay, things tend to go back to the way they were.

How does gaslighting change a victim?

Gaslighting can be psychologically devastating. It violates trust, upends a person’s view that people are generally good, and can make them suspicious of everyone who is close to them. Falling victim to a gaslighter also erodes a person’s trust in themselves and makes them forget what they once valued about themselves; after all, it’s easy to blame themselves for having been too trusting, vulnerable, or dependent. The experience may make a victim never want to be part of a relationship again.

Essential Reads

11 Red Flags of Gaslighting in a Relationship

Source: StockLite/Shutterstock

Gaslighting is a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality. It works much better than you may think. Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done slowly, so the victim doesn't realize how much they've been brainwashed. For example, in the movie Gaslight (1944), a man manipulates his wife to the point where she thinks she is losing her mind.

In my book Gaslighting: Recognize Manipulative and Emotionally Abusive People — and Break Free I detail how gaslighters typically use the following techniques:

1. They tell blatant lies. You know it's an outright lie. Yet they are telling you this lie with a straight face. Why are they so blatant? Because they're setting up a precedent. Once they tell you a huge lie, you're not sure if anything they say is true. Keeping you unsteady and off-kilter is the goal.

2. They deny they ever said something, even though you have proof. You know they said they would do something; you know you heard it. But they out and out deny it. It makes you start questioning your reality—maybe they never said that thing. And the more they do this, the more you question your reality and start accepting theirs.

3. They use what is near and dear to you as ammunition. They know how important your kids are to you, and they know how important your identity is to you. So those may be one of the first things they attack. If you have kids, they tell you that you should not have had those children. They will tell you'd be a worthy person if only you didn't have a long list of negative traits. They attack the foundation of your being.

4. They wear you down over time. This is one of the insidious things about gaslighting—it is done gradually, over time. A lie here, a lie there, a snide comment every so often...and then it starts ramping up. Even the brightest, most self-aware people can be sucked into gaslighting—it is that effective. It's the "frog in the frying pan" analogy: The heat is turned up slowly, so the frog never realizes what's happening to it.

5. Their actions do not match their words. When dealing with a person or entity that gaslights, look at what they are doing rather than what they are saying. What they are saying means nothing; it is just talk. What they are doing is the issue.

6. They throw in positive reinforcement to confuse you. This person or entity that is cutting you down, telling you that you don't have value, is now praising you for something you did. This adds an additional sense of uneasiness. You think, "Well maybe they aren't so bad." Yes, they are. This is a calculated attempt to keep you off-kilter—and again, to question your reality. Also look at what you were praised for; it is probably something that served the gaslighter.

7. They know confusion weakens people. Gaslighters know that people like having a sense of stability and normalcy. Their goal is to uproot this and make you constantly question everything. And humans' natural tendency is to look to the person or entity that will help you feel more stable—and that happens to be the gaslighter.

8. They project. They are a drug user or a cheater, yet they are constantly accusing you of that. This is done so often that you start trying to defend yourself, and are distracted from the gaslighter's own behavior.

9. They try to align people against you. Gaslighters are masters at manipulating and finding the people they know will stand by them no matter what—and they use these people against you. They will make comments such as, "This person knows that you're not right," or "This person knows you're useless too." Keep in mind it does not mean that these people actually said these things. A gaslighter is a constant liar. When the gaslighter uses this tactic it makes you feel like you don't know who to trust or turn to—and that leads you right back to the gaslighter. And that's exactly what they want: Isolation gives them more control.

10. They tell you or others that you are crazy. This is one of the most effective tools of the gaslighter, because it's dismissive. The gaslighter knows if they question your sanity, people will not believe you when you tell them the gaslighter is abusive or out-of-control. It's a master technique.

11. They tell you everyone else is a liar. By telling you that everyone else (your family, the media) is a liar, it again makes you question your reality. You've never known someone with the audacity to do this, so they must be telling the truth, right? No. It's a manipulation technique. It makes people turn to the gaslighter for the "correct" information—which isn't correct information at all.

The more you are aware of these techniques, the quicker you can identify them and avoid falling into the gaslighter's trap. (For more, see Are Gaslighters Aware of What They Do?)

Copyright 2017 Sarkis Media.

Facebook image: StockLite/Shutterstock

What is gaslighting: signs and methods of struggle

Typical phrases of gaslighters: “I didn’t say that”, “You are confusing something”, “It's just a joke”, “You are too sensitive”. If you often hear this in your address, we advise you to beware. Gaslighting can take on many different dimensions, and most importantly, it is much more common than it seems.

"Gaslighting" is the word of the year for 2022 according to Webster's American Dictionary. The compilers noted that the term is also often used in a political context. nine0003

  • What is gaslighting
  • Signs of gaslighting
  • Gaslighting Tactics
  • Examples of gaslighting
  • The dangers of gaslighting
  • How to deal with gaslighting
  • Comments of psychologists

Advertising on RBC

What is gaslighting

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse in which the manipulator denies what happened, trying to make the victim doubt their own memories and change their perception of reality. nine0003

The gaslighter systematically devalues ​​the words, experiences, deeds, and successes of another person [1]. In the end, his victim begins to feel helpless and insecure. A person is increasingly thinking about his emotional stability and adequacy, while a gaslighter gets almost complete control in a relationship [2]. Such manipulation tactics are found everywhere - in a couple, in a family, at work, in a circle of friends. However, gaslighting may or may not be intentional. nine0003

The term began to be used in the middle of the 20th century. It owes its appearance to George Cukor's 1944 film Gaslight. According to the plot, the insidious husband manipulates the mind of a young wife, forcing her to consider herself mentally ill. First, he convinces his beloved that she has no talent for singing, persuades her to leave her career and return to her hometown. And then he begins to arrange strange incidents, convincing the girl that nothing unusual is happening around. As it turns out, the hero does all this in order to take possession of the inheritance of his wife. nine0003

Still from the film "Gaslight"

© Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Signs of gaslighting

Gaslighting can be calculated by a number of characteristic signs. To do this, you need, first of all, to carefully listen to your own feelings. Here is a list of "symptoms" that may indicate that you are in a relationship with a manipulator:

  • you think you are doing everything wrong;
  • you push your desires into the background;
  • nine0007 you feel anxious and insecure;
  • you always blame yourself if something goes wrong;
  • you have difficulty making even simple decisions;
  • you suspect yourself of excessive sensitivity;
  • you stopped enjoying your favorite activities;
  • you think that you used to be more confident and cheerful;
  • you often apologize to your partner, parents, colleagues.

As a rule, psychological abuse occurs gradually and imperceptibly. A person being gaslighted usually goes through three stages. They are not always consistent and may overlap.

1. Denial

At this stage, the first signs of gaslighting appear. The victim notices unusual changes in the behavior of the gaslighter, but does not attach much importance to this. For example, he may say something offensive to you or deny previous actions. You are surprised by this, but still confident in your point of view. nine0003

2. Protection

A person begins to doubt himself and his perception of reality. He is increasingly criticized by the manipulator and feels frazzled, but continues to defend himself. You argue frantically with the gaslighter and are constantly looking for evidence to convince him of your case and win his approval.

3. Depression

The victim does not have the strength to fight and argue - she loses her "I". The person begins to believe the words of the gaslighter and agrees with all the accusations in order to gain his favor. He feels helpless, overwhelmed, disorganized. In the third stage, clinical depression and anxiety disorders may develop. nine0003

© Soulful Pizza/Pexels

Gaslighting Tactics

The gaslighter uses a variety of tactics to mislead the victim and influence their perception of reality. It's about methodical brainwashing. As a result, after some time, the victim becomes emotionally dependent on the aggressor - his mood, opinion, behavior.

Here are six of the most common gaslighting strategies. Observe yourself and those close to you. You may be able to recognize yourself or someone you know as the victim or manipulator. nine0003

1. Denying the facts

Gaslighters love to rewrite history. To make a person doubt their own memory, they distort the facts and change the details of events. The manipulator may categorically deny having said or done anything, even if the evidence suggests otherwise.

Instead, he will accuse the victim of lying: “Why are you composing? This has never happened!” Gaslighters can be so convincing that people really start to believe their version of events. The situation is aggravated if a distracted and forgetful person becomes a victim. nine0003

2. Bad jokes

The gaslighter is usually someone from a close circle. These are the people who have the greatest influence on us. They know about our vulnerabilities, weaknesses and experiences, which means that if they wish, they can easily use this knowledge to their detriment.

For example, gaslighters often make caustic and rude jokes about the victim, make inappropriate remarks, or give offensive nicknames. All this is disguised as friendly banter, when in fact the task of the manipulator is to hurt and humiliate. nine0003

3. Devaluation of emotions

Gaslighters often discount and ignore other people's feelings. If you are offended by his joke, be prepared to hear: “You are too sensitive! Don't make an elephant out of a fly." If you say that you feel bad, he will answer: “You thought of everything, it seems to you. Better do something useful."

The manipulator shifts the focus to his own experiences and needs, ignoring the state of mind of the victim. Over time, a person begins to believe that all his emotions and reactions are wrong, and ceases to trust his feelings. As a result, the gaslighter gains even more power. nine0003

4. Emphasizing the inadequacy of perception

From time to time, each person needs to "check the clock" with other people. We are looking for evidence of the accuracy of our perception of reality and the adequacy of statements. The gaslighter, on the contrary, tries to convince the victim that her reaction to the events that are taking place is abnormal.

He can say: "You've been very strange lately", "You're reacting inappropriately", "Are you sure everything is all right?", "You clearly need help." All this leads to the appearance of doubt, guilt and helplessness in the victim. This is exactly the effect that the manipulator achieves. nine0003

5. Shifting Responsibility

Under no circumstances will the Gaslighter admit to being manipulated. Instead, he will look for the guilty around him and will always come up with an explanation for his actions - he was provoked, forced or framed. A typical example of a reaction is: “I didn't mean anything bad. You took me out."

With this method of psychological abuse, the manipulator often projects his shortcomings onto others. He blames the victim for the behavior that is characteristic of himself. As a result, a person begins to make excuses and switches attention from the gaslighter to himself. nine0003

6. Aggression and hostility

The gaslighter is always on the offensive. His favorite form of defense is attack. For example, if you suspect such a person of treason, he will accuse you of pathological jealousy, low self-esteem and self-doubt. And if you show him evidence, he will become aggressive.

In addition, the gaslighter tends to belittle the successes and achievements of his victim. Marker phrases: “At your age, I knew how to do this for a long time”, “Nothing special”, “Everyone can do it”, “And you try to do it faster / better”. His job is to make the victim feel inferior. nine0003

© Jure Siric/Pexels

Examples of Gaslighting

Gaslighters are not always easy to identify: they don't bruise and often masquerade as harmless humor, constructive criticism, or concern. It is easiest to understand this phenomenon with specific examples.

Couple gaslighting

Example: a woman is sure that her husband is cheating on her. She notices long hair on his shirt, lipstick marks on his neck. The man is increasingly late at work and does not pick up the phone. At the same time, to her suspicions, he says: “You are paranoid! Instead of feeding me dinner, you ask stupid questions. See a psychologist and don't distract me from work!" nine0003

Bottom line: after some time, the woman loses the ability to accurately assess what is happening. She begins to doubt her conclusions, blames herself for being too suspicious, and finally apologizes to her husband for baseless accusations.

Gaslighting for children

Example: a boy gets an A in chemistry, a subject that is very difficult for him. After school, he hurries home to please his parents. He proudly shows the diary to his father, and in response he hears: “So what? What are you so happy about? Also a great achievement for me! At your age, I generally had only fives. And you're not trying hard enough." nine0003

Bottom line: according to the father, this is how he stimulates his son's interest in learning and motivates him to strive for high results. In fact, the child ceases to trust his own emotions, becomes convinced of his insolvency and grows up insecure.

Gaslighting with a friend

Example: One friend regularly criticizes another about her appearance, hobbies, interests, and tastes. “I’m only telling you all this because I love you,” the girl explains. In addition, she likes to make sharp jokes about her friend and tell her about what they say about her behind her back. Most often, these are offensive things. But sometimes you can hear a compliment from her. nine0003

Outcome: The girl's self-esteem drops, but she continues to communicate with a toxic friend, because she gives the appearance of caring. In addition, the gaslighter wants to isolate the insecure girl from other people in order to gain more control over her. And her rare compliments are a way to confuse and keep on the hook.

Gaslighting in the workplace

Example: A new employee receives an assignment from a supervisor. He writes down everything that needs to be done and gets to work. When the assignment is completed, the boss reprimands the subordinate in front of everyone. He claims to have asked for something else. The employee shows the notes, but the manager replies indignantly: “Are you kidding me? How could I give you such an order! Are you all right?" nine0003

Bottom line: after a few remarks, the worker begins to believe that he misunderstands the words of the management. He gets confused, feels insecure in meetings, feels guilty, and is constantly under stress. As a result, its performance drops [3].

© Joanne Adela/Pexels

In addition, experts distinguish the following types of manipulation.

  • Self-gaslighting: when a person denies and devalues ​​their own feelings (“I always exaggerate everything”, “I am ashamed to be upset about this”, “I am too sensitive”). nine0008
  • Physician gaslighting: when a physician ignores a patient's complaints by mistakenly believing that their symptoms are the result of a psychosomatic disorder.
  • Racial gaslighting: when gaslighting methods are applied to a person because of their race or ethnicity.
  • Political gaslighting: when politicians refer to the mental instability of opponents, distort facts or hide information in order to gain control over people. nine0008

Why gaslighting is dangerous

A person who has become a victim of gaslighting ceases to trust his feelings. Over time, due to the actions of the manipulator, he may seriously begin to think that he is suffering from a mental disorder. In addition, systematic gaslighting often leads to real psychological and emotional problems. Among them - increased anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, the formation of codependency. All this makes it difficult for the victim to get out of the influence of the manipulator. nine0003

“Victims of gaslighting usually have very low self-esteem. It is difficult to have a good opinion of yourself when you are constantly being proved that this was not or cannot be felt, what you feel is all “nonsense” and “fiction”. Immediately you begin to feel somehow different, ”explains Anastasia Afanasyeva, a psychiatrist, psychotherapist, specialist in the Alter psychologist selection service.

Another important point: emotional abuse often develops into assault. So, if a person experienced gaslighting at the beginning of a relationship, they are more likely to experience physical abuse in the future. nine0003

Some experts suggest that gaslighting can cause schizophrenia. “Psychosis can potentially happen, but gaslighting is unlikely to be the main trigger for this. Most likely, the person already had a genetic predisposition. But to stop understanding and distinguishing your emotions, to lose confidence in your own memory, to start devaluing what is happening to you - these are the direct consequences of gaslighting, ”adds Anastasia Afanasyeva.

A vivid example of the devastating effect of gaslighting on a person is the Zersetzung technique. Its name can be translated from German as "biodegradation" or "decomposition". In the 1970s and 1980s, this method was actively used by members of the GDR secret services to fight the “internal enemy”. nine0003

They broke into dissidents' houses and made minor changes to the interior: they hung towels, rearranged papers, opened windows, changed dishes, or poured a different kind of tea into the kettle. At night, people were disturbed by strange calls, their cars were moved to other places, and passers-by on the streets often called them by other names.

Everything was done to undermine a person's belief in his own adequacy. Demoralized victims withdrew into themselves, stopped leaving the house, slowly went crazy. As a result, they not only stopped political activity, but sometimes took their own lives. nine0003

How to deal with gaslighting

Psychological pressure can last for years before the victim realizes what is happening. At the same time, relationships with a gaslighter are most often characterized as dependent or codependent, which means that it is especially difficult to get out of them. Here are some helpful tips to help you resist manipulative techniques.

Trust your feelings

Listen to your feelings more often. If you're upset, then you are. Nobody has to convince you otherwise. Remember that you know yourself much better than anyone else, and your judgment of yourself is much more accurate than the opinion of a gaslighter. During disputes, do not try to convince the manipulator - it is pointless. Be firm: stick to your own version of events and facts. This way you can deal with uncertainty even if the gaslighter builds up the pressure. The main thing when communicating with him is a confident tone and a decisive attitude. But you can’t show the aggressor doubts and fears. nine0003

“In order to avoid gaslighting, it is important to be aware of your physical and emotional boundaries. That is, you need to understand what is personally acceptable to you and what is not. If a person is well versed in his emotions, knows what his life values ​​​​are and what he aspires to, then it will be extremely difficult to devalue his words and question his perception of reality, ”explains Anastasia Afanasyeva.

Enlist the support of friends

Ask people you trust to look at the situation from the outside. Do you really have the problems that the gaslighter talks about all the time? Do they notice your "oddities"? In addition, experts advise recording events: keeping a personal diary, taking photographs, recording conversations on a voice recorder. Firstly, this way you will always have evidence at hand that can be presented at the right time. Secondly, it will allow you to double-check your own words and memories. If you are convinced that you are right, the gaslighter will not be able to control you. nine0003

“The challenge here is not to find the 'correct' solution, but to get a variety of opinions. Perhaps you will see that reality is not as unambiguous as it is presented to you. In addition, sometimes it is useful to sit down and write a story in the third person, as if watching yourself from the side. This exercise will help you understand more clearly whether something is really wrong with you or with another person,” advises Anastasia Afanasyeva.

© Ksenia Chernaya/Pexels

Don't let yourself be blamed

The next time a gaslighter starts to distort the facts and try to make you doubt your own adequacy, tell him directly that you are not ready to put up with his behavior. Let the manipulator know that you have figured out his tactics. Clearly define your boundaries and calmly explain that his words offend you and in the future you will not tolerate it. If all else fails and the manipulator continues to gaslight you, be prepared to minimize or completely stop communicating with him. The chances that the aggressor will change his behavior are reduced to zero. nine0003

Seek help

Often the victim is manipulated just because it is important for her to stay in a relationship with the manipulator, and not break it off. For example, when it comes to gaslighting as a couple or between family members. In this case, you need to reconsider the tactics of your behavior and start following the new rules. It is best to seek help from a qualified professional. The longer a person is exposed to gaslighting, the more devastating the effects will be. A psychologist will help you cope with anxiety and fears, sort out your doubts and get out of the situation with the least losses. nine0003

Psychologist's comment

Anastasia Afanasyeva, psychiatrist, psychotherapist, Alter psychologist selection service, lecturer at the Institute of Organizational Psychology

Anyone can become a victim of gaslighting - it all depends on the influence and persuasiveness of the person or group of people who use such manipulations. But there are certain characteristics and personality traits that make people more likely to gaslight.

First, young age and low level of education. Children do not yet have abstract thinking. It is difficult for them to understand their emotions and cause-and-effect relationships, so they take adults at their word. As the parent said, it really is. After all, they have nothing to compare with. The same applies to the level of education. nine0003

Secondly, suggestibility. If a person trusts other people more than himself, if the opinions of others and their reactions are more important to him than his own assessment, then the risk of gaslighting is greater. To resist such manipulations, you need to understand your personality well and have a strong internal reliance on things that are important to you personally.

Third, low self-esteem. If everyone around is so smart, wonderful experts, and I am so stupid and awkward - of course, I will believe them, and not myself. nine0003

Fourth, codependency. Overreacting to the emotions and actions of other people (especially those who are near and dear to you), a poor understanding of your interests and values, relying on the interests and values ​​​​of a partner is a direct path to gaslighting.

Fifth, the inability to say "no" and defend personal boundaries. If a person is able to fight back and stop disrespectful behavior towards them, they are unlikely to be gaslighted easily.

The last and perhaps the most important point is the experience of violence in early childhood. As practice shows, usually it is he who leads to the formation of all of the above personality traits. nine0003

Alena Golzitskaya, systemic family psychotherapist, Alter psychologist selection service specialist, researcher at the Psychological Institute of the Russian Academy of Education

You can't be born a gaslighter. But you can be born with a predisposition to certain behaviors. Due to the type of nervous system or the physiological characteristics of the organism, a person, for example, may be less sensitive to the suffering of others. Abusive behavior is formed when a child observes how a significant adult uses such manipulative techniques when interacting with him or with other people. nine0003

Some parents like to say: "You're making it up - it didn't happen", "I didn't say it and couldn't say it", "You dreamed it", "What are you whining about - nothing terrible happened". If you have heard such phrases addressed to you and at the same time began to doubt your memories or feelings, you have encountered manifestations of gaslighting.

People who engage in abusive behavior rarely think about how it affects others. They seek to derive their own benefit from what is happening. And doubts about whether they behave correctly, as a rule, do not visit them - this is due to the protective mechanisms of their psyche. Therefore, gaslighting is usually noticed by the person to whom it is carried out. nine0003

If you want to save the relationship, try telling your partner that you feel uncomfortable when he does this to you. Focus on your feelings and ask him to pay attention to it. Most likely, the partner will need professional psychotherapeutic help in getting rid of the gaslighting pattern. But if it is your mutual desire to make the relationship more comfortable, then most likely he will take such a step.

Abuse: how to recognize moral abuse and what to do. nine0242

Gaslighting - what it is, signs, examples, how to resist

Many things that seem harmless can cause serious damage to the psyche. Unsolicited advice to lose weight or constant doubts about your sense of humor can be gaslighting. Clinical psychologist Aliya Sabirzyanova explains in simple terms what it is, what are the signs and types of gaslighting and how to deal with it

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse. One person, manipulating another, intimidates him, makes him doubt his own abilities, the adequacy of his judgments, and even his memories. The term owes its origin to Patrick Hamilton's play Gaslight ("Gas light", hence the concept of gaslighting) and its film adaptation 1944 years with Ingrid Bergman. The woman she plays is manipulated by her husband, the first ever gaslighter. He rearranges objects, turns on gas lighting so that the light in his wife's room begins to fade. The man insistently claims that all this only seems to his wife. All this is necessary so that he can convince her that she is insane and rob Bergman's heroine with impunity.

Finished reading here

Gaslighting as a form of violence includes both isolating the victim and regularly instilling guilt in her, but the methods here are much more sophisticated. Everything is based on a subtle individual psychological approach, in which the balance and confidence of the victim are gradually shaken, and the abuser takes almost complete control, dictating his will to her. nine0003

Why gaslighting is dangerous

Most often, the victim of gaslighting ceases to trust himself, his sensations and feelings. A person loses the ability to check with himself, rely on beliefs. As soon as a person loses this support and loses touch with reality, he becomes very suggestible and can be convinced of anything, even that he is insane. The victim becomes completely emotionally dependent on the gaslighter - his moods, opinions, behavior.

Related material nine0003

The longer the gaslighting lasts, the more the victim feels that something is wrong with him, all his feelings are deceitful or wrong. At the same time, she will stubbornly deny the influence of the gaslighter. The mental health consequences can be devastating, ranging from increased anxiety, reduced self-esteem to clinical depression. Particular attention should be paid to the fact that gaslighting can be a provoking factor in the development of certain diseases or disorders - such as schizophrenia, OCD, depersonalization and derealization (of course, if there is a predisposition to them). nine0003

How to understand that you are being gaslighted

First of all, a person becomes insecure in actions and thoughts. The victim will doubt everything: in his adequacy, in the decision already made, in the feeling whether she is a good person (mother, wife, employee), whether she is doing the right thing. Secondly, the feeling that the partner’s opinion is the only true one becomes an alarming signal. Only he alone and no one else knows what is right.

Victims have a constant internal tension: everything seems to be in order on the outside, but something is not right. This tension practically does not go away, but only grows and becomes unbearable. This is exacerbated by the fact that the person's social circle is rapidly shrinking, because the victim is embarrassed, ashamed, or has to lie and keep back when asked about a partner. In such isolation, gaslighting the victim becomes even easier. nine0003

The victim begins to believe that the gaslighter really cares about them and wants only the best.

According to the research of psychoanalyst Robin Stern, any victim of gaslighting goes through three stages.

  • At first, she notices oddities in the behavior of the abuser, but does not want to devalue her relationship, thinks that this is a minor incident that will not happen again, and does not attach any importance to it.
  • She then begins to doubt herself and her own perception - but tries to confront the gaslighter, to convince him,
  • Third stage - the victim believes the abuser is right. She understands that she is wrong or even to blame for what is happening. She can no longer distinguish his manipulation from real concern, trying to adapt to his requests so that he approves of her behavior. The main goal is to meet his expectations.

What Tactics Manipulators Use

A gaslighter has many different tactics in his arsenal, which he uses methodically, but they all have one goal in common - to use psychology to change the perception of the victim in any way. We can list the most common examples of gaslighting in life. nine0003

  • Denial: “You are making this up, it never happened. I couldn't say that." These are the most common statements made by gaslighters in a confident and peremptory tone. It is they who make the victim question his memory over and over again.
  • Devaluation of emotions: “In reality, you don’t feel so bad”, “Your reaction is inadequate”, “And you mean you don’t feel guilty?” Depreciation and deliberate suggestion of "false" feelings leads to the fact that the victim ceases to understand what she really feels, what her true emotions are, does not trust her feelings. nine0008
  • Assurances of inadequacy: "You dreamed", "You dreamed again!", "Something is wrong with you the last few days!", "It seems to me that you are not yourself." Such pressure provokes doubt, guilt and helplessness in the victim, which only increases its dependence.
  • Shifting responsibility. “It's your fault (a)”, “You forced me (a)”, “It's all because of your intemperance!”. The gaslighter won't admit he's manipulating. On the contrary, he will declare that he was forced to do this with her. As a result, the victim begins to justify the gaslighter and sincerely believe that she deserves everything that happens to her. nine0008
  • Toxic sayings and jokes: "Who else will tell you the truth?", "Believe me, I'm saying this because I love you." Usually such phrases are followed by statements, the purpose of which is to injure and offend the victim. This leads to the fact that the victim begins to believe that the gaslighter really cares about her and wants only the best, in parallel, there is an addiction to constant humiliation.
Because of the closeness that partnerships entail, the gaslighter usually has a free hand

There are also several types of gaslighting: in relationships, at home, at work, and among friends. All of them have their own characteristics and typical examples.

Couple Gaslighting

Due to the closeness that partnerships entail, the gaslighter is usually completely free to work. He can combine all of the above tactics, further isolating the second partner from family and friends, like a spider weaving a web from which it will be difficult to get out.

For example: a gaslighter husband, in order to maintain control over his wife, regularly emphasizes that she forgets everything and never remembers promises. So he makes her feel guilty and gradually makes her doubt that she is able to remember something correctly. Now he can force her to do what she was not ready for: to introduce experiments into her sex life. The wife, on the one hand, is convinced that she really wanted to do just that, and on the other, the inner feeling that something is wrong will continue to corrode her. nine0003

Gaslighting in Friendships and Family

Gaslighting in friendships is often done with toxic language, denial and devaluation of emotions. The same can be said about relationships with parents when they refuse to understand the feelings of an already grown child or dismiss the experiences of a teenager.

For example: a friend (or even a mother), in order to steadily increase her own self-esteem and satisfy her need for power, regularly shows concern for someone else’s weight: “No one will tell you, because they don’t care about you, but I must say: you improved a lot. I do not offend you, but I tell the truth, because I love you and care about you. nine0003

Related material

Gaslighting at work

The most common tactics in this case are denial, belief in inadequacy and shifting responsibility.

For example: a leader who does not accept the idea that he might be wrong gives you a specific assignment. You carry it out, but his idea is not accepted by the management. He publicly says that he did not entrust you with anything, you yourself came up with this task and in general where your head was when you did it. nine0003

How to deal with gaslighting

The first and most important step is to detect gaslighting in a relationship. The easiest way to do this is at the first or second stage, it is much more difficult at the third, when the victim is already completely dependent on the manipulator and the fight against him seems unrealistic. In any case, the way out of such a relationship will be to restore confidence in yourself, so all recommendations will be based on this.

  • Trust your own feelings

You will have to gradually get rid of the influence of the gaslighter. Start with bodily sensations. Even the mere assurance that you are really cold or hot will slowly begin to give you back the ability to understand what you really want and think. nine0003

  • Be aware of physical and emotional boundaries

Notice what is unacceptable to you, how you should not be treated. Try to use your boundaries as a point of stability. Try to give up more often what is unpleasant for you and does not suit you. Stand your ground.

  • Expand your social circle

Reach out to people you knew before the gaslighter. Find out how they see you personally from the outside, if you have changed, how they see your relationship and your partner. Try to get a different opinion, proof that you adequately perceive reality. nine0003

  • Seek professional help

Some of the consequences of gaslighting – anxiety, fear, depression – will be difficult to cope on your own, in this case, qualified psychological help will help not only cope with them, but also allow you to rely on yourself and your strength again.

Learn more