Gaslighting: What It Is And How To Know If You Are A Victim Of It

Dec 13, 2018 by apost team

The term Gaslight is derived from the 1938 stage play called “Gaslight”. The play describes a story of deceit and psychological manipulation, where a man convinces his wife that she has gone insane in an attempt to keep his criminal activities a secret.

Since then, the term “gaslighting” has been used both colloquially and by psychiatric professionals to describe the manipulation tactic in real life relationships.

What Is Gaslighting?

According to Dr. Robin Stern, the Associate Director of Partnerships for the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and Author of “The Gaslight Effect”, the term “Gaslighting” is used to describe a relationship in which one of the parties, the “gaslighter” exerts power via manipulation over the second party,  the “gaslightee”.

On paper, it’s easy for people to say that they’d never be susceptible to the seemingly obvious methodologies of gaslighting, but in reality, gaslighting is often done so subtlety, slowly, and methodically that the damage is often already done before the target figures out they’ve been victimized.

From politicians, world leaders, religious leaders, and corporate leaders, gaslighting is a tactic common among those in power positions, especially when the person is also a narcissist or sociopath. It’s also a common tactic employed by bullies to lower the independence and self-esteem of the victim. It’s a common theme in abusive relationships.

How To Know If You’re The Victim Of Gaslighting

Gaslighters frequently use these 11 manipulation techniques to achieve making you think you’re the one that’s crazy so that they can continue onward abusing you:

1. They Have Lies Of All Shapes And Colors

For most people, little white lies are an everyday occurrence. Your partner asks you if their makeup or tie looks good and you nod your head despite thinking it’s not so attractive. You do this to spare the person’s feelings, not harm them. In gaslighting, these small lies are malicious in intent and done to make the perpetrator, not others, feel better.

Gaslighters intentionally lie, and they do so boldly and brashly. They can lie with a straight face as they tell you something they know good and well you don’t believe. These lies are designed to set a precedent. Once they have told the lies, they know you’re not sure if anything they say is true. This is designed to throw you off kilter, make you wonder why, and slowly chip away at your guard and judgment.

2. Everyone Else Is A Liar

Anyone that disagrees with a gaslighter’s philosophy is an automatic liar. From that point on, those people’s thoughts have no validity or truth. What can’t be rationalized is explained away by the people simply being jealous or wanting to tear the two of you apart. This is to isolate you from the competing ideas of others and those in a position to help you. When you’ve abandoned competing relationships, the gaslighter is now free to disrespect and abuse you uninterrupted.

3. They Deny, Deny, Deny

You’ll find that gaslighters are equally audacious in their denials as they are their lies. They’ll say or do something and then turn around and flat out deny it ever occurred. They’ll make promises and then vehemently deny they ever even had the discussion with you. Even in the presence of proof, they’ll find a fallacy to fall back on or way to discredit the evidence.

Victims will find this irritating and frustrating at first. As it continues, though, victims will naturally begin to question their own perspective, judgment, and reality. Human nature is to recognize anything that becomes a pattern, and as the lies and denials continue, you’ll start to wonder if it’s you that’s wrong, misheard, or are just losing your mind. Ironically, the person’s word you once knew was so wrong becomes a replacement for your own reality. You begin to believe what they say as the truth.

4. Their Actions And Words Are Incongruent

When your partner is a gaslighter, their words and actions will never be congruent. This leaves you to constantly question their behaviors and motives. It’s a maze that you’ll never reach the end of, however. The more you try, the deeper you’re pulled in and the more lost you get. And, they’ll keep you trying with professions of love that are absolutely perplexing considering the actions they take that hurt you so much. Passive aggressive behavior is also common; it’s the beautiful apple filled with poison.

5. They Orchestrate Attacks On What Defines You As You

Gaslighters attack your family, parenting role, talents, goals, personality, and any of the other core elements that give your existence meaning and purpose. Piece by piece, they’ll break you down by discounting anything that gives credit to your worth. This can be done by devaluing your core, such as by conning you into feeling that you’re worthless when it comes to the lives of your children.

It can also be devaluing how you view your core, such as that you’re overly obsessed, selfish, or negligent in it.

This cold and calculated method of breaking apart who you are as a person eventually creates a you without dignity, confidence, or self-preservation. Slowly, you’re becoming more and more unsure and unstable as a human being.

6. They’re Energy Leeches

Through potent, subtle, and routine application, gaslighting sucks all your energy away. It’s the lie here, the degrading remark there, the chip to your confidence today, and the crack in your perception tomorrow that all add up to you becoming too tired to fight the leech literally sucking the life out of you.

Before you know it, you’re left standing there questioning where and who you are, and the only person with answers is the very person that took them from you. You’re now primed to be refilled with the gaslighter’s version of the answers - brainwashed. Those already suffering from energy-draining depression and low self-esteem are easy and quick targets for gaslighting relationships.

7. They’re The Anti-villain

Gaslighters aren’t going to be the evil villain 24/7. Part of the plan to keep you second guessing everything is to also throw you a bone of kindness every so often. They’ll sprinkle random acts of love, kindness, and devotion in so that partners lose their balance from the times of meanness, humiliation, and cruelty. You may get praised for a wonderful meal only to minutes later be degraded because the laundry wasn’t folded to a precise specification.

Humans have a natural craving for stability. The end game is for their unpredictability to cause you to begin to question your ability to ever be fully right. You doubt your abilities and judgment, and then slowly you lose all faith in yourself. The gaslighter is then free to step in as the ultimate and final word of truth for you.

8. They Thrive In Your Confusion

For a gaslighter, confusion is a shotgun bullet. They’ll shoot it at you to leave your sense of placement and purpose riddled with holes. You’re vulnerable, weak. exposed, and emotionally bleeding. Then, the very person that shot you is the only one there to plug your holes. Bam, then you’re shot again and he/she is there again for you. It’s an endless cycle.

They’ve attacked your worth and value. They’ve caused mass confusion to your mental and physical placement. Now, you turn to bond to mend your broken and overcompensating pieces. It’s the ideal time for the abusive partner to sweep in and turn their reality into yours. It ensures they are the ones you continually turn to for comfort and guidance so that the manipulation can continue onward in its cycle.

9. They’re Experts At Projection

It’s your fault, not their fault. You’re the one doing the evil deeds, not them. When your anger, discontent, or questions arise, they always have some outlandish excuse like you’re the one cheating, you’re the one doing drugs, or you’re the one that’s being crazy.

You’re so busy defending yourself that you don’t have time or energy to investigate what they’re doing. This not only gives them a projection for their own misdeeds, it’s also setting you up to be disbelieved by outsiders and hesitant to involve others. Plus, when something like “you’re crazy,” even when referenced with outlandish accusations like drug abuse, is stated on repeat, it leaves you to question if you are indeed really acting insane.

10. You Keep Quiet And Think It’s Your Own Idea

Just as the gaslighter has painted himself as the anti-villain, he/she is working to paint you as the true villain. It’s all about illusions and misdirection. They surround themselves with mock juries of ‘friends’ accepting of what they do and use those opinions to prop up their stories, condemn you as the bad guy, and cement your deteriorating sense of self.

Gaslighters are pros at using such social connections as tools to shame and quiet you. They may threaten to tell someone about your “craziness” and all the embarrassing accusations they’ve made on why it’s happening.

The end goal is isolation. You’re too anxious and fearful about the disgracing accusations to want help. You’re too confused as to how the entire situation became about you being crazy versus the crazy things they’re doing to you to even know you need help. The only source of comfort you’re left with is the very abuser causing the discomfort in the first place.

11. They Publicly Destroy Your Character

As you’re keeping quiet in your confusion and turmoil, your gaslighter is working to destroy your credibility publicly. Your image will be tarnished. You’ll be presented as someone incapable of making sound decisions. Your partner will come out smelling fresh as a daisy should you ever expose their gaslighting. No one will believe you, and you’ll be faced with yet again only one source of comfort in your isolation - your gaslighter.

The effects of Gaslighting

Gaslighting can have adverse effects on one's mental health and self-confidence. The victim can end up constantly doubting themselves, becoming more insecure and might even experience isolation from their loved ones.

Jennifer Sweeton Psy.D., an expert in trauma and anxiety wrote that Gaslighting might even have long-lasting and serious consequences on the victim such as anxiety, PTSD and depression. 

Have you ever experienced Gaslighting in your relationships? Or do you know anyone who might be going through the same thing? We want to hear your stories, so make sure to let us know and spread the word to your friends and family.