Gaslighting (A guide)

Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which the abuser plants seeds of doubt in the victim, which makes them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. 

What is gaslighting? 

Gaslighting is a tactic that a person uses to manipulate a victim in order to gain more power.

The manipulation is usually in the form of making the victim question his or her reality. 

To give you a visual, there is a movie from 1944 called Gaslight, and the film features a man manipulating his wife to the point where she is convinced she is losing her mind. 

Gaslighting (A guide)

Who is susceptible to becoming a victim of gaslighting? 

Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting. It is a common technique of dictators, narcissists, abusers, and leaders of cults.

It is done extremely slowly, so the victim does not even realize how much they have been brainwashed.

Common victims of gaslighting are people who are empaths, which usually have hypersensitive, considerate, and understanding character traits. 

Gaslighting (A guide)

What are warning signs of gaslighting? 

You should watch out for the warning signs of gaslighting.

There are several techniques that gaslighters typically use to manipulate their victims, and these include the following:

·      Telling blatant lies.How can someone tell such a huge lie with a straight face?

Gaslighters have no problem doing just that.

They set up a precedent by telling a big lie so that you are not sure if anything they say subsequently is true.

One of their goals is to keep you unsteady and off-kilter. 

·      Denying they ever said something, even if you have proof. People who gaslight outright deny what they have said in the past.

This makes you start questioning your own reality and perception of the truth.

The more they do this, the more you start accepting their reality as the truth. 

·     They know what pushes your buttons and they use these things as ammunition. If you have kids, for example, and they know how important your kids are to you, they will say things like you should not have had those children.

They can tell you that you’d be a worthy or better person if only you didn’t have x, y, and z negative traits.

They attack the very foundation of what makes you “you”.  

·     They wear you down slowly over time. Gaslighting is particularly insidious because it is done gradually.

They usually start by telling a lie every so often and make snide comments here and there, and then it starts ramping up to even more intense gaslighting.

Even the most intelligent, self-aware people can become victims to gaslighting because it happens so slowly. 

·     Their actions do not match their words. People who are gaslighting often saying one thing and doing another.

Be sure to watch what the gaslighter is doing rather than what he or she is saying. 

·     They throw in some positive reinforcement to confuse you and keep you on your toes. Gaslighters may go from acting as if you have no value to praising you for something you did.

This will add additional uneasiness because now you might think that the abuser isn’t so bad. But they are.

This is a calculated attempt to throw you off and to question your own reality.

In addition, what you were praised for is probably something that served the gaslighter. 

·     They project. Gaslighters are constantly accusing you of what they themselves are doing.

They deflect the blame on you so you have to keep defending yourself and are distracted from their own behavior.

·     They try to turn people against you. People who gaslight will lie and say “person X knows you are useless too.”

This doesn’t mean person X actually said anything, but this uproots your trust and you do not know who to trust or turn to, which leads you right back to the gaslighter. 

·     They tell you or others that you are crazy. Gaslighters do this so that others will not believe you if you tell them that the gaslighter is abusive or out-of-control.  

·     They tell you everyone else is lying. By telling you everyone else is lying, they make you continuously question your reality.

This is a manipulation technique so that you will turn to the gaslighter for the “correct” information, which in reality is not the correct information at all. 

Gaslighting (A guide)

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about gaslighting:

1. What are gaslighting tactics?

Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic in which a person, to gain power and control, plants seeds of uncertainty in the victim.

The self-doubt and consistent skepticism slowly and meticulously cause the individual who is being gaslighted to question their reality and recollection of past events. 

2. What is a gaslighter personality?

In a gaslighting relationship, the gaslighter has the power to grant acceptance, approval, respect, safety, and security for the victim.

He or she often has the power to take those things away and often threatens to do so.

Gaslighters often are narcissists or have narcissistic personality traits.

3. What is an example of gaslighting? 

Withholding is one technique that gaslighters use to control their victims.

This involves feigning lack of understanding, refusing to listen, and declining to share emotions.

Gaslighters also may tell you that you that your recollection of past events are false and that other people think you are useless or crazy. 

4. Can someone gaslight without knowing it? 

People usually gaslight in order to feel some semblance of control in their own lives by making others depend on them.

A person can be practicing gaslighting behavior without being consciously aware of it, and they may get a payoff when their victim becomes more dependent on them, which is how the cycle continues. 

5. What are the signs of gaslighting?

Common signs of gaslighting include the following: 

– You question if your feelings are justified

– You second-guess your recollection of past events

– You find yourself constantly apologizing

– You make excuses for the gaslighter

– You think there’s something wrong with you

– You trust the judgement of others over your own

– You think something might be off 

6. What does it mean when you gaslight someone?

Gaslighting is used to describe abusive behavior, specifically when the abuser manipulates information in such a way as to make the victim question his or her own sanity.

Gaslighting is an intentional way of making someone doubt their memories or perception of reality. 

7. What is a gas lighter in a relationship?

In a relationship, gaslighting usually refers to the abuser trying to convince the victim that they are wrong about something even when they aren’t.

Most commonly, it takes the form of frequently disagreeing with the victim or refusing to listen to their point of view. 

9. What is gaslighting and is it happening to you? 

Psychologists use the term gaslighting to describe a specific form of psychological manipulation where the manipulator tries to get a person or a group of people to question their own reality, memory, or perceptions.

This is an extremely serious problem according to psychologists. 

10. What is ghosting and gaslighting? 

Gaslighting is used to describe abusive behavior, specifically when the abuser manipulates information in such a way as to make the victim question his or her own sanity.

Gaslighting is an intentional way of making someone doubt their memories or perception of reality.

Ghosting is the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly withdrawing all forms of communication without explanation. 

11. How do you survive gaslighting?

It may take months or years to undo the damage that a gaslighter has done, but it can be done.

Keeping a journal to write down your own accounts of actions or conversations can be helpful.

This way, if the gaslighter tries to get you to question your own perception of reality, you have written accounts to help you remain sure of yourself.

Getting a second opinion, seeking objective support, or meditating, are all helpful techniques that can help you heal from gaslighting. 

12. Why do people gaslight?

People gaslight in order to undermine another person’s reality by denying facts, the environment around them, or their feelings.

Targets of gaslighters are heavily manipulated into not trusting their own cognition, emotions, and who they are as people.

The goal of a gaslighter is to make the victim doubt themselves.

Gaslighting abuse causes a person to lose their sense of identity, perception, and worth.

It is a form of narcissism and sociopathic tendencies, where the abuser seeks to gain power over another person.

Gaslighting (A guide)

Want to learn more about gaslighting? Try these books!

Gaslighting: How to Recognize Hidden Behaviors of an Emotional Manipulator, Disarm the Narcissist and Find Healing after Psychological Abuse

This book by Simon Mackenzie outlines everything you need to know to recognize when you are being gaslighted.

Gaslighting is an insidious form of psychological manipulation and emotional abuse that can be difficult to recognize.

The effects that can result from a short or long-term relationship with a gaslighter can be devastating.

Usually the victims of gaslighting are people who are hypersensitive and are extremely compassionate, considerate, and understanding toward others.

This book gives a thorough explanation of the motives behind narcissistic abusive behavior, which usually includes gaslighting.

You will learn ways to recognize gaslighting behavior and tactics that you can use to break free from this abuse. 

I am not in recovery. I am in discovery: Journaling my mental illness

Journaling is a great way to help process and keep track of your experiences and feelings while you are going through any difficulties, whether it be the debilitating effects of psychological manipulation such as gaslight or the symptoms of mental illness.

This journal can be your form of emotional release, as it contains 94 daily templates to aid in your discovery process. 

The Mindfulness Journal: Daily Practices, Writing Prompts, and Reflections for Living in the Present Moment

As described above, journaling is a great way to keep record of everything that is going on with your gaslighter so that if you question your reality later you will have all of these things documented.

In addition, whether you are dealing with mental health issues, heartbreak, a problem at work, or any other life stressor, this journal is for you.

This Mindfulness Journal can easily be added into your daily routine and can serve as an outlet for stress-reduction that will help you appreciate every single day and moment.

It includes 365 daily writing prompts divided into 52 weekly mindfulness topics.

The prompts are extremely unique, fun, and engaging, so you will never get bored while journaling.

Additionally, each prompt is on its own separate page so you will have more than enough room for reflection and to write down all of your thoughts, big or small.

Although it is suggested to journal once a day, you can spend as much or as little time as you want on each prompt. 

References

11 Warning Signs of Gaslighting.Psychology Today. 2019. 

Gaslighting (A guide)

Juanita Agboola

Juanita Agboola is the editor in chief of HFNE and an expert in mental health online. She has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 2012. All Guides are reviewed by our editorial team which constitutes various clinical psychologists, PhD and PsyD colleagues.