The Gaslighting


I evidently was using this term wrong. I was curious of the exact meaning of the word and got sucked into several literature reviews and articles. And then stuck in old memories.

Evidently, it’s a tool of psychological warfare.

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.

Some signs of gaslighting include:

  1. You are constantly second-guessing yourself.
  2. You ask yourself, “Am I too sensitive?” a dozen times a day.
  3. You often feel confused and even crazy at work.
  4. You’re always apologizing to your mother, father, boyfriend,, boss.
  5. You can’t understand why, with so many apparently good things in your life, you aren’t happier.
  6. You frequently make excuses for your partner’s behavior to friends and family.
  7. You find yourself withholding information from friends and family so you don’t have to explain or make excuses.
  8. You know something is terribly wrong, but you can never quite express what it is, even to yourself.
  9. You start lying to avoid the put downs and reality twists.
  10. You have trouble making simple decisions.
  11. You have the sense that you used to be a very different person – more confident, more fun-loving, more relaxed.
  12. You feel hopeless and joyless.
  13. You feel as though you can’t do anything right.
  14. You wonder if you are a “good enough” girlfriend/ wife/employee/ friend; daughter.
  15. You find yourself withholding information from friends and family so you don’t have to explain or make excuses.

Having been a victim of this type of psychological abuse is that you don’t see what is actually happening until you have distanced yourself from the person doing the abuse.

I literally did every single one of those things almost every day for almost 10 years while that person was in my life. I was terrified of being “too sensitive”, “wrong”, having to lie to cover for that person, feeling hopeless and depressed, hiding things from friends and loved ones, thinking that I’m the crazy one or I’m the bad one. Hell, I was afraid to talk to my therapist about the abuse, when the abuse was the whole reason I went into therapy. Like I said, I was the crazy one. But I was petrified to even mention that person to my therapist lest get back to him.

And on it went…

And then it stopped. And I realized I wasn’t.

I was very damn sane.

And some of the tactics used:

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 identityis 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.



14 thoughts on “The Gaslighting

  1. To me a lot of those things are done to oneself rather than another person.

    Guess this is why I don’t like labels, too often a label is placed and then people lob crap onto that label because they either want to fit in or want someone else to fit into it.

    I don’t deny any of these things exist but in today’s society people want labels for everything and if it doesn’t fit their ideal situation at the time they’ll adjust the label. Check back in 12 months and I bet someone, possibly with letters after their name to make it legit, has added another ten things to the “signs you are a gaslighter” list, because someone will have decided there is another action that fits into the category. It’s never ending, what’s worse is that if you look down any list for long enough you’ll find out you fit into so many of the categories yourself. I hate to think what sort of person I am based on the labels people use today, honestly going by some of the lists I should be locked up and the key should be thrown away and that’s only based on me being a white male who thinks for himself and disagrees with the vox pop.

    But I digress and shall get back in my outspoken box again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I had a beautiful reply typed out on my phone, then it started acting possessed and I lost it.

      Essentially — I knoe these lists are malleable and a bit cliched, but they are meant as a tool to help thosd people in those toxic, acrimonious relationships see them for what they are and get out. Those relationships are often based in manipulation and disingenuousness (if thats a word) dont know they are being abused or the severity and frequency in which this emotional anc psycholotical abusd occurs.

      Not everyonr is strong — I wax in a platonic relationship with a mentor figure where he was extremely manipulative and psychologically abusive to me. And I didnt think it was real and made excuses and … Just bullshit. And it was one of these lists that made everything click.

      Liked by 1 person

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