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Gaslighting – What Is It and How To Break Free the Knot of Manipulation?

Gaslighting – What Is It and How To Break Free the Knot of Manipulation?

Updated on Jun 09, 2022

Reviewed by Dr. Nereida Gonzalez-Berrios, MD , Certified Psychiatrist

Gaslighting - Definition, Signs, Types, and How To Deal with It

Has anyone ever tried to twist your sense of reality? Do you think that someone is intentionally trying to distort reality and deceive you? 

Are you experiencing a false narrative every now and then that seems unreal but puts you in doubt Beware! You could be a victim of emotional abuse known as gaslighting.

It is a psychological manipulation where the abuser distorts reality in such a way that the victim tends to doubt and question his/her awareness of reality.

You may be manipulated in varied ways and will fall prey to doubt and insecurity. Your perception, memory, and overall psychological functioning will be at stake. 

This article will talk more about this nasty scheming technique that is commonly found in relationships at home, in the workplace, in power politics, etc. 

Let’s get started……

Gaslighting Infographics

Gaslighting - Definition, Signs, & Effects
Gaslighting – Definition, Signs, & Effects
Gaslighting - Types & How to Stop It
Gaslighting – Types & How to Stop It

What is gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a form of deception, abuse, and emotional manipulation. In this technique, one person tries to control the behavior of the other (victim) by distorting the truth, making the victim doubt and question their own perception of reality.

Gaslighting is a covert form of abuse. Initially, it may look like someone is playing tricks with you. But after some time, you will start doubting everything that goes on around you.

The concept is common in an abusive relationship where one partner holds a position of power and tries to victimize the weak partner.

The abuse starts with simple bullying but slowly makes the victim fall prey to self-doubt and distrust of oneself.

The process of gaslighting starts when the abuser (gaslighter) tries to put some false narrative in front of the victim. 

This leads the victim to rethink and doubt their own perception and memory of the event or happening.

The victim is misled and put to confusion and disorientation. In most cases, gaslighting happens if one person or the group is vulnerable and fears challenging the authority of the false narratives.

When unequal power takes place in an abusive relationship, one partner becomes the victim.

The abusive partner tries to manipulate the thoughts and perceptions of the weaker partner. They try to convince them about something that is not true.

The intentional distortion of reality is done to falsely persuade the victim that what they see, feel, think, and act upon is absolutely wrong.

The psychology behind gaslighting

Gaslighting is a form of manipulation that involves misleading someone. It includes continuous attempts to convince them that they are wrong or going crazy in some way. 

In a few days’ time, the manipulation becomes so intense that the victim starts to question their perception of reality.

In abusive relationships, gaslighting takes place regularly with an ulterior motive.

The abuser manipulates the thoughts of the victim in such a manner, so that the victim cannot challenge, question, or indicate the faults of the other person (abuser).

When gaslighting happens, the victim gets easily convinced and persuaded. Why? The answer is simple.

By the time it starts to surface in a relationship, there is a lot of trust and friendship already in place between the abuser and victim.

The victim believes that what the abuser is saying or showing is absolutely correct. Maybe they are thinking about the best interest of the victim. 

Slowly, the victim becomes prey to false beliefs and distrusts their own gut feeling.

The more the victim becomes unsure of their own perception, the emotional abuse increases.

The abuser can now put their thoughts and ideas into the situation. They can gain control over the victim easily.

Unfortunately, the victims of gaslighting are in a relationship either with a narcissist or a sociopath who is unkind and brutal.

The motives behind gaslighting

The gaslighter can have many motives behind their behavior. Gaslighting includes direct manipulation, twisting the reality, and putting a different picture in front of the victim. Some of the motives behind gaslighting are as follows:

  • Hiding some fact or truth from the victim
  • Want an apology from the victim even if the victim has not done any wrong
  • The gaslighter feels good by giving emotional pain to the victim
  • They may want to control the behavior of the victim
  • Use of various forms of verbal and behavior tricks to keep the victim in a corner
  • Trying to play a blame game with the victim
  • Lying or withholding information

Gaslighting is a slow poisoning manipulation. It involves feeding wrong information and twisting real facts on the victim. 

The victim is constantly fed with false information that does not exist. Slowly, the abuser makes it appear so real that the victim questions his/her own beliefs and perceptions.

If you’re a victim of gaslighting, you may not be able to notice the warning signs until it is too late.

This happens because the abuser sets the scene of manipulation perfectly. They will keep you on your toes.

Every now and then, you will be made to question your perception. You’ll be clouded and confused, completely off-track and spaced out.

Why is it called gaslighting?

The term gaslighting came from a famous 1938 play ‘gaslight’. Later on, the plot of the play was turned into a movie in 1944. The movie was also named ‘Gaslight’.

The movie plot unfolds the story of a husband who intentionally manipulated his wife by distorting reality at home so that he can prove that his wife is crazy.

The wife started doubting her beliefs, perceptions, and judgments. 

In this way, the husband dimmed the gas-fuelled lights of the house and started telling the wife that she is hallucinating and it is not real.

The motive behind this action is to prove her insane and win over her inheritance.

People who experience gaslighting often feel confused about reality. They feel anxious and slowly develop a real distrust for themselves.

The victim can begin to question their own thoughts and feelings. The self-doubt goes to such an extent that they become totally dependent on the abusing partner for validation of truth and reality.

As gaslighting is emotional abuse, it is always harmful. It happens in relationships where one partner is abusive and controlling by nature. 

They try to override the thoughts and emotions of the weak partner by intentionally manipulating them. It can lead to mental illness such as generalized anxiety disorder or depression.

By exerting power, the abusive partner tries to control the victim so that they trust them blindly and do not question anything either now or in the near future.

Gaslighting behavior starts with small maliciousness and can later turn into toxic patterns of abuse and maltreatment. 

The victim feels helpless and anxious about right and wrong. They feel completely unsure of what’s happening around them, even to the point of doubting one’s own sanity.

Gaslighting signs and symptoms

If you have been gas-lighted by someone recently, you must have found yourself in a pit. The process eroded your self-image badly. Moreover, your self-esteem must have suffered a hard hit.

It is always important to know the warning signs of gaslighting so that you can help yourself. Gaslighting is a covert manipulation. Thus, it may not be easy to identify the signs very easily.

When someone is trying to gaslight you, you‘ll feel like second-guessing your beliefs and thoughts. You will never be confident of your own judgments. 

Sometimes you may feel like questioning if there is something really wrong with you. Your abusive partner may take this as an advantage and encourage you to think in ways that are not real.

When wrong information is placed to you in the right way for a long time, it actually appears to be true. This is the fundamental concept of gaslighting.

Gaslighting leaves you perplexed, makes you inquire about your beliefs, perceptions, judgments, memory, self-worth, and much more. You may feel like living your life the way your abusive partner wants.

You have no say about the way you can think, feel, or act. As if, everything is in haze and you are not being able to see the underlying truth at all.

Gaslighting is hard to detect unless your self-doubt increases. When you start to question your every single line of thought, be sure that you are gaslighted. 

At this stage, you will not challenge your abuser, rather will completely submit yourself to their whims and wishes.

Warning signs to look for

To know the subtle warning signs of gaslighting see below:

  • You may find that your opinions, views, interests, and beliefs have changed because of the other person’s impact on your life.
  • Your partner pinpoints your faults, blames you every now and then. They may remind you of your past mistakes.
  • You are no longer confident to express your opinions and feelings openly. As if, you are scared to open your mouth in front of your abusive partner. You believe in whatever they are saying.
  • The ability to make decisions becomes poor.
  • Your abusive partner will play gaslight by twisting the tale and start a blame game, putting you on the receiving end as always.
  • They will insult you openly in front of others trying to make you question your sense of mental sanity.
  • Your partner may narrate false stories and events that are completely different from what you know to be true
  • They may twist and turn your thoughts in such a way so that it appears that you are crazy and insane in some way. 
  • You will be forced to change your mind and think in ways they want.
  • They may use overt threats such as leaving you forever if you do not listen to them.
  • There will be constant criticizing and demeaning in the relationship.
  • Name-calling, no showering of real affection is quite common
  • You will be left alone. They will try to keep you away from your support groups such as close friends or family members.
  • They will monitor your whereabouts. Constant checking will be done of whom you talk to, or if you are meeting someone else for help and assistance.
  • Your finances will be checked and monitored.
  • They will try to control the way you dress, the people you meet, or even the food you eat.
  • Sharing your private information with others, just to insult you publicly.
  • They may threaten you to end the relationship or harm those who are dear to you.
  • Your abusive partner may try to control each and every aspect of life.

20 Signs of gaslighting in relationships that shouldn’t be ignored

Gaslighting is a slow manipulative technique where the abuser tries to take over the emotional well-being of the victim. If you were ever gaslighted, you may have noticed that the abuser tried to play mind tricks with you.

You were brainwashed and made to believe in things that are not true. They may deny things or tell you many lies just to prove that you are not in a healthy state of mind.

Gaslighting occurs in relationships where you are in relation with someone who is by nature abusive or wants to give you pain in some way. This abusive manipulation is seen in a narcissistic and codependent relationship.

The signs of gaslighting in intimate personal relationships are hard to be found out. This is because you may not realize how much you have been brainwashed till it is too late.

If you have been in a relationship where you questioned your perceptions, memory, and judgment; be sure that you were gaslighted by your partner.

A gaslighter is aware that he/she is trying to manipulate you. They know that they are slowly poisoning you to the point of insanity. They lack empathy and usually have an inflated sense of self. 

Armed with authority they just do what they want out of the relationship. For them, the relationship is all about maintaining control and dominance over you.

Knowing the signs will help you overcome the trauma that comes from this hurtful manipulation. You will be able to undergo emotional healing in a better way.

Some of the chief signs of gaslighting in relationships are as follows:

1. They remind you of your weaknesses and loopholes

Gaslighters always remind you of your mistakes and shortcomings. They will get busy highlighting what is not there in the relationship. 

They may abuse you by finding unnecessary faults in your work and behavior. Your partner will constantly remind you of your flaws and weaknesses. 

You will be undermined by them in various ways. A feeling of anxiousness and helplessness may be seen in you. You may feel that you have become an unworthy being.

In this way, a gaslighter has developed a power dynamic in the relationship. You are insecure and vulnerable and they are there to dominate you at every step.

2. Feelings of insecurity

In an abusive relationship, there will be signs of insecurity. You will be unsure of your actions and behavior. You will never be able to decide confidently on your own. 

If this happens, the relationship will be dominated by your abusive partner. In gaslighting, the motive of the abusive partner is unknown to the victim. 

Thus, you will be scared to ask questions or challenge your partner in any way. There will be a lot of fear and anxiety in the relationship. 

3. You doubt your true worth

Being in an abusive relationship made you question your self-worth. You may ask yourself whether you are a good partner, what else can you do to improve yourself so that your partner likes you, etc

These feelings of inadequacy come from the fact that you are always made to believe that your perceptions are wrong.

Your judgments are not right. Thus, you are forced to question and self-doubt to a great extent.

4. You are always walking on thin ice

People who are gaslighted know that they are always walking on thin ice. It means they are cautious and careful to express their opinion in front of their partner.

You cannot speak your mind free because of the fear of criticism. Your partner may laugh at you, pass remarks, or insult you on your face. You really do not know what is going to come to you.

5. The abusive partner never admits mistakes

An abusive partner never admits that they are wrong in some way. They will try to blame their victim partner for whatever wrong is taking rounds in the relationship.

The gaslighter never sees faults in their own behavior. They have ready-made excuses to safeguard themselves from the blame.

Their attacking mode never allows them to own mistakes and remain accountable for their nasty misdeeds.

6. The abusive partner behaves like a victim if criticized openly

Manipulation is the key to gaslighting. Your abusive partner may show off being innocent if criticized by you or by others. They may behave like a victim who is not at fault.

They may try to blame you for new allegations. Making untrue claims, false allegations are a way to save their own face from further trouble. 

The gaslighter is cunning and knows how to take the eyes off themselves. They will divert blame upon you and try to remain scot-free.

7. Negative comments are in place

In a gaslighting relationship, the motive of your partner is to abuse you emotionally. They will place distorted facts and twist the truth in such a way that you will doubt your perception.

You will start questioning yourself, may start to believe the sayings and observations of your abusive partner.

In this way, you’ll begin to dismiss your own qualities and degrade your worth. You may say negative things about yourself, as if not in a proper state of mind.

8. A lot of apologies happen at your end

People who are gaslighted seek sorry from their partners for no obvious reason. They may apologize for something that they have not done. 

You may say “I’m sorry” quite often. This is an obvious sign that your abusive partner has successfully taken you in their stride.

9. Seeking acceptance from the abuser

Gaslighting leaves the victim traumatized and fearful. They become insecure and vulnerable. As such, they cannot decide for themselves.

They will constantly try to seek validation for being good and worthy from their abusive partner.

Though you are treated badly, you’ll always try to win over your partner’s approval. You seek their time and company. They have tricked you and clouded your perceptions. Thus, you cannot see their real faces.

A victim of gaslighting becomes a compliant being because they want to avoid tension in the house.

Moreover, they will do everything to win over the confidence of their abusive partner.

10. Making excuses for gaslighter partner

You may get into denial mode or find excuses for your partner’s behavior. In both ways, you are doing more harm than good.

You may tell other people that everything is fine and there is no tension around.

11. Lying is all around you

There is lying and cheating all around you. People who are gaslighted live and breathe in lies. Their abusive partner speaks lies beyond any control. 

You know that they are lying but cannot do anything about it. These lies take the shape of emotional manipulation.

They may blackmail you or make you act in ways that are unreal and not worthy.

Often lies are spoken on the face and you are not left with a single chance to counteract and argue. You may stand red-faced completely.

12. Denial of something for which you have proof

They may deny seeing or doing something even if you have proof. In this way, you will start questioning your beliefs and knowledge. 

You will second-guess yourself because you are in self-doubt. Your perceptions will feel confusing and you will feel misled and misguided.

13. Gaslighter may attack your near and dear ones

The abusive partner tries to attack the support system of the victim. They may stop the victim from seeing their parents, meeting friends, or seeking help from colleagues.

Sometimes the gaslighter can use your kids against you. They may brainwash them saying that you are not good enough to take care of them, though you know it’s not the truth.

The motive is to break free your support system so that you feel isolated and lonely. They want to see you in pain and despair, with no one to come for help and support.

14. You will be let down gradually

Gaslighting is a gradual and slow process. Much of the damage is being done before you notice it in front of you. It starts with lying, abusing, name-calling, blaming, and manipulation.

When you are already in the pitfall, you’ll be ruined forever. A lot of cheating will occur just to prove that your perception of reality is distorted. You are thinking differently and you are not in your senses.

15. Mismatch of words and actions

If you are living with someone who is gaslighting, you will find that what they say and do is totally different. It means that their words never match their actions.

These people are master liars and can make endless stories to cover up the cheating that they are doing. They are full of bluffs and lies, with no truth seen around.

16. They may confuse you with sweet talks and praise

Your gaslighting partner may confuse you by praising you. This is intentional, just to keep you on the edge and control you fully. It will further your self-doubt. 

You may question yourself whether your partner is really bad or it’s you who is misunderstanding him/her. The more confused you are, it will be good for them. 

17. They insult you openly in front of others

The gaslighting partner abuses the victim in varied ways. They may insult you in front of others. Name-calling and blame games are commonly used to control the behavior of the victim.

The gaslighter accuses you that what you see or think is not real. This makes you question your sense of reality.

18. A feeling of defeat sets in

If you are in an abusive relationship, you must have noticed that you are feeling defeated and broken from within. As if someone has taken away your mental energy.

You are confused and there is nothing you can do to make your relationship work. This feeling gives rise to a feeling of dependency on the abusive partner.

You will trust what they say just to avoid annoyances and fights. 

In this way, gaslighting takes the shape of emotional abuse where the abusive partner could override the thoughts and feelings of the victim.

19. Self-trust is completely missing

People who suffer from gaslighting lose the ability to trust themselves. They may suffer a great setback in life where decisions will not be taken accurately. 

The toxic manipulation has eroded their sense of reality and they have lost their ability to believe themselves.

20. You may feel something is not in place

When the gaslighting happens, you may feel that something is just out of place. You do not know what it is but your gut feeling is pointing towards a bigger problem.

There are certain things that are ‘off’ and not right in some ways.

How to gaslight someone? (Gaslighting techniques)

After learning about the various signs of gaslighting it is important for you to know how gaslighting happens and what it actually is.

Gaslighting is a toxic manipulation. This form of abuse can lead to prolonged mental health problems. It causes emotional abuse that can leave deep-seated scars in the psyche of the person.

It badly affects a person’s perception of reality. When you are gaslighted, you will be in a state of confusion and disorientation. 

You will not trust your gut feelings rather would abide by the sayings of your abusive partner.

In order to understand gaslighting psychology, you will have to know how it happens. It involves the following techniques:

1. Lying 

Gaslighters are compulsive liars. They can twist the tale in such a way that it appears real. The purpose is to prove that the victim has lost their mind or is thinking in some weird way.

They lie on their face without any fear or inhibition. It has been found that most people who gaslight others are narcissists or sociopaths.

They are unlawful, pathological cheats and can harm people in varied ways.

In gaslighting, lying is intentional and habitual. They never back out from their stories even if you show them proof of lying. 

The gaslighter sticks to what they are saying and will force you to abide by their thoughts and opinions.

They may accuse the victim by saying things like, “You are out of your senses”, “Are you sure of what you are talking about”, “nothing like that happened, you’re not telling the truth”.

The gaslighter puts all the blame on the victim, just to prove that whatever the victim is saying or showing is not true at all.

2. Giving discredit to the victim

People who gaslight others tend to spread bad names and rumors against the victim. They try to put an image of the victim that is not good enough. 

The victim is depicted as an insane person who is perplexed about their conception of reality.

Several gossips about your insanity may make rounds in public until someday you come to know of it.

Gaslighting is successful when the manipulative partner can convince the victim that other people also think in similar ways about the victim. 

The victim feels down and broken. In no way they can prove their sanity. The slow poison of gaslighting has overtaken their life fully.

3. Distracting you from the real situation

People who are being gaslighted often feel that they are intentionally distracted from the real facts and truth. 

They know that their partner is lying but cannot do anything to help them overcome the tricks.

If you ask them questions or try to challenge their thoughts, they may twist and turn the story in their own ways, just to avoid the blame game. 

4. Minimizing your reactions and responses

A gaslighting partner intends to control and overpower you. They might make statements like “you are overreacting”, “Nothing serious is there, you are always wrong in the right way”, etc.

Your abusive partner will try to rationalize their statements by indicating that it is always your fault.

You are always the problem and whatever you are seeing and thinking is not real. It’s just a figment of imagination.

When you are living with a partner who never understands you and plays a blame game, you may end up questioning your self-worth. You will always feel inadequate and insecure from within. Feelings of shame and guilt will surface and you’ll develop a tremendous mistrust of yourself.

5. Shifting blame on the victim

The abusive partner attacks the victim intentionally. They are blamed for whatever is going on around them. Blame shifting gives the abuser a sense of control, power, and win over the victim.

If you are living in a gaslighting relationship, your partner will try to escape free, blaming everything upon you. They will play mind tricks to make you believe that you are going crazy.

They will twist the facts and start the conversation by cornering you. You will never be heard or understood. 

They might allege you with false things that never happened. The lies will be told convincingly, making you judge your perception and memory of the event.

6. Denial of wrongdoing by the abuser

It is not only blame-shifting that takes place in gaslighting. There is a denial of any wrongdoing by the abuser themselves. They display a clean character and never take the onus of anything.

People with gaslighting tendencies are pathological liars. They make everyone believe that they can never go wrong. 

The victim feels helpless because no one trusts them now. Slowly, they lose self-trust as well and walk along the path of the abuser.

7. Use of love weapons to victimize the victim

Someone who gaslights others is the master of manipulation. Sometimes they may use kind words and use love weapons to confuse the victim. The victim starts questioning whether the person is indeed bad.

They might say things like, “You know I love you so much. Whatever I am doing is for your good only.”

They use compassion to lighten up the situation. In this way, they also force the victim to rethink their perceptions.

The words spoken by the abusing partner are meant to damage the self-trust of the victim.

They will feel perplexed about what’s going on. The gaslighter will be free of any responsibility for the bad behavior.

8. Trying to dig the old stuff again and again

Gaslighting occurs when the abusive partner hits the victim with some old incidents.

They may start digging into the past and highlight the mistakes of the victim and how they affected the relationship.

The stories of the past will be newly written, with twists and turns, with almost no truth in them. The motive is to confuse the victim so that they start second-guessing their memory.

The victim gets cornered. There are conflicting thoughts and feelings that keep crossing their mind constantly. 

They are slowly pushed to the edge from where they can only rely on what the abuser is saying or doing. 

Types of gaslighting

Gaslighting can happen in romantic relationships, with parents, friends, or with bosses and colleagues in the workplace.  It works well because you want to trust the person gaslighting you.

You allow them to behave in such a way and never try to consciously stop what they are doing.

The repeated attempts of the abusive partner to make you emotionally unhealthy are the cornerstone of gaslighting.

The motive is to induce uncertainty, fear, and self-doubt in the minds of the victim. There are various types of gaslighting. A few of them are given below:

1. Gaslighting by parents

This type of gaslighting is not as uncommon as it might appear. This typically happens in abusive homes where parents are too dominating. 

They hardly give any space to their children to share their views and opinions with others.

Gaslighting can happen at home where the abusive parent plays tricks with the child. For example, the child may narrate a story of a family outing with all the details to a close friend. 

The abusive parent may interfere by saying that the facts that the child is saying are not true. Nothing like that happened at the picnic and it was all mediocre. 

This makes the child question their perception of memory. They may self-doubt and second guess whether they have missed out on anything.

2. Gaslighting in relationships

This is the most common type of gaslighting. In romantic relationships, the abusive partner uses various techniques to prove that their partner is crazy, out of sense, and is not in a healthy state of mind.

They may use intentional manipulation to find faults in their partners. Insulting and demeaning the victim is the primary motive behind the action. 

Sometimes, the abusive partner uses deception and lying to highlight things that are not present in reality. Gaslighting is a common part of domestic violence in many places across the globe.

In romantic relationships, if you frequently make excuses for your partner’s behavior, it shows that gaslighting is successfully done.

Example: a very common example is denying the extramarital affair boldly when pointed out by the other partner.

The abusive partner may paint a false picture of their innocence by saying “I’m completely innocent. You are suspicious and create stories of your own. I wasn’t flirting with anyone.”

3. Gaslighting in friendships

The gaslighter friend is manipulative and tries to exploit you emotionally. They are false and dishonest. For them, true friendship is a mere waste of time.

If you have a gaslighter friend, you must have noticed that they try to color your thoughts through their sweet talks. Your abusive may gossip and insult you badly in front of other friends.

Your friend may say bad things about you behind your back and deny the fact completely. They appear pleasant and loving to you. 

Thus, you are confused about whether they are fake and false or it’s you who might be thinking in such a way.

Their good behavior and seemingly polite nature may make you question your beliefs and perception.

Example: gaslighter friends can use statements such as – “You’re too sensitive. Don’t take it seriously. I was just joking”.

4. Gaslighting in the workplace

Gaslighting is much more common in workplaces than what you can actually think of. In workplaces, the gaslighter can be your abusive boss, cunning co-worker, a stereotyped team, a prejudiced work culture, etc. 

If your fellow co-worker manipulates you and makes you question your sense of right and wrong, are sure that you are being gaslighted.

For example, Your boss asked for important mail to be sent in 10minutes. After shooting the email, you’re waiting for a reply. 

As the reply was not there in the inbox, you thought of asking the boss about the same. Then, they may deny it and say “But I have not received your mail.”

They may deny the fact though you know that you had shared the email. Gaslighters say white lies on your face quite convincingly. 

This is done to confuse and baffle you so that you start thinking about some technical issue that must have occurred in between the incident.

Gaslighting examples

A few of the concrete examples may help you to understand gaslighting in a better way. It helps to identify the warning signs so that you can move out of the abusive relationship on time.

Example 1

Mr. X is a committed husband. One day his wife found something in his laptop bag that aroused suspicion in her mind about his honesty and integrity. 

When she asked him about the same, he denied saying that it did not belong to him. Several small things used by women in their daily life were frequently appearing in his belongings. 

Every time he was manipulating his wife saying that she is crazy, and she is falsely alleging him without valid proof. 

He started picking up fights in the house saying that the wife is guilty of her own misdeeds and she is the one who is actually flirting with another guy.

The cunning husband sidetracked himself safely by blaming the wife for infidelity. The wife becomes the scapegoat in the emotional drama and she starts questioning her perception of reality. 

“Is he the same person I have known for so many years?”, “Am I talking rubbish?”, “Should I say sorry to him?”, “I might be wrong; probably he is honest and can never do such a thing with me?”

Example 2

An abusive parent displays an image outside that they are caring, protective, and supportive towards their children. At home, they criticize and maltreat their children. 

All sorts of yelling, screaming, hitting the child are quite prevalent. Later on, she denies everything and warns the child saying that if they go and tell these to someone else, nobody would trust them.

The child feels insulted and starts questioning whether what happened is right or not.

Example 3

A boy is very jealous of his brother because he is more successful and financially stable than him. Out of jealousy, the boy started spreading rumors about his brother’s character. 

He went out telling others that his brother is an addict, has a bad name with girls, etc. When the victim’s brother came to know of these false allegations, the abusive brother denied them on his face. 

Through various deceptions, he tried to destroy his brother’s much-earned reputation and public image. 

When asked about his misdeeds, the abusive brother said that he was just joking.

He might say something like this, “I didn’t mean anything like this. You’re getting too serious. Why can’t you take things easily?”

Effects of gaslighting on the victim

Gaslighting happens in unhealthy relationships devoid of mutual love and trust. It occurs when one of the partners tries to manipulate and control the behavior of the weaker partner.

Though it can occur in any relationship, it is more obvious in romantic relationships or amongst family members. 

If you are living in a toxic relationship where gaslighting is occurring quite often, be sure that a lot of damage already occurred before you could realize it.

Some of the long-term effects of gaslighting on the victim are as follows:

  • Your self-doubt increases. There will be times when you will question your gut feeling. Maybe it will be hard for you to rely upon the inner sayings of yourself.
  • A passive style of communication occurs where you will only listen and follow. Your abusive partner will successfully direct and guide your life’s path. You will not have any say in the wrong things happening around you.
  • The victims of gaslighting suffer from poor self-worth. You will never feel good about yourself. Feelings of inadequacy and poor self-validation are seen.
  • You may suffer from shame and guilt.
  • Your self-identity can plummet. You will rapidly fall deep down in your own eyes. There will be trouble knowing who you are. Maybe you will always stay in a confused state of mind.
  • Self-blaming tendencies are quite obvious.
  • Gaslighting has broken your personal boundaries. You have lost your ability to say ‘no’ to things that you do not like. Thus, others are taking advantage of your submissive nature.
  • You will suffer higher levels of psychological distress, anxiety, and gloomy feelings.
  • By now, you have suppressed negative emotions that need to be let out. Otherwise, the unhealed wounds will make you suffer more in the near future.
  • Frustration, annoyance, and anger take over the relationship with your partner.
  • Feeling tense and irritable all the time.
  • Loss of concentration in daily activities.
  • Fear and insecurity may cloud thoughts completely making everything hazy and unclear
  • Loss of control over life events may put you in isolation and depression.
  • Last but not the least, you may feel like having a mental health problem if the signs of gaslighting go on for a long time.

Why do people gaslight?

People gaslight because they want power and control over those who they think are trying to override them in power and influence. It means that gaslighting is a form of passive domination.

Gaining power and control over weak people is the primary reason behind gaslighting. The motive is to weaken the victim so that they cannot resist the malicious action of the abuser.

In most cases, gaslighting occurs because of a power imbalance. One partner in the relationship is weak and submissive and cannot voice their opinion.

This gives a clean chit to the abusive partner to humiliate the weak one.

People who use gaslighting to manipulate their partners have covert intentions. They wish to break the self-confidence of their partners so that they never dare to question or counter-argue in any way.

Gaslighting is not an isolated manipulation and can never happen overnight.

It is found in abusive relationships where the weak partner is constantly seeking affection and attention from the abusive partner.

This gives the abusive partner an opportunity to dominate and control the victim partner. Thus gaslighting can be planned and intentional or it can be because of early childhood experiences.

If children are brought up in homes where they had experienced gaslighting, they may also show this similar toxic manipulation in their adult life.

Sometimes persistent gaslighting can happen because of narcissism and antisocial personality disorder.

The gaslighter deliberately tries to control the behavior of the victim. They like doing it and derive pleasure out of it.

Prevalence of gaslighting

Gaslighting is common yet many people do not realize it. This is because the manipulation starts subtly and slowly poisons the minds of the victim.

  • Research report suggest that gaslighting can happen to anyone but women suffer more than men. About 95% of victims are females.
  • Study findings have shown that gaslighting can lower self-esteem. It increases the chances of developing psychiatric illnesses such as anxiety, depression, borderline personality disorder, etc.
  • Gaslighting is a form of psychological oppression.
  • 46% women and 32% women suffered from emotional abuse because of gaslighting at some point in their lifetime.
  • Gaslighting is quite prevalent in media reports. Yet 75% Americans do not know what it is all about. Some of them have not heard the term at all.

What is self gaslighting?

Self-gaslighting is a type of emotional wear and tear. It occurs when the victim internalizes the bad behavior and abuse of the gaslighter fully. They doubt themselves to a point of absolute distrust. They dismiss their feelings and convince themselves that they are oversensitive.

Being gaslighted for a number of months or years can leave the victim completely broken from within. A time comes when the victim gets into a spiral of self-gaslighting.  

Self-gaslighting is an actual gaslight effect that occurs after prolonged exposure to psychological abuse.

It simply means taking things personally and not reacting to them. The victim feels emotionally numb, has already internalized the abuse within oneself.

They may start to question the reality of their feelings. “Are my pains real?”, “Am I really feeling anything?”, “Maybe he is right, I have become too sensitive?”; “He actually did not mean what he said. I’m thinking wrong. I should apologize to end the tussle?”

The above statements show that the victim has already picked up the abuse well. They started to see things from the abuser’s eyes. 

The toxic forces of manipulation have been internalized and the self-doubting turned into self-blaming in no time. This is self-gaslighting where the victim picks where the abuser ends.

Self-gaslighting goes deeper into a person’s psyche and fits the external false narratives of the abuser.

The victim starts to question their feelings. Second-guessing everything going on around them can kill their self-confidence completely.

Self-gaslighting can hit you hard because you may think that you do not deserve anything better than this.

You have become a part of the abuse and have internalized the psychological trauma.

Signs of self-gaslighting

There are a few signs that hint at self-gaslighting.

  • A lot of self-blaming takes place
  • You are minimizing your feelings
  • Sometimes you are not even accepting your true feelings
  • Second-guessing your thoughts and feelings
  • Emotional numbness
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Feeling insecure all the time
  • You have accepted that you do not deserve anything better than this
  • You are constantly criticizing yourself
  • Self-sabotaging mindset is in place
  • Questioning things that you see, feel, and experience
  • You are making excuses for someone else’s behavior
  • You do not trust your judgments and decision-making ability
  • There is invalidation of feelings
  • You might convince yourself that what the abuser is saying or doing with you is absolutely correct

How to deal with or stop gaslighting in a relationship?

By now it is quite clear that gaslighting is intentional and has many damaging effects. Abusive relationships are to be left behind as soon as possible. The burden of carrying such a relationship is high.

If your partner keeps the flame of the gaslight lit all the time, you can also do certain things to put it off.

There are some effective coping styles that may help you. Start using them now and take control of your life. 

1. Setting clear boundaries

Boundaries are personal lines of control that you can use to safeguard yourself. It acts as a rule book that focuses on dos and don’ts.

Setting boundaries gives a clear idea to your abusive partner about what is allowed and what is not in the relationship.

The boundaries include your ability to say ‘no’ to various things that you do not like, to confront the abuse that you may come across. 

By setting a clear boundary you can be independent in your thoughts, feelings, and actions. Your partner will know where to draw the line in the relationship.

It gives you a sense of personal freedom to decide independently.

A healthy boundary can make you feel safe and protected. It ensures the respect and self-esteem that you deserve in a relationship.

You will be able to preserve your sense of personal identity in the relationship and nip the abuse in the bud.

2. Dare to disagree

Gaslighting works well if you agree to everything being told or done to you. Thus, you became a scapegoat.

To stop the abuse it is important to voice your opinion and dare to disagree with your partner when you need to do so.

Healthy relationships are all about mutual trust and respect. It is a fair deal to disagree and have a different perspective. 

If you sense that you are being pressured to believe things that are not true, affirm your own feelings and stick to what you think is right. Consensus is good but not always.

3. Seek help from your support system

It is always a good idea to seek help from your near and dear ones. Your family, intimate friends, supportive colleagues can always help you in times of need.

If you are seeing red flags in the relationship, talk to people around you. Their suggestions can help you overcome the abuse. 

If you suffer gaslighting quite often, seek help from loved ones who know you and trust you fully. In this way, you will be able to validate what you believe to be right.

4. You need to be firm and assertive in what you say and do with your partner

Assertiveness is honest and open communication. A healthy relationship is one that is mutual and understanding. 

Thus, if you feel that you’re being gaslighted every now and then, affirm yourself and stick to what you think is right. 

Be assertive and firm in your voice and confidence so that the abusive partner needs to think many times before gaslighting you.

Assertiveness is important for your privacy and personal space. It gives you room to think, feel, and act independently.

5. Individuality is the key in any relationship

Always have time for yourself in the relationship. Just don’t act according to the whims and wishes of your partner. Stop pleasing people who are abusive and do not deserve your love and respect.

It is important for you to learn to be happy in your own sweet ways. Never ask for approval that is not needed and just trust your inner calling.

This will lower your second-guessing tendencies even if the partner tries to gaslight you.

You should maintain your individuality. Keep doing things that you love and feel stronger from within. If you have faith in yourself, you will be a hard rock to be lit to fire.

Maintaining individuality means sticking to things that you trust. It ensures better judgments and decision-making.

6. Listen to your gut feelings

Your intuitions can never go wrong because they are an inner calling. If you sense that there are missing parts in the relationship and the counting is not matching with what you believe in, trust your gut.

Try to break free from the abuse as soon as you notice the red flags. Do not ignore the subtle signs and act quickly.

7. Don’t feel ashamed

Gaslighters are master liars and compulsive manipulators. Thus, anyone can fall into their pit.

Never feel ashamed if you are the one. Stop self-blame and do whatever is needed to break the knot of manipulation.

8. Try to minimize your instant reactions

It is always good to check in with your feelings. Stop feeling upset and anxious in front of your abusive partner.

Try not to react and show off outwardly that you are scared or afraid of them in some way. 

Just like any other form of bullying, gaslighting can be reinforced if the abuser gets to know that you’re unsure, uncertain, or fearful in some way. 

9. Get some space for yourself to reduce stress

It is natural to feel emotionally overwhelmed in trying times. Gaslighting works like a slow poison.

You should try to move away from the abusive space for some time and do something that can self-soothe your anxiety and gloom.

Focus on your hobbies or join a support group of similar sufferers. It helps you develop better clarity into your condition. You can even do relaxation exercises to calm down.

Several grounding techniques such as the following ones can help:

  • Slowly counting 1 to 10
  • Using the 54321 technique to calm down and focus on the present
  • Regular deep breathing
  • Focusing on positive things in life
  • Thinking about people who loves you and supports you fully
  • Chanting a mantra to calm down

When the mind is calm, you will be able to focus on the things that matter the most in your life. 

10. Visit a therapist

Sometimes gaslighting can become a serious issue. You might need to seek professional help and medical advice to reduce anxiety symptoms. 

Talking to the therapist will help to learn new coping skills. Maybe you will regain your lost self-confidence.

The therapist may suggest a family counseling session where you and your partner will join together to resolve the hidden issues in the relationship.

They may also plan mind training sessions for you that can help you boost your mental energy to fight back and trust yourself all over again.

Gaslighting books

There are a number of well-written books on gaslighting. These books are insightful and explain in detail covert manipulation. 

If you wish to know more about gaslighting, you can read a few of them or at least one to remain better informed about this abusive technique.

The video link shared below shows how gaslighting happens in a relationship and the signs that you should look out for. Do check out.

Gaslighting Statistics

Gaslighting Statistics
Gaslighting Statistics (Sources – Cosmopolitan, YouGovAmerica)

Summing Up from ‘ThePleasantMind’

If you’re experiencing gaslighting, don’t lose hope because there is always light at the end of the tunnel. After you know the warning signs, make sure that you do something to come out of the abusive relationship.

The relationship will not take you anywhere. So just put it aside and move on with your life. Seeking timely help can help you gain control over your life. 

People who experience gaslighting suffer from trauma and may require emotional healing.

The cuts and wounds are deep and may not be always seen from the outside.  But it’s real and only the victim knows what they are going through.

Living with someone who is attacking and bullying you constantly undermines your self-esteem. Thus break free as early as possible. Remember you deserve all the good things that life can offer. 

Savor and soak in positive living to experience all that is good and beautiful.

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