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Manipulative Gaslighting Abuse: More Than Just Narcissistic Lying

Narcissism: Echo Apologetics (formerly Narcissistic Personality Disorder Mother Facebook Resource Page) (hijacked) Gail Meyers and KC3Lady.

Manipulative Gaslighting Abuse by Gail Meyers

Manipulative Gaslighting Abuse: More Than Just Narcissistic Lying by Gail Meyers

Manipulative Gaslighting Abuse: More Than Just Narcissistic Lying by Gail Meyers


Gaslighting invalidation and rewriting history is much more than just lying. The term originated from the movie, Gaslight, which is discussed followed by definitions of gaslighting by the experts. It is the author's beliefs that everyone should understand gaslighting, so providing a firm foundation of gaslighting is the goal as the discussion continues into gaslighting invalidation, how gaslighters love to rewrite history, physical gaslighting, and some examples of gaslighting. Next, the three phases of gaslighting are briefly discussed, as well as some ideas for moving from the invalidation of being gaslighted toward validation.

Armed with a basic understanding of what gaslighting is, the next step is to include some of the ways gaslighting techniques are used. The goal is awareness in order to be equipped to begin recognizing gaslighting if it is happening to you or a loved one. While virtually anyone can employ gaslighting techniques against another person, there are specific situations in which gaslighting is often used. The average person is not intentionally trying to drive their spouse into the psychiatric hospital with gaslighting techniques, for example. However, gaslighting may be found in some abusive relationships, workplace or school mobbings, multiple perpetrator stalkings, the reporting of cause stalking to police, and has even been observed between patients and staff in inpatient psychiatric facilities.

Gaslight Promotional Trailer

*Don Juan Perpetrator is a term coined by Kelly "KC3Lady" Christensen, meaning pursuing a relationship with someone, much like the one in the movie, with ulterior motives in mind, such as fraudulent or criminal monetary gain.

Gaslighting Movie Review

Gaslight, the Movie

The term gaslighting derives from the 1938 stage play Angel Street, and the 1940 and 1944 film adaptations Gaslight. This is an absolute must see movie because it so clearly demonstrates both the techniques and the effects of gaslighting, as well a hint at the unsavory characters and their motives for gaslighting.

Ingrid Bergman won an Oscar for her performance in this psychological thriller playing the wife and gaslight victim of her greedy, manipulative husband. In true narcissistic style, the gaslighting husband has a hidden agenda as he begins the whirlwind romance of his Don Juan perpetration* toward Ingrid Bergman’s character, Paula. The whirlwind romance began with love bombing, a tactic often used by both individuals and cults with hidden agendas.

He sweeps her off her feet during the idealization phase, proposing very early in the relationship. Once married, and with all of the legal rights that go along with marriage, the relationship quickly moves into the devaluation phase as he isolates her and begins to intentionally and systematically drive her insane with gaslighting techniques.

He undermines her perceptions by insisting she is hearing things when what she is actually hearing is him sneaking around in the attic. He intentionally moves things so she cannot find them, which has been coined "physical gaslighting." Then when she comments on it, he responds to her in a way designed to cause her to continue to doubt her perceptions. While he is doing all of this, he simultaneously tells her she is forgetful, before escalating into telling her she is mentally ill.

He is now speaking condescendingly and at times angrily to her as the relationship approaches the discard phase with him threatening to have her committed. He gets the housemaids to join in on the gaslighting, which coupled with the imposed isolation results in her being unable to receive validation from anyone for her perceptions - which are 100% accurate by the way.

When she insists on accepting an invitation to a party in an attempt to break out of the isolation, he intentionally ruins the event while causing her to look unstable to the others at the party. She is nearly convinced she is losing her mind and is giving up. However, you will have to watch the movie for yourself to see how it ends! I hate it when someone spoils the ending of a movie.

Gaslighting Definition by Dr. Robin Stern

Gaslighting Quote by Dr. Robin Stern

Gaslighting Quote by Dr. Robin Stern

Gaslighting: Defined by the Experts

"The systematic attempt by one person to erode another person's reality by telling them that what they are experiencing isn't so - and, the gradual giving up on the part of the other person." - Dr. Robin Stern

Gaslighting Definition by Martha Stout, Ph.D

Gaslighting definition by Dr. Robin Stern, created by Gail Meyers on Narcissistic Personality Disorder Mother Facebook Resource Page years ago to raise awareness.

Gaslighting definition by Dr. Robin Stern, created by Gail Meyers on Narcissistic Personality Disorder Mother Facebook Resource Page years ago to raise awareness.

Gaslighting Definition by Martha Stout, Ph.D

Martha Stout, Ph.D, author of The Sociopath Next Door, states: "Gaslighting is a common practice of abusers who attempt to convince their victims they are defective for any reason such as making the victim more emotional, more needy or dependent. For example, if an abusive person say hurtful things and tries to convince you that you are mentally unstable and starts recommending that you get professional help, you might be in the presence of a gaslighter."

The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout, Ph.D

Gaslighting Definition by Preston Ni, MSBA of Psychology Today

Gaslighting Definition by Preston Ni, MSBA of Psychology Today

Gaslighting is a form of persistent manipulation and brainwashing that causes the victim to doubt her or himself, and to ultimately lose their own sense of perception, identity, and self-worth. Gaslighting statements and accusations are usually based on blatant lies or exaggeration of the truth. - Preston Ni, M.S.B.A., 8 Signs of Being in a Relationship with a Gaslighter: How gaslighters emotionally manipulate, traumatize, and exploit victims on Psychology Today

Gaslighters Love to Rewrite History

One example of gaslighting I can draw on from my experience with my narcissistic mother is being called names or being accused of being crazy each and every time I confronted my mother with the truth. For example, when I confronted my mother about her slandering me she flew into a rage, screaming profanity and accusing me of being crazy. If my mother said someone was crazy, you could just about bet that person saw through her or at the least caught her in one of her maneuvers. She then flipped the tale by telling everyone I screamed profanity at her, and did so without provocation. Then later was gaslighting me to my face by insisting I owed her an apology for screaming profanity at her when she was actually the one who screamed profanity at me.

Rewriting history can be denying abuse from the distant past or from five minutes ago. The typical example of rewriting history is the husband who is having an affair and the wife confronts him. Rather than admit the truth, he invalidated her perceptions, which are accurate, and tells her she's "crazy," "imagining things," or some other invalidating response.

Rewriting history can also include leaving out the good things the scapegoat did and the abusive things narcissistic mother did. The typical example of this is the abusive husband who denies the physical abuse the next morning, acting as if it never happened. It can also be adding false but flattering details about something narcissist mother did or adding negative, inaccurate things she alleges the scapegoat did. My narcissistic mother could literally rewrite any scenario, always making herself the innocent victim or the hero of the tall tale, even when she was actually the aggressor.

Physical Gaslighting

While I have not seen the distinction made elsewhere, I refer to this as physical gaslighting. Physical gaslighting can accompany the verbal gaslighting as it does in the movie. In the movie the psychopathic husband moves the wife's brooch, then suggests she's forgetful when she is unable to find it where she left it. While this is lying, it is aim at undermining her perceptions, invalidating her.

Physical gaslighting is what the Manson Family did while breaking into homes during the "creepy crawler" burglaries of the late 1960's. They did not steal anything, just rearranged a few items enough to cause psychological distress. It was a cruel mind game involving the intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Think about that for a minute. You realize someone has broke into your home. You cannot comfort yourself with the thought that perhaps it was just a petty thief who has violated your home, because nothing is missing. Some of your personal belongings have just been moved. Do you doubt your own recollection of how you left things? Do you conclude it is something more sinister than a burglar in your home wanting fast cash? Something directed personally at you. If this occurs, the assumption should be that you are dealing with a dangerous person or group of people.

Examples of Gaslighting

  • "I never said that!" when the person clearly did say it.
  • "You're so sensitive!" when you are responding as any normal human being would respond.
  • Gaslighting is what a cheating husband does when he has had an affair, denies it and tells his wife she is crazy when she questions him. The wife knows something is wrong even though her husband is invalidating her perceptions by denying it.
  • Staging bizarre events with the intention of disorienting a person. This can be something as slight as moving a person's car keys, then allowing the person to think he or she misplaced them or remarking how forgetful they are.

the Gaslight Effect by Dr. Robin Stern

Three Phases of Gaslighting

  1. Disbelief - The initial response to gaslighting is often one of utter disbelief. This is often noted as the what-are-you-talking-about phase. There may be confusion, annoyances, and moments when you cannot quite believe what the gaslighter said to you. This is also where criticism may be used as a weapon to wound even if it has more than a grain of truth to it.
  2. Defense - At this stage the gaslighting is producing self-doubt and instability. This is where guilt tripping, belittling, and the silent treatment may come into play. It can cause you to feel lost, confused, and unable to trust your own instincts and memory. During this time the narcissist may try to keep you isolated or your may isolate yourself.
  3. Depression - By this stage you are a shadow of your former self after enduring the battle zone of the narcissist. This is often considered the it's-all-my-fault stage. This is the heart-rending, soul-destroying phase of gaslighting. At this phone the gaslighter has often been idealized and you want approval that never comes. - Adapted from Dr. Robin Stern's book, Gaslighting.
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Anyone is Susceptible to Gaslighting


Anyone is Susceptible to Gaslighting

Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common techique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done slowly, so the victim doesn't realize how much they've been brainwashed. - Stepehanie Sarkis, Ph.D, 11 Signs of Gaslighting in a Relationship on Psychology Today.

Gaslighters: Aggressive Narcissistic Personalities

Personality Types of Gaslighters

As you might expect, there's one expert who offers the fairly conventional notion that gaslighters are "generally people who were narcissistically wounded early in life--through emotional abuse, psychological abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, inconsistent parenting and the like" where as I assert that most gaslighters are not necessarily wounded souls but simply aggressive narcissistic personalities - disturbed and disordered character "who are out to dominate, manipulate, and control; and will use any means necessary, including gaslighting (trying to make you feel crazy when they think you're onto them and their schemes and lies) to further their ends." It's a particularly popular tactic among serial cheaters. And I make the point I do because so often victims end up unnecessarily prolonging their abuse because they buy into the notion that their abuser must be coming from a wounded place and that only patient love and tolerance (and lost of misguided therapy) will help them heal. - Dr. George Simon, Some Different Views on Gaslighting and Gaslighters

Gaslighting: How to Drive Your Enemies Crazy by Victor Santoro

Gaslighting Quote by Victor Santoro

Gaslighting Quote by Victor Santoro

Ways Gaslighting Techniques Are Used

  • Victor Santoro, in Gaslighting: How to Drive your Enemies Crazy, states: "A systematic array of techniques that destroy your target's mental equilibrium, self-confidence, and self-esteem, and is designed to drive your target nuts. Gaslighting is NOT conventional harassment or physical destruction, but highly refined and subtle psychological warfare."
  • Jacobson and Gottman report that some physically abusive spouses may gaslight their partners, even flatly denying that they have been violent.
  • Psychologists Gertrude Gass and William C. Nichols use the term "gaslighting" to describe a dynamic observed in some cases of marital infidelity. "Therapists may contribute to the victim's distress through mislabeling the woman's reactions. The gaslighting behaviors of the husband provide a recipe for the so-called 'nervous breakdown' for some women [and] suicide in some of the worst situations.
  • Shrink for Men notes bullies use gaslighting in workplace mobbings.
  • Psychologist Martha Stout, author of The Sociopath Next Door, states "sociopaths frequently use gaslighting tactics. Sociopaths consistently transgress social mores, break laws, and exploit others, but are also typically charming and convincing liars who consistently deny wrongdoing."
  • Sandra L. Brown, M.A., and Lian J. Leedom, M.D., authors of Women Who Love Psychopaths: Inside the Relationships of Inevitable Harm, discuss gaslighting and note, "the psychopath will do all sorts of devious things to try to make the victim think they are mentally deficient or having a nervous breakdown, and that the psychopath enjoys the process of inflicting psychological damage."
  • Gaslighting is used in alleged gangstalking campaigns.
  • Furthermore, gaslighting has been observed between patients and staff in inpatient psychiatric facilities.

The Effects of Gaslighting in Narcissistic Victim Syndrome

Christine de Louis Canonville Gaslighting Quote

Christine de Louis Canonville Gaslighting Quote

Gaslighting is much more than just lying, it is invalidating another human being, as well as rewriting history. To learn more be sure to watch the movie, and purchase or The Gaslight Effect by Dr. Robin Stern, or check your local library. Dr. Stern gives examples, as well as the phases of gaslighting. According to the licensed professionals, anyone is suseptible. Some licensed professionals may disagree about the type of personalities who gaslight, wounded souls or disturbed and disordered characters. Form an educated opinion, but learn about gaslighting.

Gaslight, the Movie

© 2017 Gail Meyers

Share Your Thoughts

Gail Meyers (author) from Johnson County, Kansas on December 05, 2017:

Hello dashingscorpio, I think there are quite a few people who know exactly what they're doing when they gaslight someone. Of course, I doubt they take responsibility for their actions either but project it on to others - blaming the victim is a favorite since narcissists so love to play the victim themselves. I think there is a huge difference between arrogance and true confidence, one is a thin veil for the other. I don't think that one fools most of the people most of the time. It is kind of like the difference between a natural born alpha leader and a bully who tries to masquerade as an alpha but is still just a bully. I agree that not everyone can handle praise and success.

dashingscorpio from Chicago on December 03, 2017:

Very interesting!

Something tells me the people who do the gaslighting or display narcissistic behavior are not doing so as a "strategy" or even have a name for it. They're simply being who (they) are and doing whatever it takes to get (their) way.

It's their victims who latch onto terms and names to define the behavior. Some folks are (naturally) manipulative!

They never took a "course" on how to drive someone crazy.

Some people love to be "the boss" and enjoy controlling others . No one has ever been narcissistic without having been worshiped, praised, or admired {by others} at some point in their life. In some ways anyone who has bent over backwards for them helped to make them who they are.

Keep telling someone how "great" they are early on and eventually they start to believe they're better than everyone else and act accordingly. Family, friends, strangers, act like "fans" and feed the beast. It takes maturity to maintain some humility when so many people kisses one's ass.

Not everyone can handle praise, success, power and influence without becoming "self-centered" or a "diva".

Some people actually attach their value with being associated to the narcissist. If he/she is "special" and they're dating "me" or socializes with (me) then I too must be "special". It's being "great" by association.

However once it's been made clear there is no room on the stage for them to bask in the limelight with narcissist they feel hurt and angrily point the finger claiming to be a victim. If you play with fire you're bound to get burned.

The reality is people are drawn to narcissistic behavior!

Initially they see such people as being confident, assure of themselves, powerful, and know where they're going in life. Note: The "Alpha Male" never has a problem finding a girl.

It's always the people who are looking to be "accepted" by the "in crowd" that wind up getting hurt in the end.

Once we stop caring what other people think of us and focus on {running our own race} in life we maintain our "boundaries" and "deal breakers".

This allows you to cut people loose the minute you see they are not genuinely what you want/need in your life.

Each of us (chooses) our own friends, lovers, and spouse.

Choose wisely!

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