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The Dangers of Gaslighting

Kathleen is a 34 year old survivor of domestic abuse and knows first-hand how damaging gaslighting can be to one's mental health.


The Basic Principles of Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse where the abuser uses manipulation and psychological control to take hold of his or her victim. By feeding false information to the victim, the gaslighter makes it hard for the victim to recognize reality from mere delusion. They begin to question what is the truth, what is real, and eventually begin to question their own sanity.

While gaslighting is most often seen in romantic relationships, it can be found in any personal or professional relationship. With gaslighting, the abuser targets the victim's sense of identity and self worth in an effort to gain control over them emotionally, physically, and/or financially.


Warning Signs of Gaslighting

1. They tell you both subtle and blatant lies.

2. They deny they ever said something, even though you have proof.

3. They use what is near and dear to you as ammunition, attacking the foundation of your being.

4. They wear you down slowly over time.

5. Their actions do not match their words.

6. They throw in positive reinforcement to confuse you.

7. They use confusion to weaken their victims.

8. They project.

9. They try to align people against you.

10. They tell you or others that you are crazy.

11. They tell you everyone else is a liar, making you question reality even further.

Techniques Used By Gaslighters

  • Countering: With countering, a person begins to question their own memories. Using statements like "you never had a good memory" or "are you sure you're remembering that accurately?" cause the victim to question their own truth.
  • Withholding: When a gaslighter uses this technique, they do so to avoid engaging in a conversation. By pretending that they do not know what their victim is talking about, or by acting confused by statements made by their victim they weaken the victim's sense of reality.
  • Trivializing: By discrediting the opinions, thoughts, and feelings of their victim, the abuser is able to gain more control over the victim psychologically.
  • Denial: A gaslighter will never own up to their own actions. Instead, they will deny the things they said, the things they did, and the way the made their victim feel, weakening their victim's self-worth.
  • Diverting: This technique is used to divert focus from a discussion as a way to avoid the chance of their victim recognizing what is true and what is fiction.
  • Stereotyping: Emotional abusers often use stereotypes such as race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, or age to further manipulate their victims. "Oh, you know how crazy females can be" is one example.

Gaslighting Psychology

Different gaslighting techniques are used in conjunction in an effort to try and make the victim question their own thoughts, their own memories, and their own actions. As their own identity becomes weakened, they avoid bringing up any topic at all out of fear that their recollections of the event are wrong.

Some gaslighters will even manipulate real-life situations that allow them to utilize gaslighting techniques. For example, they may take their victim's car keys and place them somewhere else so that when their victim panics, unable to locate the keys, the abuser can come to the rescue and help them find them.

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Walking Away From a Gaslighter

The goal of someone who thrives of gaslighting their victims is to keep their victims hooked. This can make it difficult to remove yourself from the destructive relationship. A tactic commonly used by gaslighters is making themselves appear like the victim, causing the true victim to feel conflicted about abandoning their abuser.

If you suspect that you are the victim of emotional abuse due to a relationship with a gaslighter, it is important to seek professional help. A therapist experienced in dealing with this type of relationship can help you recognize the truth despite the abuser's attempts at manipulation. Once you recognize that you are in an unhealthy relationship, it becomes easier to separate yourself from that person and move on with your life.


dashingscorpio from Chicago on September 09, 2021:

Interesting article.

I actually think there are very few "Gaslighters" who are "Mastermind Geniuses" with a "system" or formula they utilize.

Some people are (natural bullies) controlling, manipulative, and narcissistic. They will say or do whatever it takes to get their way.

The power of gaslighting is only as strong as the level of insecurities of the person being targeted.

Generally speaking the person who is the least (emotionally invested) in a relationship controls it. So called "people pleasers" end up being walked on in the name of trying to compromise in order to keep the peace or avoid a breakup. They don't stand up for themselves for a number of reasons.

They find themselves "second guessing" everything and in the worst case scenarios {they refuse to make any decisions} without consulting with the person who gaslights them. They don't want to be called stupid, foolish, or crazy for choices they made. They become passengers in their own life!

Sometimes I believe we spend way too much time analyzing the abuser and not as much time figuring out why people are attracted to these individuals.

Low self-esteem, fragile egos, and a need for acceptance are common traits of those who are drawn towards narcissists and gaslighters.

There is something truly wrong when an adult has no self-esteem, boundaries, or "deal breakers" and tolerates being treated like a child.

Why is it one person says: F-YOU! (and leaves) while another person stays and makes the effort to become what another wants them to be.

Some people believe all relationships are capable of lasting if they work at it.

Life is too short to be trying to change water into wine.

Ideally you want to choose someone who (already is) what you want.

The goal is to have a "soulmate" not a cellmate.

No one is "stuck" with anyone. Suffering is optional.

"Go where you are celebrated, not tolerated. If they can't see the real value of you, it's time for a new start." - Anonymous

"Never love anyone who treats you like you're ordinary."

- Oscar Wilde

Best wishes!

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