Gaslighting – What Is It?

The original classic 1944 film

I wrote about this three years ago and since then I’ve noticed that it’s become quite a mainstream topic, with magazines publishing articles about it now. I wrote about it originally because I became aware that someone I knew was gaslighting me and I realised then how difficult it can be to deal with.

First of all though, if you’re in any doubt about where it comes from, gaslighting is a term that comes of the 1944 film Gaslight where a husband tried to convince his wife that she is going insane and eventually causes her to question herself and her whole life.

In a milder form, it’s now become a more focal term in counselling and psychotherapy and is usually to do with power and control in a relationship which can be from a partner, family member or work colleague. It is arguable that the ‘gaslighter’ (the one who perpetrates this situation) is also a narcissist but for the purpose of this blog I’m going to look at how the gaslighter often behaves; if you’re a victim of this type of manipulation, I also show how you can deal with it which is how I dealt with it when it happened to me, once I recognised it for what it was.

It usually goes like this:

  • The gaslighter creates a narrative about the gaslightee which suggests that there’s something wrong and inadequate about them. This might be along the lines of “why do you always do that/say this – it’s unnecessary”. This can make the other person start to question themselves.
  • Repetition – this type of conversation is repeated over and over again, sometimes in front of other people but more often when the target is alone with the gaslighter. This is a big
  • Escalation – if questioned, the gaslighter refutes evidence and attempts to make their lies and exaggerations look reasonable.
  • Wearing down the victim – often the gaslighter wears down the victim who becomes fearful, self-doubting, resigned and pessimistic.
  • The gaslighter appears to have the power – they will grant acceptance, respect and approval only if it suits them to do so (often in front of other people).
  • They will occasionally give false hope – they will treat the victim with superficial kindness so that the victim thinks ‘maybe things will get better now’.
  • They use people close to you as ammunition – one of the things that they use will be people that you’re close to, whom they’ll try to get onside in their subtle attacks on you.

So what can you do about it if you feel that you are the victim of a gaslighter?

  • First of all, don’t take the bait and when you feel that they’re trying to undermine you, don’t fall into the trap of questioning yourself about what’s happened.
  • Set some boundaries for yourself and them – you don’t have to answer all their questions if you find them intrusive and you can walk away if you want to.
  • Keep your life as personal as possible – they’ll want to know every detail if you let them. Make sure that your journals and phone are out of their reach so that they can’t pry.
  • Don’t introduce your friends to them – they’ll probably charm them and make you out to be the weird one. If you’re part of the same friendship group, keep your thoughts about the gaslighter to yourself unless you have absolute proof of what they’re doing.
    Don’t argue or discuss personal things with them – they have to ‘win’ at all costs.
  • Walk away as much as possible – you can say ‘no’ and not engage in every conversation that the gaslighter wants to have with you.

If you feel that you’re the victim of a gaslighter and are finding it hard to cope, counselling may well be of help in this situation, or talk to a trusted friend – sharing your fears can really help, but only if you know that they’re not going to influenced in any way by the person who’s gaslighting you.

Please do comment on my blog if you have found it interesting, useful or otherwise. You can see my blogs as soon as they are published (usually on Wednesdays) by pressing the ‘follow’ button and you can share them with your friends. You can also find me on Linked In, Instagram (samebutdifferent) and read my FB posts at Same But Different.

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