Skye likes writing about mental health, nutrition, and wellness. She is passionate about sharing information that will educate, and positively affect people's lives.
Dr. Aaron Wiegmann
Dr. Wiegmann earned his medical degree (M.D.) from Rush Medical College and completed his General Surgery residency at Rush University Medical Center and Cook County Hospital. He has a Master's Degree (M.S.) in clinical research and has published numerous peer-reviewed articles.
April 14, 2021
Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse where one person tries to invoke doubt in someone else about something that was said or done, while they are actually the one who is lying. It involves the affected person being manipulated to question their sanity, memories, and their place in reality.
Gaslighting can happen in any kind of relationship:
“[The] term comes from the 1938 stage play Gas Light”, explains The National Domestic Violence Hotline, an abuse-victim resource and advocacy group, “in which a husband attempts to drive his wife crazy by dimming the lights (which were powered by gas) in their home, and then he denies that the light changed when his wife points it out. It is an extremely effective form of emotional abuse that causes a victim to question their own feelings, instincts, and sanity, which gives the abusive partner a lot of power.”
It’s a twisted form of abuse, and the more knowledge you have about it, the more you can recognize it. Gaslighting happens gradually, which can make it hard for a person to detect if they can’t connect all the dots in time.
One of the most common gaslighting techniques is called countering. This occurs when someone directly questions a person’s memories or mental power. They might say something like “Are you sure you left that there? You have a bad memory” or “You never remember things correctly”
Eventually, the person being gaslighted thinks they really do have a bad memory or can’t remember things, while their memory is totally accurate. Other gaslighting examples include:
Narcissists often use gaslighting as a technique to undermine and confuse their victim. Narcissists gaslight in order to bring people under their control and feed their own egos. They are prone to lashing out and bringing their victims down if they try to think for themselves.
Narcissist gaslighting examples can include:
Many gaslighters really just want power; they want to confuse their subject until they are completely dependent on the gaslighter for their opinions, beliefs, and memories. This kind of belittlement and power trip can be wrapped up with narcissistic behavior quite often.
Sometimes it’s easier to understand and define gaslighting with examples. Denial of factual events is a major technique for many abusers. An example of this was created in a psychology article by Gertrude Zemon Gass and William Nichols: “a wife picks up a telephone extension in her own home and accidentally overhears her husband and his girlfriend planning a tryst while he is on a business trip.” His denial challenges the evidence of her senses: “I wasn’t on the telephone with any girlfriend. You must have been dreaming.”
This kind of denial results in the victim feeling as if they can’t rely on their own senses. This can lead to anything from low self-esteem, to complete mania. If that sounds extreme, just imagine having your opinions and recollections of events being countered day in and day out. Your entire sense of reality would begin to crumble if you believe your gaslighter enough.
Regardless of what kind of relationship it’s being practiced in, gaslighting is all about control, and humans naturally look to people who seem in control of their lives. Children who are confused look to parents, students look to teachers, and victims of gaslighting look to their tormentors because obviously, they have all the answers right?
Some effects gaslighting can have on the victim’s mental health in the long run include:
It’s not impossible to get out of a relationship dynamic of gaslighting. The most important thing to do is not hide your situation from anyone–that is exactly what a gaslighter wants. Besides being open with loved ones or a therapist about how your abuser is treating you, here are some other tips for getting help:
One of the best things you can do to empower yourself to leave a gaslighter is talk to a professional. Through our partner PlushCare, you can book a discreet, affordable therapy appointment online.
Even though gaslighting is a long process by your abuser, there are several warning signs and dots that you can connect in order to uncover it. Once you have recognized that you’re being gaslit, start seeking help and creating a defense against it.
Sometimes it might mean walking away from someone that you really love or care for. Until they get the help they need, a gaslighter may continue to hurt others.
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