What is Gaslighting?

By: Chris Anderson Psy.D.

Gaslighting at its essence is an attempt by one person to gain control over another person through mental and emotional manipulation. The primary mechanism of manipulation is the deliberate effort to supply false information that leads the victim to question what they know to be true. Victims often end up doubting their memory, perception, and interpretations. The person gaslighting will deny facts, experiences, or feelings. The end goal is intended to create increasing control and less resistance from the victim.

How it Begins

Often these relationships can start out quite well. A perpetrator may flatter and praise their victim as well as make significant disclosures rather quickly in an effort to establish trust quickly. Although it can happen in any type of relationship, it is most common in romantic relationships. These behaviors often occur throughout the relationship but are also especially prominent when attempting to assert a particular agenda. Over time the perpetrator can gain increasing control over their victims mentally, emotionally, physically, and even financially. This form of manipulation is abusive because it is intended to control another.

Tactics and Profile of a Gaslighter

Those people who employ gaslighting strategies and tactics often have personality disorders such as antisocial personality disorder or narcissistic personality disorder. Many domestic abusers use these strategies and even on a grander scale we see this with dictators or cult leaders. These people often maintain appearances and a persona to the rest of the world that is very different to the personality they show their victims. People who engage in gaslighting have countless ways to undermine the victim’s confidence in their own judgments. Here are just a few examples of things you might hear: “You are just being paranoid; I was only joking; You’re imagining things; That never happened; You’re making things up”.

How Gaslighting Changes the Victim

The most obvious impact is the destruction of trust in the relationship. Unfortunately, victims usually begin to stop trusting themselves and their own judgment before they stop trusting their partner. It can also create a suspiciousness about others. Self-confidence begins to erode and often people become less assertive and more passive as they begin to fill with self-doubts. Indecision often increases and self-esteem drops.

What Can be Done About it?

The first step for victims is to realize what is happening. Identifying the problem is always the first step. Next, they need to sort out truth and facts from distortions and deflections. If the perpetrator is denying your experience, you should be suspicious and start questioning and exploring. Assess if there is a power struggle going on, as this is a good indicator that gaslighting may be happening. Work on accepting one’s feelings and perceptions and use friends and family do help with a reality check. Be prepared to walk away from a toxic relationship. Most perpetrators are not open to confrontation, changing their behavior, or sharing power. In order to protect themselves, victims may need to distance from the source of the problem.

If you believe you may be victim of gaslighting, feel free to contact IPC so you can schedule a consultation with one of our psychologists or therapists so we can help discuss treatment options. Please call us now at 763-416-4167, or request an appointment on our website: WWW.IPC-MN.COM so we can sit down with you and complete thorough assessment and help you develop a plan of action that will work for you. Life is too short to be unhappy. Find the peace of mind you deserve.

To get more great resources, sign up for our newsletter, like us on Face Book, or follow us on Twitter.

Innovative Psychological Consultants

Peace of Mind You Deserve

Schedule An Appointment

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Looking for a Therapist or Psychiatrist?