Gaslighting: Examples, Effects and How to Confront the Abuse

What is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a form of brainwashing and manipulation that happens on a regular basis. The goal of the gaslighter is to make the victim doubt themselves. Gaslighting abuse causes a person to lose their sense of identity, perception and worth. Gaslighting is a form of narcissism and sociopathic tendencies as they look to gain power over someone.

Pathological gaslighting is a severe form of abuse through mind control. It can happen in the workplace, with society, friends, family, and relationships. Gaslighting abuse is extremely destructive to victims. Before you ever have to deal with this mode of abuse, learn how to defend yourself against gaslighting. As it is so subtle and manipulative, you will likely need to do some research. Online, you can take an, “am I being gaslighted quiz.”

Where Does the Term Gaslighting Come From?

To understand the gaslighting meaning, you would have to look at the 1930’s stage play called Gaslight (or Angel Street in the U.S.) The play portrays a husband trying to convince his wife and other people that she’s crazy. He manipulates her environment in subtle ways.

He makes her believe that these things aren’t happening and that she hasn’t remembered things correctly. In the play, there is a dimming of the gaslights in the house. She discusses the dimming lights with her husband but he tells her she has imagined this too.

In the 1960’s, gaslighting became a term to describe manipulating someone’s perception of what is real.

Gaslighting Behavior Examples

There are stages of gaslighting behaviors that start from subtle to more severe. With any type of abuse, the gaslighter doesn’t want to push the boundaries too far at first. It is a slower form of abuse that takes you by surprise. Here are some examples of gaslighting:

False Hope

Narcissist Definition

So as a gaslighter is the action, it is the narcissist who is most likely to execute such behavior. It’s important to understand the mental thoughts and beliefs that occur with a narcissist. Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NDP) come with symptoms of grandiosity, no empathy for others, and an obsessive need for admiration. The gaslighting behaviors they exhibit are manipulation and a self-centered attitude. They are arrogant and demanding.

They believe they should have better treatment than anyone else even though they don’t give others the same rights. The narcissist characteristics happen early in their adult life. They will gaslight in the workplace, in relationships, and their social groups. They think they’re unique and gifted which gives them a greater sense of self-esteem. In actuality, their self-esteem is fragile. They need others to think highly of them. They can’t handle criticism or losing and are easily and deeply humiliated.

Gaslighting in Relationships

It’s most common that gaslighting will occur in romantic relationships. Once the gaslighter has taken over control, they can pretty much get away with any behavior. Marital infidelity will often occur and although you know they are cheating, they lead you to believe you’re crazy for thinking so. You may be physically abused but they will deny they were violent. For the victim, it can cause nervous breakdowns and sometimes suicide.

Gaslighting at Work

Gaslighters at work will often assert things with extreme conviction or indignation. They will often shame co-workers and distort truths. They may ignore you when you respond to something they’ve said. They will counter, block, divert or trivialize what you say.

This often causes people to work harder in order to prove their worth to the gaslighter. You’ll feel like you could get fired at any point so the work environment feels unstable. Anxiety and stress increases as you bend over backwards to try to please an abusive personality. You may feel confused and second guess all your decisions. When dealing with a gaslighter in the workplace, you will likely go through disbelief. You may become defensive and potentially even become depressed.

You have more power to manage a gaslighter at work then with loved ones or family members. Like any type of abuse, you may feel trapped but this isn’t the case. Document all the interactions you have with the gaslighter. Talk to your HR department. Talk to co-workers and try to summon up witnesses during a time they are abusive to you. This kind of mental warfare shouldn’t be acceptable in any workplace.

Gaslighting in Dysfunctional Families

When children are victim to gaslighting, it is a form of child neglect and is one of the most severe forms of abuse. Here are four of the common gaslighting abuse tactics that occur in the family dynamic:

Double Bind

How to Stop Being Gaslighted

How do you deal with gaslighting? A gaslighting narcissist ultimately wants to have control over you. Not giving them that control can often damper their attack on you. Quietly standing up for yourself and emotionally removing yourself from the conversation will cause a gaslighter to feel uncomfortable. They have likely been working on breaking you down for a long time. It’s not going to be easy but here are some things to keep in mind to avoid being gaslighted.

  • When you’re with a gaslighter, be very aware of what they’re saying and doing around you. Pay attention to all the fine details.
  • Create an untouchable belief of yourself and what you know to be true. Your intuition is your guidance system, make sure to listen to it.
  • Keep it simple when dealing with the gaslighter and know their true motive is one thing. They are trying to make you believe what you know to be true as untrue (or the other way around.)
  • Don’t allow the gaslighter to think you believe what they’re saying. This gives them permission to continue on with gaslighting abuse.
  • Remember that nothing the gaslighter is doing has anything to do with you. They are the one who is sick.
  • Be okay with not “winning” in a bout between yourself and a gaslighter. Chances are, you probably won’t. This is part of the game they play. It’s few and far between that you will convince them you’re right and they’re wrong.

Can a Gaslighter Change?

Many people that will gaslight have antisocial personality disorders such as borderline personality disorder. They have a great deal of anxiety, they often do what they do to feel a sense of control in their lives. They tend to also abuse substances to numb the negative feelings they have. They will often have a personality that is authoritive so they think in absolutes. Things are either 100% right or 100% wrong. Gaslighters are hard to get into treatment because they don’t see themselves as having a problem.

Gaslighting in relationships may result in couple’s therapy. Even when the narcissist is going through counseling, they will often blame their partner. If a therapist suggests the gaslighter try to make some changes, they will often believe them to be incompetent. Even in therapy, they will have a hard time acknowledging they have a behavioral issue that’s causing the problems.

Ultimately, when you’re in company with a gaslighter, they are trying to make you second guess your choices and yourself. You will have a hard time knowing if you’re the problem or the victim. Subconsciously, you know when you’re being gaslighted. Your brain warns you of a sense of danger which becomes an uncomfortable feeling in your gut. Listen to it. If you believe you’re being abused by a gaslighter, pay attention to all the details. It may be that they will never get the help they need so in the end, you may have to walk away and recover from the mental abuse

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