Gaslighting: Recognize Manipulative and Emotionally Abusive People - And Break Free

Gaslighting is a common tactic of abusers, narcissistic individuals and dictators. Victims usually don’t realize that they’ve been brainwashed because it is done slowly. Gaslighting example is shown in the movie Gaslight (1944) where a man manipulates his wife to the point where she is losing her mind. Gaslighting is used in order to gain power and make a victim question the reality.

Typical Gaslighting Techniques

1. Telling blatant lies

You both know that it is an outright lie. Yet it’s told you with a straight face. Telling a huge lie helps to create a precedent. Once you accept it, you stop being sure if anything you hear is true. The main goal is to keep you unsteady and off-kilter. Moreover, gaslighters constantly deny they ever said something, even though there is a real evidence. In this case you start questioning your reality and tend to accept theirs.

2. Using what is near and dear to you as a weapon

Gaslighters know what is especially important to you. So that’s what they attack first. The foundation of your being is hit. Noteworthy, that it’s done gradually. Gaslighters wear you down over time, that’s why even the cleverest and self-aware people can be influenced by gaslighting.

3. Gaslighters don’t stick to their promises

Their action rarely match their words. If you deal with a gaslighter, you should look at what they are doing instead of what they are saying. In most situations their words mean nothing. Pay attention to the things that are actually done.

4. Using positive reinforcement

Doing something good for you or praising your personality from time to time is another calculated attempt to make you question your reality. Getting appreciation from a gaslighter makes you think that maybe they are not so bad. But at the same time, it adds additional uneasiness to your relationships. This way you feel confused, which is an aim of gaslighters. They try to uproot your sense of stability to make you weaker and start questioning everything. When people are not confident in what is happening, they typically look to the person that helps to feel more stable. And this is when a gaslighter comes into play.

5. Aligning people against you

Gaslighters are really good at manipulating others. They can easily find people who will stand by them in any circumstances and use them against you. As gaslighters are liars, they may use different tactics to make you feel that there is nobody you can trust or turn to. Obviously, it makes you isolated and leads you back to a gaslighter who gains even more control over you.

These are typical techniques used by gaslighters. The more you are aware of them, the better you identify gaslighting. Knowing that you deal with a gaslighter helps you to avoid getting into their trap.

Gaslighting quotes

Gaslighting are lies with a purpose to confuse and control.

Gaslighting is when you don’t remember things the same as they do.

Sometimes you have to choose between being lonely and being crazy.

Gaslighting is mind control to make victims doubt their reality.

If you alter your behaviour because you are frightened of how your partner will react, you are being abused.

Gaslighting at Work

It may be not easy to spot gaslighting at work. An examples of it can be a situation where your coworker told you something and after some time he / she tell you they said something absolutely different.  It’s important to note, that such situations happen all the time.  Such repeated behavior pattern can be a form of gaslighting.

Other examples of gaslighting in the workplace may include racist or sexist comments. After some time a person pretends that nothing like that was said. A typical reaction to your outrage can be saying that you are just overreacting.  Another illustration of gaslighting at work can be telling that the ideas proposed by you must be improved, and implementing them after some time without any major changes. In this case your idea is used by a coworker who pretend that he/she created something unique.

Psychologists recommend to document all the cases of gaslighting in the workplace. It’s also helpful to have another coworker when dealing with a potential gaslighter. Limiting your communication to e-mailing or other written formats may help you to have true evidence in the situation of conflict.

How to Deal with a Gaslighting Spouse

As psychologists say, gaslighters are deeply wounded people. Because of that they don’t really have a sense of self, so they tend feel ‘right’ in any sitiation. Otherwise, they will feel threatened all the time.  Anyway, it’s difficult but possible to cope with a gaslighter.

Firstly, you could try to recognize the reason of their behavior. Remember that arguing with a gaslighter only fuels them. So don’t be aggressive or hysterical, try to be calm.  Feel your self-worth no matter what a gaslighter says to you. If you know what is true about yourself, you will be able to get rid of doubts about your value.

How to Stop Gaslighting in a Relationship

It’s important to set boundaries to stop gaslighting. You need to know what kind of attitude you want to have in your relationship. If you can identify your boundaries, you will be able to notice when someone tries to cross the line.

Another good strategy to stop gaslighting in a relationship is to seek help. For instance, turning to a counselor can help you to repair or leave a destructive relationship. Couples therapy is also an option to deal with gaslighting. But it works only if both partners are open to changes.

Gaslighting Parents

If you have gaslighting parents then you really have a problem since it is much easier to deal with gaslighting in any other relationship that does not concern your parent. So why it is a problem?

1. Because of that you might be a gaslighter yourself and not even realize that.

2. You might develop additional complexes.

3. You may develop hidden phobias and fears.

4. You might experience communication issues with other people.

Good thing if it is possible to realize the impact the gaslighting parents have. To deal with gaslighting parents, it is necessary to identify their strategy first and come up with the resistance strategy that would be sufficient according to the context.

1) Reflection. Psychologists state that reflecting the behavior of others may become a key strategy for change. You might be willing to do the same as your parents do, but you have to be natural so it would not be possible to define that you are just playing games with your parents. It does not mean that you have to tell lies: you may simply resort to small manipulations that might concern doing chores or who might be calling first if you live in different places.

2) Conversation. This method might seem evident but just to talk to your parents might not be an easy task. A lot depends on the situation itself and how your parents actually behave. If they are strong manipulators, you just need to raise the issue in the conversation. The first thing they will do is a rejection of that fact. You might use examples when manipulation was used and explain the consequences it has led to. Usually, gaslighters might not understand the origins and consequences of their actions so the first strategy in conversation is to point out their most projected gaslighting behavior.

3) Cooperative resistance. If you detect that one of your parents is a gaslighter, you need to speak with the other one since that person might be a victim. Start with the conversation to confirm or reject your assumptions. If that is true, then you need to cooperate with that person and initiate a conversation with the actual gaslighter. Refer to strategy number two to understand how to start your conversation.

For sure these strategies are not explicit and only provide very basic ideas or steps that might be taken. We strongly recommend to ask a professional for help since the resolution depends on a number of factors:

– situation

– context

– type of relationship

– degree of relation

– your personality

– the personality of a gaslighter

– form of abuse

– the severity of the consequences

– realization of actions

and many more

That is why the best solution is an individualized solution.

Recovering from Gaslighting

If you you’ve decided to end the relationship with a gaslighter, giving explanations and long conversations will probably be a waste of energy. Instead, try to be clear and determined.

After such experience, you may need to rebuild your confidence. Individual therapy is the best way to do it.  As gaslighters always erode victim’s self-esteem, therapy can help to feel again how valuable you are as a person.

Svitlana Drach

Svitlana Drach

Psychology4u.net team member

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