The Sad Art of Gaslighting

gaslighting.jpeg

Yesterday, was “one of those days”.

All was going fine—until I stumbled upon something that shook my core: I was going through my voluminous Inbox in an attempt to make room for my life and I found an e-mail from my best friend who died a year ago. For some reason–never opened it. I guess it got lost in the shuffle.

Anyway, I read it and was flooded with emotion.

I didn’t sleep.

I tried watching TV but “The Giant Ladder System” was on 269 of my 280 channels so, that was a wash. I thought I’d try reading, so I went looking through my books trying to find something that would either take my mind off things or one that could help me better understand and deal with my grief.

I found just what I was looking for, but it wasn’t a book that dealt with the loss of my best friend; it was more like a book that would help me cope losing myself. It’s entitled, The Gaslight Effect: Don’t Be Afraid To Speak Your Truth by Robin Stern.

“Gaslighting is the systematic attempt by one person to erode another’s reality. This is done by telling them that what they are experiencing isn’t so – and, the gradual giving up on the part of the other person.”

Stern goes on to say that gaslighting generally takes two to tango: one person who needs to be in control to maintain his sense of self; the other, who needs the relationship to maintain his/her sense of self and because of this, he/she acquiesces—constantly.

The victim ends up giving far, far more than he/she gets. This process invariably erodes the soul.

You know you’re in a full blown Gaslight Effect when you find yourself second guessing your own reality; when you’re unsure of what you really think and feel. Why? Because you’ve allowed someone else to define your reality for you. Invariably, this leads to being told what to think and how to think. And then in turn, you’re told who you are. You’re molded into an entity that someone else deems worthy of his or her love, affection; attention.

And because of the constant whittling away at your psyche, you believe you’re a better person as he or she sees you; as he/she needs you to be.

As the kids used to say….”word”.

Having been “gaslit” in the past, I’d like to share my thoughts with you.

Gaslighting I think, is all that I just mention, with refined manipulation added. And this is maniplation that’s defined by greed and selfishness. It creates cognitive dissonance and it’s this “in between state of cognizance” that women–people, find themselves most vulnerable.

It’s being forced to color inside the lines that others have drawn for us. If we don’t, we’ll be alone and that to some people, is a fate worse than death. Knowing that isolation and lonliness are the dreaded alternatives, we allow gaslighting. It’s not compromise. Hardly–it’s utter relinquishing of the self.

The authentic self.

Then, you find yourself in a horrifically bad relationship but you stay because of that INSIDIOUS goddamn mindset that a bad relationship beats no relationship.

,.
Make no mistake: this IS emotional abuse in every sense and women are almost always the victims. Don’t misunderstand the premise: women can be the culprits too. But women bear the brunt of more negative genetic coding–or so it seems. We’ve been subjugated by primordial design to believe relationships, love….and men, define us.

But gaslighting isn’t limited to love relationships. We also fall victim to it on the job; co-workers and bosses are often perpetrators and it also happens within the family dynamic.

Gaslighting is very real. As I stated, I’ve lived it. I just didn’t know it had a name. Or a book that defined it. Ordinarily, I try my best to avoid partaking from the sump pump of pop psychology. In other words, if Dr. Phil mentions it, I run in the opposite direction. But this book makes sense.

And here’s my two cents.

Integrity (something sorely lacking in the world today) applies to behavior that consistently matches principles. You can’t be a person of integrity if selfishness and self centered behavior are what fuels every motivation. Gaslighters almost always lack integrity; as distorted as this sounds, they thrive on their own selfishness. They are always self-centered. They are consummate liars. Invariably, they will never fail to fail you.

One must then ask, how can a gaslighter expect to be loved if he or she doesn’t know how to love? How can he or she venture into a real, equitable partnership without knowing how to play fair?

The answer? Manipulation passed off as love or affection…or concern

  • No one will love ever love you like I love you
  • You’re nothing without me
  • I ONLY want to take care of you
  • I only want what’s best for you and only I know what that is
  • You have changed and grown so much since knowing me. I make you think and you are better because of it

Furthermore, what these people demand of themselves will rarely work with others. Once again, we touch on “coloring inside the lines” we draw for others. And when someone refuses, that’s how gaslighting starts. I think foisting this on someone else, is the quintessence of neurotic narcissism.

What this book reveals isn’t earth shattering. If you’ve lived it, then you know exactly what gaslighting is all about. For me, it merely gave a name to what I’d experienced.

In remedying the gaslight malady, it goes on to state the obvious:

Women (especially) must be more assertive. We must be fearless about defining who we are, what we are and what we really think. We must empower ourselves to move forward and find real contentment in a relationship as opposed to sanctuary, no matter how fleeting.

I’ll take it one step further:

Some of us, by virtue of childhood experience, seek emotional replicas of our fathers and mothers. If we had a controlling parent, very often we’ll seek controlling partners. We’re most fortunate if we can break that cycle. And just because we find ourselves in abject co-dependence with someone cruel and controlling, well…that doesn’t mean we have to stay. Gather your courage and leave Simon Legree. As the James Gang so aptly sang, walk away.

But remember this: walking away is sometimes much easier than garnering the strength required to take that first step.

And keep this in mind as well: you’ll never gather courage by allowing fear to keep you in a one-sided relationship that’s devoid of romance, passion and real emotion. To do so is a sign of weakness. It’s giving your power away. We should be empowering ourselves. When we relinquish control, we hand over the reigns of our lives, willingly.

Frequently.

Tragically.

But for some, this is the perfect scenario. We’re absolved of all blame if we have no control of a situation. If we believe we’re not responsible, we can’t be held accountable. Especially when it comes to our own actions. Victimhood is extraordinarily convenienct. It all boils down to neglect. We’re being neglected and we’re neglecting ourselves. Well then– here’s your wake up call: neglect kills as often as a bullet to the head.

It kills relationships just as efficiently. And if you sit by and allow it to happen, you’re just as guilty.

In closing, I’ll just say this: Caruso loved the sound of his own voice…some people love the sound of their own opinions being expressed.

This should come as no surprise.

The typical gaslighter defies Copernican theory. They think THEY are, in fact, the center of the universe. In reality, this blustery bravado masks rampant insecurity. Inside, they’re just scared little boys and girls , very much afraid to be hurt, yet they think they’re too smart, too superior to actually feel the pain they’ve so deeply buried.

Sadly, this fear-based arrogance means they themselves have been “gaslit”…made victims by their own actions.

..


56 comments

  1. Hi Laurie,
    Wow intense post. My first reaction was to think of Cult leaders and then Scientology. I am sorry about your friend, that is tragic. I wrote a poem, actually my most recent one and it totally reminds me of this gaslight concept. Weird how I found your post moments after you posted it. Thanks for sharing this, Veronica

  2. I had a couple of coworkers attempt to gaslight me once. They swore up and down that I was at a particular meeting. The meeting never happened. However, the attempted gaslighting did motivate me to find another job. I ended up in a much better situation, thanks to these two thinking they could play games like that.

  3. Yes, I too at a late stage in my relationship have been gaslighted for the past four years. Anything from me being mistaken in what I have been told, dates, times, etc., to my personal belongings being placed in different places as well as being stolen and me being accused of losing them myself. My computer is tampered with constantly and then I am accused of resetting it myself, etc., etc. Clothing disappears and then re-appears. The list is endless but although I stay I seek to address these issues myself by buying to replace what goes missing, having the computer man come in to re-set computer settings, move his stuff around, tamper in the same way he has with my things. My ambition is revenge and aggravation to him in the way he causes it to me and then one day I will walk away from it but not until I am ready.

  4. The people at my church are doing this to me, in the hope that I’ll give up and leave. A member will tell me about a sick relative or co-worker, then when I ask later for an update, the response is “I don’t know what you’re talking about”. Time after time, I’m asked to attend a meeting or help with a project; when I show up to work, the person “can’t remember having that conversation”. (Note how no one ever directly denies anything; that would be lying – how unChristian!). They just can’t remember. But no one ever has any problem remembering to ridicule me or mock me!

  5. I came to this post late, but it’s wonderful. Thank you for it, and thanks for introducing me to the book. It looks like a great one.

  6. Does she address in the book how to limit this kind of abuse?

    If I was getting hit I could call the police but or this they would just laugh at me and say yeah lady..you just misplaced your brain I am sure….

    Does she call these type of people mentally ill?Is my husband mentally Ill?

    Does there sick mind look this up on the interent or do they evilly have it in their own sick mind todo these things…

    First and foremost…HOW CAN I GET HIM TO STOP?

    I feel like I am dealing with a little boy who isn’t getting his way!

    Leena

  7. I read the first comment about cult leaders and
    Scientology and it really misses the point. Those two are
    convenient and it really doesn’t take very much to point
    the finger at the seemingly obvious. Gaslighters are not
    rare outliers, they are very common. I have an
    ex-girlfriend who is working on me now.
    The question is has she outgrown this thing,
    is she worse, is she past worse and over the edge?
    I would say the latter. Not to be paranoid about it but gaslighting is extremely common. Recognizing it
    should be part of every young persons facts of life introduction to reality.

  8. i am a victim of gaslighting as we speak. i only recently found out there was such a thing. my husband has been seeing someone for some time now. he has been carving her initials all over our home!i find pins,nails tacks, bread ties,etc. all over the place. i used to question him immediately about this, but he would wipe it away or tear it up then cuss me or worse! i thought i was losing my mind! now i need to figure out what to do about my situation. he has to prove me insane to get our home!

  9. I stayed too long in the relationship, not because it was better than nothing, but because continually, aggressively, relentlessly being told you are crazy, that you make s**t up, and that you are wrong, demolishes your reality and your sense of self. Fortunately, I have come back from the dead.

    And Sandy, he will, quite literally, try to prove that you are insane. My husband even secretly taped our fights, left out evidence of his affairs–oh, forget it the list is too long. I write about it over at theotherbed.com. My point is to be wary and careful, because it is often the case that they are very good at what they do, which is to get others to believe their reality. Be careful and stay strong. It is so insidious, and so wicked, it is almost easier to believe that you must be the crazy one.

  10. Hello. I just wanted to say thank you for writing this article. I have been experiencing some bewilderment of late with a so called (“non”-) relationship of almost 9 months. This article was very enlightening and timely. Thanks agaiin for the words of empowerment , insight and encouragement.

  11. I know more about this subject than I’d like to know, although I’m assuming that the vast majority of people who come to this page can make the same claim. Over the course of my lifetime, I’ve observed The Sad Art of Gaslighting in families, at church, in school and the workplace, in professional environments and in communities. Moreover, the Internet is a haven for abusers in search of fresh quarry. Additionally, victims of abuse may go online hoping to find supportive assistance, only to be further abused by being told that it’s essentially their fault for allowing themselves to be abused. People who have been psychologically tortured for years, or from the time of childhood, are in need of kind and gentle regard, not polite condemnation.

  12. Oh my God! There is a name for what I been experiencing for the las 17 years. I tried so hard to explain it to family, friends,anybody. I referred to him as Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. I went insane. Finally, after 3 psychiatric hosp. and almost 2 years in psycho analysis I know that I allowed this to go on because I have a victim’s mentality. Is there any kind of support group for we who have sufferred this abuse? I would love to share the absolute hell I’ve been through and yes I am very angry. I’m remorseful for what might have been if I had been a stronger person. I’m sure he will be reading this as he has to try to keep control of me. This is my 2nd week on the computer. My sister and friends are so happy to see me finally getting my “power”. After a physical/sexual abuse he has also started analysis and seems very sorry. I could fill a dump truck with all his I’m sorry notes. I’m not forgiving him this time.

  13. This is something I wrote after a marraige counseling session. Brief explanation: During sex in Jan. he made me feel like I was being raped and hurt my neck. The cast off bricks were bought for fifty cents a piece at K-Mart(deal with manager). I was trying to do a little landscaping without spending too much money. My husband is a surgeon.

    Today I was reminded of Yesterday
    The constraining belt tightening
    Around my throat of creativity
    The agony of trying to bring
    Order to chaos with some
    Cast off bricks
    Piling each one with desperation
    To maintain some sanity in
    The broken garden of dreams
    Futile attempts to harvest
    The seeds of love planted
    Yesterday
    The fruit did not blossom
    The grain did not grow
    Only disappointment and
    Dissension ruled the land
    The trickle of nourishment
    Starved the straining sprouts
    The harshness of the sun
    Beat down, withering the
    Illusions of happiness
    The untended garden soon
    Became a wasteland of weeds
    Unkempt, Tumultuous, a
    Discord of unrelieved anguish
    Pleading and pulling only to
    Expose the aggressive roots
    Controlling the supple earth
    They fought mercilessly to
    Maintain their stronghold
    While the timid stems
    Grasped to gain strength
    Only to shrivel back into
    The damp, musty darkness of
    Fear
    The seasons came and went
    The smoldering hopes soon
    Dissipated and the cold
    Winds blew the fragments of
    Wishes into disarray
    Hopelessness descended
    Clouding intellect
    Years of maddening strife
    Ensued as the battered
    Berated tenderlings endeavored to
    Live
    Fervently negotiating the
    Forlorn path of confusion
    The fragile spirit regained
    Confidence
    Once again clamoring for
    Tranquility in the
    Discord which brought
    Contamination to the soil
    Breaking out of confinement
    And extending the
    Budding branches to
    Breathe and absorb the
    Air of
    Contentment

    I felt like an intruder in my own home. I couldn’t even wash the dishes the right way or bathe the chidren. He would tell people I said things that I didn’t. He would hide my things then deny it while I was going nuts turning the house upside down trying to find them. Finally I smarted up and actually got proof. I felt so validated because I really was not crazy. He’s scared now that I’m gaining confidence and growing as a person. Thank you for letting me express myself. I’m not alone.

  14. 2 years of this. I know Gaslighting too. Tonight I was looking at his pictures on his cell phone. Oops! A naked lady in a motel room! He tried to tell me it was him!!! Then he got mad when I didn’t believe him – really yelling at me. “You need glasses.” It is incideous and cruel, but I acutally looked him in the eye and said, “Gaslighting!” I’m hurt. I just found out he had been having an affair for the past 4 or 5 months. I checked the “information” on the picture on his cell. It was taken on November 7, 2008. Today is November 10, 2009. Seeing that picture made me realize what kind of sick monster he really is. I feel empowered having read your post. I’m not crazy! He is. Thanks for showing me that!

  15. Laurie,
    I heard the term “gaslighting” for the first time only a couple of days ago…but I’m realizing that I’ve been living in this hell for over 25 years now. I am calling it quits very soon…making my action plans already. Thank you for writing such a clear and concise article on this horrible form of emotional abuse. I have been lied to and lied about until my head is spinning from all of it. The really tough part is the realization that some memembers of my family may never know and believe the truth of what is really going on. I have decided that I have to do what’s in my own best interest even if some important family relationships end up being severed as a result. I am hanging on the the fact that I know God loves me and His plans for me are always good…even if the plans of others are not. God will never abandon me or seek to destroy me…this is the greatest truth of all!!!

  16. I am the victim of a gaslighter and it started in 1999 when my husband of many years met someone else when he was working away from home and before I moved to join him. I knew when we met up again permanently that the relationship had changed. For one thing no more sex or kissing which went on for a couple of years! Then the gaslighting started in ernest with him telling me about movies which I hadn’t seen and him telling me we did and I had forgotten.

    Documents turning up in the house which had not been seen in 20 something years and which he denied having there. My makeup disappering along with clothing which would later re-appear months later in the place where they had been in the first place. My suitcase would have things taken from it so that when I arrived anywhere on vacation I would have what I needed. More ammunition for him to say I was losing it.

    He then started putting passwords on the joint computer and staying on there for hours on end. He would have lunch out and not tell me and then come home and not eat the food I had prepared and say he told me he didn’t want anything. He became super secretative and opened a secret bank account stashing away our money. As he did the tax returns I never knew. He eventually put me in a mental institution in White Plains, NY after he nearly drove me mad but they had to release me as I didn’t have any problems except what he was doing.

    This book is exactly what I needed to confirm what he was doing because being married to a narcassist is no fun especially when they always need their supply of adoration from women and if you are with someone like this you need to pack up and leave and never look back.

    \They will destroy your soul and your mind with their behaviour.

  17. Just an update to my comments from October, 2009. We are divorced. He moved out yesterday. I feel peace and contentment. We resolved issues rather amicably. Funny! He attempted to gaslight me in the lawyers office. He offered me a certain settlement in private and then denied it to both lawyers in front of me. Fortunatley I have grown more powerful and recognized it for what it is. I am so happy to know what was happening to me and to realize that I am not crazy.
    I am re-landscaping my yard, going back to college in the fall, starting two small part-time businesses and loving every sane moment with my precious children.
    Life can be good after living with a narcissist. There is always hope!

  18. Yes, of course all of these things happen and you might be like me and realize you are not paranoid but that someone is manipulating things and because you are so caught up in life and not playing the stupid games they are playing you don’t really think about the things going missing until you start analysing when you last had the item and where you put it. Sometimes my computer is tampered with so badly the settings all messed up, etc. so now I no longer leave it on. Is this the way to behave in a normal household – I don’t think so. Is it normal for someone to take your clothing and replace it somewhere you wouldn’t think to look – no, this is someone with an ulterior motive (usually an affair) and not planned alone, I hasten to add. It could even be a family member assisting the Gaslighter to do this too. Is it normal for your spouse to make fun of you behind your back, absolutely not, but a gaslighter has numerous people he tells about you and the things that are private and makes jokes about you at your expense. You only just catch them sniggering when you turn around suddenly and he is standing with them but you know what they are doing. And so you get the name “paranoid” thrown into the mix. They weren’t really discussing you and what you look like or what you are wearing because it is all in your imagination.

    If you suddenly think that you are going insane then it isn’t you, it is the person you are living with who is trying to make you insane! Nobody goes from being perfectly normal (whatever that means) to be a “basket case.” Please get out of these relationships unless you are strong enough to come back with appropriate behaviour and the way you speak. You cannot take seriously anything a gaslighter says to you because they only want control.

  19. Thanks so much for this excellent and very necessary article. Gaslighting is the most cruel, sinister type of psychological abuse. I lived with it for too many years.

    While I knew something was terribly wrong with my life, I couldn’t name it. It was only after my divorce that I read about it, and said “Bingo-that’s exactly what he did to me.”

    We need to talk about this tactic that too many abusers use. There is not enough awareness of it, even today. We’ve come a long way, but we’ve still got a long way to go.

    I’m so grateful to be beyond the abuse. I’m free today, and have regained my once-lost sense of self. There is hope. Hang in there, and learn all you can. Knowledge is power. Take back your power!

  20. I also stubbled upon the term “gaslighting”.
    My mental & emotional condition was “brushed off” as co-dependency. Prescribed to Al-Anon which I liked and was a great solution for action plan.

    So I agreed, I ate the “first course” (I am co-dependent) 12 steps programs are awesome.
    I’m a lifer!
    However, gaslighting can be a “four course meal” with a husband or wife.
    “Last course” can be the victims suicide. This is serious. We must make a distinction as to what gaslighting is and it’s defined characteristics.

    I knew of my co-dependent behaviors. Got that. Threw myself full force into behavior modification. I’m a devote member of Al-Anon. OK…so what?!

    Gas-lighting are intentional acts committed against you by another.

    Gaslighting is NOT a Co-dependency behavioral issue. Let me be clear. Do not blame the victim for the intentional acts committed against them by another for financial or personal gain.

    Yes, Co-dependent tendencies may or may not be the preferred target for gaslighting. I don’t know and quite frankly I don’t care!
    This does not absolve or excuse the prepetrators or their crimes.

    Gaslighting is an act committed by a person onto another. Period. Purpose of acts are the intentional infliction of mental and emotional distress to gain access, positioning or control of another while these same acts remain invisible and undetected like a confidence game.
    http://www.imdb.com/media/rm1667273472/tt0093223

    Gas-lighting acts are committed by a person who is in a position of trust (husband/wife) or power (Boss) over another. This is the stage for the play to begin.

    They choose you as their target for their own hidden campaign goals ;
    Greed or Jealousy at work by another can be one campaign agenda to get you to quit your job.
    Fear or loss of control at home can be another campaign of attack.

    Gas-lighting is a tactic used to create a new or more “true perception” of target. Friends, family and co-workers will convert to his campaign.

    Let’s face it, our society promotes fake drama and chaos on Soap TV. Reality shows grow rampant so we can all watch “somebody else” crash and burn. Just so we can be titillated by our comparison to “them” and disconnect with thoughts of I’m OK.

    Gas-lighting produces artifical, exaggerated or in the least opportunity for entry like a burglary.
    Contrived by design produced by Mr. Manipulation, Ms. False Motives or Mr. Bad Intent. He/she will not stop until erosion of your self worth provides them their win of XYZ.

    My description is based on my own experience. It feels like my head was gang raped. I am not a therapist or an expert.

    Compounding further pain… is when you finally try and get help, your description of abuse will sound so bizarre that others won’t be able to comprehend. Fear or confusion from potential help, they very often chose to disconnect, give token advice or lay blame.

    Gas-lighting is intentional and should be prosecuted. Problem is it’s so maniacal and incestual. Hard to prove. Yes incestual because the perpetrator FEEDS his campaign by obtaining information about you under false pretenses, once having his “gun loaded” with knowledge, he uses people and information, that of what he initially knows he is now a stalker.

    * He will recruit others to join his cult. Pretend worry about you to extract info from your family and friends. This feeds his campaign with more “ammo” unbeknown by your loved ones, he is a specialist.
    * He is extremely stealth and crafty. Narcissistic Personality Disorder or other mental health issues are contributory to gas-lighting.
    * He feeds off your slow mental and emotional decline while feigning worry or concern for you. Bag-of-Tricks Campaign is endless.
    * Subtle tests or techniques he will use, like a thermometer This is how he gathers his information about you for his preemptive tactics and later strike.
    * His intention is to lower your self-esteem in “tiny bites” so he remains undercover-barely visible, even to you.
    * He will sing praises about you in public only. This is part of his Cover-up Campaign bag-of-tricks.
    This way, when you eventually suspect or turn to others for help…it’s so hard for them to understand or believe you.
    Common response I got when asking for help. “But he’s always says great things about you to me” …..Think about it for a minute…this only led to my feeling even more alone and isolated.
    Another strategic move, mission accomplished.

    I have researched this issue for over 2 years. I got help and happy to report my successful rebuilding and recovery, so can you.
    Email to me costs nothing. Staying silent costs you a lot.

    The best people who can help you are those that have personal experience.

    Lori

    Gaslighting is usually perpetrated by males at work and at home. Yes at work too.

  21. I have a sociopath in my life. He was almost out, then he moved his current girlfriend into the house across the street.

  22. I divorced someone diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder last year. His abuse was far more passive and gaslighting was a huge part of it. He managed to convince me over the years that abuse of my children (my son in particular) was perfectly acceptable and that I didn’t know this “toughing him up” was good for him because I didn’t have a father. He also hid bottles all over the house and spent the last of our money for a big screen t.v. for his office, all the while making me out to be the, and I am quoting here, “great depriver of all joy”. I absolutely lost my mind and it has been a long road back but I am writing about it and finding great healing in sharing my story.

  23. I didn’t read all the comments.
    A few weeks ago I tried to commit suicide because I thought I was going insane. So does everyone else. They believe him and his version of reality.
    I am seeing a T and he saw her 2 sessions. He already appears to have charmed her.
    I would like to know…does he do this to be mean or is he just crazy and believes his side is real? He is so convincing. Maybe I am not nuts after all.

  24. Hello, all …

    Although I have been divorced some 18 years now, the scars of Gaslighting still remain (and yes, I only found the meaning of the word this evening, but, boy, does it fit!). So, yes, I would agree that usually women become gaslightees, but it can happen to men as well. I also agree with the previous comment by another man (Jerry), in that it is (sadly) far more common than most realize.

    For those of you who remain in the relationship with a Gaslighter, let me urge you to break free and move on! I suspect they will never give up the practice. I know it is difficult (oh, so difficult!), but from experience, I can tell you that I never, ever regretted leaving! My ex continues in her Gaslighting, so whenever we meet or talk (seldom), I have to keep her on a very short leash, define the topic up front, and when finished, conversation is finished! I have to give her credit, she is a brilliant, master manipulator who could spin her way out of anything, and me into anything, thus the short leash. I hope nobody is offended using the leash analogy.

    Although the scars remain, I have had a wonderful life in my regrowth, and I am tempted to thank my ex for 18 years of a great life … after her! But, seriously, getting on with your life so that you can feel free to become who you really are is a joy, and each breath you breathe, and each morning you arise will be a precious gift. You will again feel comfortable in your own skin, enjoy who you are and who you love, and be able to laugh great belly laughs in delight at daily life!

    Now, I worry that my sister is in such a relationship, and I fear for her mental health … perhaps being a gaslightee runs in the family?

    To the other people here who have recognized themselves as gaslightees, I want to wish you all the best of luck in finding your way out. It is enormously difficult, and painful, but oh so worth it. But do try to overcome the pain, the damage, and in the end, don’t live in bitterness by hating your former tormentor, but keep a healthy guard up, not against an external threat, but in defense of your own psyche, your own mental health. But don’t lock yourself behind the barracades, either. You will one day find who you are, and you will be able to feel comfortable in your own skin, and enjoy the world as you should.

    Take care, all …

    Eric

  25. I have been with a gaslighter for 15 years, and have known the term for a year now, thanks to therapy. My husband is a narcissist and the cleverest, most charming and handsome manipulator in existence. He comes by it naturally, as his sisters have told me stories of their mother gaslighting them their whole life, although they are not aware of the term, just the behavior.

    My husband is like your man, Lily, he charms everyone, especially women, and has created such a illusion of who he really is that most people do not see beyond the veil. He is extremely selfish, greedy, secretive, hides money, lies constantly, and has been quite successful in making me miserable and deeply unhappy. When I catch him in a lie, he denies it, and speaks to me in such a way as to make me feel I am underhanded and lowly to attack his impeachable integrity (much in the same manner I have seen his mother speak).

    I discovered quite recently in some writings that he has never loved me, and he admitted it when I confronted him. Of course he tells the therapist (whom he has seen twice and won’t go back to) that he does love me and has always loved me, he doesn’t know what I am talking about, he never said he didn’t love me, I just choose to believe that to cause tension between us and make him look bad!!

    We have a young son and I am loathe to destroy his world with a divorce, yet, I cannot remain in the this marriage, even though, God help me, I still love him. I am creating an exit plan and trying to find the strength to end the marriage, although it is SO , SO DIFFICULT. It will be costly to me, as his greed and manifpulation will find a way to leave me with all the debt while he takes all the assets. May I add, he has not worked in 7 yrs, and I have been the sole support of the family, and when he did have an income, it was provided by his mother.

    Thank you everyone for sharing your experiences. Finding this page on Google and reading all the posts have been therapeutic and given me strength and hope, especially yours, Eric.

  26. I was “gaslighted” by a friend of over 30 yrs. who was abused by her husband. She retracted alot of her previous comments about the abuse, indicated I made things up about her husband and hinted to others about her “concerns about my mental status”. I am not sure if she has PTSD from the abuse and therefore has blocked memories or if she is aware of the mental manipulation she has done to me to keep me quiet with the rest of our friends and family. Am interested if anyone else has tried to help a friend in an abusive situation and has gone through this painful experience. Would love to know ways to combat this type of psychological abuse.

  27. This only works on the weak, simple or not-too-bright. When people try this on me, hijinx ensue and they come out the worse for it. If one’s mind is so weak that they lack the ability to trust it then they A) are brain damaged or B) are suffering from age-related dementia.

    *

    Lee;

    Falling victim to gaslighting isn’t a gender character flaw; or a defining symptom of mental illness. It’s not even an indication of weakness, though it is true that the stronger you are mentally/emotionally, the more difficult it will be to be gaslit. But I’ve known powerful and brilliant men and women who’ve suffered at the hands of a gaslighter.

    Changing one’s reality is often fun for the predator…like a cat with a skein of wool. If you have been able to stave it off with sheer wit, fine..good for you. But love or what we think is love, places the most obscurring of goggles over our eyes. To call it a symptom of a mental illness is being extremely callous.

    But I’ll give you this; victimization of any kind can be a convenient excuse…then again, living in a cold, keep people at arms’ length world because of rampant insecurities or because someone has devastated you, is too.

    Lastly, I can’t speak for anyone else but me and I say this in spite of so many instances of heartache and betrayal that I could be the charter president of the “He Woman’s Men Hating Club”, but I refuse. I still believe that love can be good in spite of it’s imperfection.

    Bitterness is easy, Lee. It justifies our feelings of rage, betrayal and pain, but ultimately it’s counter-productive. Anger and rage allow us to consistently take the path of lease resistance. These are easier emotions than love and joy. Those take work; effort to maintain and for the angry martyr with a broken heart who blankets blame without taking any responsibility, well, that’s “a marriage” made in heaven.

    LK

  28. I left an abusive relationship after thinking I was going insane.

    I only realized what was actually going on after watching one of my favorite films, Gaslight with Ingrid Bergman.

  29. I would like to agree with Betty and thank her for stating the sad situation of the internet. I am an abuse victim and like many abuse victims who are isolated I went on the internet to find support only to be attacked by horrible predators hiding behind screen names and condescending blame-the-victim nonsense. The net is full of gaslighters who want to pounce on any vulnerable person to play their sick games. I would also like to say that many therapists are guilty of the same thing. When you have been abused it leaves an open wound on you that sickos can spot and they pounce to add insult to injury. One must be very careful…

  30. I grew up with alcoholic parents. I just read about this phenomenon of gaslighting and it describes the corner stones of most of my existence when growing up in a home where addiction has been ever present. I find it very enlightening to read about something that i’ve always felt and thought about, but never have had a name for before. Thanks for writing this article, i need to read that book! 🙂

  31. Good piece. Very true.
    I would like to point out that I (a male, by the way) was gas lit repeatedly by a girlfriend, who was daignosed with a Borderline Personality Disorder. BPD and gaslighting almost invariably go hand in hand.

  32. “But women bear the brunt of more negative genetic coding–or so it seems. We’ve been subjugated by primordial design to believe relationships, love….and men, define us.”

    This is simply not true. This is something our currently male dominated culture would have us believe, that we are, by nature, defective. But it would have been impossible to emotionally manipulate a person like this in 200,000 communal years of humanity before agriculture. Women are bred to be strong and loving! I recommend reading “Sex at Dawn.”

  33. Hi Laurie, I just read an article by Yasher Ali that alluded to this concept, and found your blog post in my google search. Well, well done. This concept happens more often than we care to imagine. I’m off to read the book now. Thanks for putting your heart and soul into this post – it shows in your powerful writing.

  34. Wow, what a well written piece about the abusive nature of this beast – gaslighting.

    I’m 5.5 months out of an emotional & physically violent relationship. Whilst with the evil-one, I would look at pictures of myself from before being involved with him and KNOW I wasn’t her anymore. I didn’t know what I was but I wasn’t her-and I LIKED her. I wanted her back. I in fact told him…see this (pointing to pic of self) I want to be back to this…I am not her anymore. I allowed him to so debilitate my sense of self and all for what you mentioned…being part of a family unit. BAH! It was the loneliest time of my life.

    “No one will ever love you like I do.” GOOD dude, may I be so fortunate to NOT ever run across one of your kind again. They don’t know love, they know control, manipulation, lies, using people and abusing people. T

    hank you again for such a well articulated piece…it blessed me.

    ~Love Does No Harm

  35. Am writing a creative non-fiction as an anonymous author about what I experienced (gaslighting) at the hands of 3 siblings and how they extended it to my grown kids as well. Unfortunately, my kids are still in the dark over wtf happened, as my siblings were quite crafty – it’s too long and involved to go into here, but want to say how profoundly grateful I am that I discovered this website. Thank you everyone, and thank you, Laurie! ….To offer something of value to these pages, here’s a poem I took off of Eric Anderson’s old ‘Blue River’ album.

    THERE WERE NO SIGNS

    By walking I found out
    Where I was going.
    By intensely hating, how to love
    By loving, whom and what to love.
    By grieving, how to love from the belly.
    Out of infirmity, I have built strength.
    Out of untruth, truth.
    From hypocrisy, I weaved directness.

    Almost now I know who I am.
    Almost I have the boldness to be that
    man. ………….(here, my inversion: ‘woman’)

    Another step
    And I shall be where I started from.

    From collected poems of Irving Layton McClelland
    and Steward Limited Toronto/Montreal

  36. The poem I entered by Irving McClelland(?) I shoulda wrote on line 5: how to ‘LAUGH’ from the belly! Sheesh…

  37. I wouldn’t say that all gaslighters are self-centred. Not to the core, at least. My mother gaslighted me a LOT (in fact only recently have I realised that she was wrong and my feelings/perceptions were somewhat right). I still sorting through the confusing mess she helped to create in me, but I think her purpose for her methods was that she was trying to shut down my emotions in order to a) avoid dealing with them b) protect her own feelings and c)…well I don’t know why, but the overall impression I got from her was that my outward performance was more important than my inner well-being. I think she just wanted me to “pull myself together”, ignore my own struggles, and keep her happy by doing what she wanted. One thing I know, is that her mother did the same thing to her, which is where she got it from.

    See, she started gaslighting at around the same time I was struggling with depression (terrible timing, to say the least). The cause of said depression was repeated social difficulties at school, bullying, and a home life peppered with loneliness and negative words. I was struggling to do what she wanted me to do, which was to keep the house clean to her chosen standard, but she seemed to make few, or inconsistent, allowances for my mental state. Which was pretty grim. She would get mad if I didn’t match up.

    The worst part was the way she made me question my own perceptions regarding how others were behaving and how they were making me feel. I still do it now. What I’m about to write, I’m still not sure that it happened the way I saw it. But here goes.

    She was stressed out all the time, which frequently tipped into Angry Mode. When triggered off into Angry Mode (it could be anything) she’d lash out and lecture anyone who happened to be in the same room. Or she’d come looking for me. Looking back, I wish I’d spent more nights sleeping at a friend’s house, but that would probably have just made her angrier when I came home again at some point. Overall, I was definitely scared of her. Piling complaints, stress and naggings onto a depressed daughter really really doesn’t help that daughter. Hands up, I admit that I was over-sensitive at times. Certainly sensitive to criticism, pressure to conform/obey/change myself and any form of rejection (these three things had been frequent enough in my past to result in a very sore wound that couldn’t really take much more). That would have coloured my view of life and I confess that it did in some ways. But not as much as my mother was making out. I know this, because my father was having the same problems with her.

    Anyway, the gaslighting. I tried to trust her. I tried to talk if I had a bad day, or was experiencing a deep ‘pit’, and most of all I tried to get through to her that I wasn’t doing as many chores as I could because I was so lacking in energy and motivation. I even tried to tell her that what would help was if the family had a rota, instead of her telling us to do things on a whim. She ignored that advice for ages, until one day she finally gave it a shot – and guess what, it worked.I tried to tell how how the atmosphere she was creating was making me feel. I tried to tell her how it was difficult and unfair for her to keep clawing my back about things, sometimes harmless things, considering that I was trying my best under the circumstances. I tried to get her to change the way she was treating me, but no matter how carefully I trod on eggshells or how polite I was, she would get defensive and offended.

    Tactic 1: Turn the subject around and get all emotional, launching in to a teary lecture about how I was being mean and hurtful by bringing up her ‘faults’. Continue to lecture about how I wasn’t helping around the house as much as I should be and how it was making her life so difficult. Five minutes later, she’d stop talking, walk away and leave me feeling confused, angry and ignored.
    Tactic 2: Tell me that what I was thinking/feeling “wasn’t being consistent with reality.” Apparently I needed to shape up and get my head in the right place. This sometimes happened if I was trying to tell her about bad things at school, but mostly when I was trying to tell her about her behaviour or the kind of emotions I was struggling with (e.g. low self esteem, fear, feeling ‘ugly’, ‘rejected’ etc).
    Tactic 3: Tell me that my depression was just ‘a hormonal phase’ and I should really just pull myself together and get on with things.

    According to her: people weren’t treating me the way I thought they were (slightly true upon reflection, but not 100%), neither was she, though if she was it was because of my failings. My emotions/perceptions were unreliable and leading me astray in my thinking/behaviour. I should ignore them. Getting all ‘feely’ was a bad thing.

    End result: not only did she grind me down with her nagging, ‘corrections’, lectures, anger and negativity, adding to my low self-esteem, but she left me with a deep, deep confusion and conflict over whether anything bad I experienced was actually happening the way I thought it was. Was the other person hurting me for real? Or where they being OK and it was just me having a stupid emotional reaction that “wasn’t consistent with reality”? Was I being over sensitive, making a big deal? Were my pains my own problem and fault, simply for feeling them (and thus the responsibility to stop them lay with me)? Ultimately, the answer to the last question became a “Yes”, and I would sometimes think that she was right – my depression was a result of me not managing my thoughts and emotions.

    It did not help my mental state at all, let me tell you. In fact it was probably what made it worse.

  38. I read this post with tears streaming down my face. My mum gaslights, and I’m just starting to realise how her behaviour/actions affect me. This post, along with the comments, are really articulate and have helped me make sense of this issue. Thank you.

  39. Is there any pyschologists that help victims. My step father has gaslighting my mother for years. I didn’t have a clue in why she was becoming more and more irrational and always complaining about her belongings being locked away in a storage unit for years. I’ve also been clause stalked aka gang stalked and so has other family members. I know he’s the one causing this touturing but he’s got me screwed. I’m stuck in life has a 2nd class citizen (diagnosed with multiple mental illnesses and a felon, all set ups from being druven insane. I started researching more, heard about gaslighting and my mother is literally living that movie and she doesn’t have the heart to just leave, Stockholm syndrome is pretty bad.

  40. This is amazing, as I have been in a relationship for almost three years, and I could not put my finger on what I was experiencing. I was starting to think that it WAS me – but not that I was going crazy, but more that I had turned into a bitter, suspicious and depressed woman. He would lie to me about the little things and then of course deny. He would also lie about the big things – for example stilling telling the military he was married (for the benefits) when he was divorved. He made me lie to everyone to tell them he was on deployment in Afghanistan when he was in Germany for most of the time. He would shout at me for so many things, and I would respond in tern with shouting, accusations, swearing – making me be someone who I did not think I could be – so hateful. I have been depressed, I gained weight, I tried breaking up with him countless times but he would not accept the break up, be apologetic, make promises, and I would allow him back in my life. We went to therapy together and most of the he would shout at me during the sessions, to the point the therapist had to intervene. He would say that this “our normal” that we love each so much and we will have to put with each others short comings. He said I asked too many questions. I never met his family in three years – only a random cousin, and his kids only once. I feel like his mistress and I justified EVERYTHING for the sake of the relationship. He used to hurt me during sex, and said he wanted to control me during sex.

  41. What is amazing is that this week – he finally “accepted” the break up. He finally said “I won’t fight you anymore to be with you”. And now of course I am wanting him back. And then I came accross this term “gas lighting” and I was floored. I wish I new about this before, and I wish our therapist would have discussed it as well, as I feel so strongly this is the behavoir I have been experiencing. I feel lifted that finally there is a accurate description of my life with him! And now I just need to keep reading about gaslighting over and over again to remind myself why I DON’T want him back!! Wow.

  42. “I would say the latter. Not to be paranoid about it but gaslighting is extremely common. Recognizing it
    should be part of every young persons facts of life introduction to reality.”

    I see enough material on this topic regarding the pain and type of damage to someone who became a VICTIM of gaslighting but not with regard to someone who could have been a victim but instead just recognised it and then was in shock that people actually commonly enough use this tactic in all various forms, especially subconsciously. The conscious orchestrations like physically hiding an object for a few days then watching you search everywhere for it and then finally put the object back into the house in a place you know you looked three times over, even once with the person there with you and then accusing you of having schizophrenia and have hidden it from yourself and returned it.
    Just being shocked that people do this. So shocked I now kind of look at every new person with very suspicious mind. So then you feel even MORE lonely in the world that you cant really trust anyone and get used to it….

  43. I have been targeted by this for many years myself and I am male. I experienced it from family, church, AA, and work. The thing that has helped me the most was accepting and learning to enjoy being alone, Buddhism helped me greatly with that. When you can learn to be totally independent your mental state will improve. I know that when I go to hang out with my mother I am going to be gaslighted. I simply accept it for what it is and go along with it. Trying to fight it only makes it worse.

    This advice is not meant for one who is in an abusive relationship that they can actually leave. My situation permeates every aspect of my life due to being a “gangstalking” target. I accept it for what it is.

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