Gaslighting is a form of manipulation and psychological control. Victims of gaslighting are systematically fed false information that leads them to question what they know to be true, often about events which they know to be true. They may end up doubting their perception, their memory, their judgement, and even their own sanity. Over time, the lies become more complex so that it becomes difficult for the victim to see the truth. It results in the victim losing confidence in themselves and in their feelings of self worth.
The term originates from the 1938 stage play “Gaslight” by Patrick Hamilton where the victim’s husband engages in her systematic manipulation. There were later film versions. One starring Ingrid Bergman. In the story, the husband attempts to convince his wife and others that she is insane by manipulating small elements of their environment and insisting that she is mistaken. That she is remembering things incorrectly. The play’s title alludes to how the abusive husband slowly dims the gaslights in their home, while pretending nothing has changed, in an effort to make his wife doubt her own perceptions. He intends on having her assessed and committed to a mental institution, after which he will be able to gain power of attorney over her.
How does Gaslighting begin?
A relationship with someone who gas lights may seem to start out quite well. They may complement the victim on a first date and immediately confide in them. Such disclosure often establishes trust quickly.
What are a Gaslighter’s tactics?
A gaslighter may at first lie about simple things, but the lies become more frequent, complex and involved. The gaslighter may also accuse the victim of lying if he or she questions them. They gaslighter will also be seemingly kind and understanding to confuse the victim. At the same time, they may attempt to turn others against the victim, even their own friends and family, by telling them that the victim is a liar or is delusional.
How to recognise a Gaslighter?
Almost anyone can be susceptible to gaslighting tactics, which have been deployed throughout history, and continue to be used today, by domestic abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. Even strong personalities can be drawn in. The most effective gaslighters are often the hardest to detect.
Who becomes a Gaslighter?
Many galighters often have a narcissistic personality. Manipulators have a tendency to present one face to their victims and another to the rest of the world. Victims then think that if they ask for help or speak out, no one will believe that they have been manipulated and emotionally abused. Gaslighters typically repeat the tactics across several relationships.
What’s the difference between “Gaslighting” and manipulation?
Manipulation is a key part of gaslighting. Manipulation is, of course, employed by many people, and almost anyone is capable of using it to get what they want. Gaslighting though is more insidious and thankfully more rare. Children try to manipulate parents at an early age, and marketeers aim to manipulate consumers, but gaslighting involves a pattern of abusive behaviour with the intent not just to influence someone, but to control them.
Gaslighting can be psychologically devastating. It violates trust, destroys a person’s view of themselves, and can make them suspicious of everyone who is close to them. Falling victim to a gaslighter also erodes a person’s self worth and confidence. Later the victim blames themselves for having been too trusting, vulnerable, or dependent. The experience can cause a victim never to want to be part of a relationship again.