Gaslighting is a method for gaining power through manipulation. Unfortunately, it is extremely effective.
POINTS TO NOTE
- Gaslighting is a term inspired by the movie Gaslight, in which a husband manipulates his wife into thinking she is losing her mind.
- The slow process of gaslighting makes the victim question their own existence.
- A typical gaslighting technique involves denying something when there is proof, blatantly lying, and projecting on others.
An individual or entity uses gaslighting to gain more power by making a victim doubt their reality. It is surprisingly effective. A potential victim of gaslighting can be anyone, it is a strategy employed by abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. The victim is slowly brainwashed so they don’t realize how deep their brainwashing has gone. In the movie Gaslight (1944), a man manipulates his wife to the point that she believes she is losing her mind.
Typical gaslighting techniques include:
1. They tell outright lies. There’s no doubt about it. They do so, however, with a straight face. But why? To establish a precedent. The moment someone tells you a big lie, you don’t know if anything they say is true. The goal is to keep you off-balance and unsteady.
2. Even though you have proof, they deny saying anything at all. The fact that you heard them say something doesn’t change that. Instead, they deny it outright. It makes you rethink your reality — maybe they didn’t say that. As they do this more and more, you begin to question your own reality and accept theirs instead.
3. They use what you hold close to your heart as ammunition. They understand how important your kids are to you, and they understand how important your identity is to you. They may start by attacking those things. You are told if you have children that you shouldn’t have had them. They’ll tell you that you’d be a worthy person if only you didn’t possess so many negative characteristics. They attack your very core.
4. Over time, they wear you down. Gaslighting is insidious because it happens gradually and over time. Then it ramps up…a little lie here, a little lie there, a snide comment every now and then. It is so effective that gaslighting can sway even the most self-aware of people. As with the “frog in the pan” analogy, the heat is turned up slowly, so the frog never notices what is happening.
5. Their words and actions do not match. Be aware of what a gaslighter is doing rather than what they say when dealing with them. Their words are meaningless. What they do matters.
6. Positive reinforcement is thrown into the mix to confuse you. Someone or some entity who is cutting you down, telling you that you have no value, is now praising you. The feeling of discomfort is heightened. You think, “Well maybe they’re not so bad.” Yes, they are. It’s a calculated attempt to keep things going. Consider what you were praised for; it’s likely something that served your gaslighter.
7. They are aware that confusion weakens people. The gaslighters know that people want a sense of stability and normalcy. They aim to uproot this by constantly making you question everything. Humans are naturally inclined to seek stability from the person or entity that will provide stability-and that happens to be the gaslighter.
8. They project. It is they who are cheating or using drugs, yet they are constantly accusing you of those things as well. The gaslighter does this so often that you start to defend yourself, which distracts you from their own behavior.
9. Their goal is to align people against you. They use these people against you by manipulating and finding the people whom they know will stand by them no matter what. The person will make comments such as “This person knows you’re not right,” or “This person knows you’re useless too.” Keep in mind this does not mean that the individual said these things. Gaslighters are constant liars. This tactic makes you feel like you have no one to turn to, which makes you turn back to the gaslighter. That’s exactly what they want: Isolation gives them more control.
10. They say you’re crazy. Gaslighters commonly use this method because it is dismissive. People will not believe you when you tell them the gaslighter is abusive or out of control if they question your sanity. It’s an art form.
11. They tell you that everyone else is a liar. It makes you question your reality by telling you that everyone else is a liar. This is something you have never witnessed before, so they must be telling the truth, right? Incorrect. They are manipulating you. As a result, people turn to the gaslighter for the “correct” information-which isn’t actually true.
Knowing these techniques makes it easier to identify them and avoid falling into gaslighters’ traps.