According to the definition provided in Wikipedia:
Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or members of a targeted group, making them question their memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying gaslighting involves attempts to destabilize the victim and delegitimize the victim’s belief.
Actually, this term became popular only in 1944 after the release of the film called “Gaslight.”
It reveals the story of a husband who is trying to continually brainwash his wife, pushing her to the point where she considers herself crazy. The wife struggles to defend who she is while her husband tries to undermine her confidence in her judgments and way of thinking.
Additionally, the movie “Gaslight” discusses the issue that the victims could develop the so-called Stockholm Syndrome. What happens is they feel unconfident in their way of thinking and in how they see reality. That is the reason why people who have been gaslighted become dependent on their abuser.
Who can be a victim of gaslighting?
Unfortunately, no-one could be one hundred percent sure they won’t be a victim of gaslighting one day. For instance, some people are gaslighted by religious or political leaders. But while these cases are not that common, everyone can easily experience gaslighting in their personal life without even knowing about it. That could happen because it’s difficult to realize we are close to such a person. Furthermore, gaslighting is a slow process, so the abused person won’t understand that something wrong is even taking place.
It’s hard to find out that you have been the victim of gaslighting also because similarly to a narcissist, the gaslighter will be hiding their true colors. At first, you may even feel guilty that you doubt their actions.
Here is how Shannon Weber describes the symptoms of gaslighting:
“It is not okay for someone you like to treat you poorly and then pretend it didn’t happen, making you question your grasp on reality. This dynamic is called gaslighting. It’s a common tactic of abusers to shift the focus of the blame from their bad behavior onto the person they are victimizing. One important side effect of gaslighting is having your memory “blackout” after a fight (because your brain is trying to protect you from the cruelty of the abuse), which results in not being able to remember how an argument started. You may begin to internalize the idea that there is something wrong with you and that you did something to provoke the situation as you’re increasingly beaten down and confused.”
Examples of Gaslighting
So, you think you might be a victim of gaslighting manipulation? Take a look at the unmistakable signs of gaslighting listed below:
First, gaslighters lie. Always. On top of that, it’s pretty evident that they do. And the worst of all is that they do it with such ease. They do it by establishing an abusive relationship with their victims. As a result of their behavior, the victims become unconfident in everything they think or do. And that is precisely what the gaslighter aims.
2. Twisting reality
Another tactic these abusers use is denying things they’ve done (in case no-one can prove they’ve done something). For instance, they deny having said something and may ask you to ‘prove it. Still, this might not be possible since you probably can’t remember everything. And even if you do they would deny that the things you are saying are true. As a result, you start doubting your perception of reality. Even worse, you begin to wonder if the abuser and not you is right. Consequently, you begin to feel uncertain about your judgments more and more often.
3. They find problems everywhere
Gaslighters find problems in everything you do, especially in your favorite occupations. If you love your job, they will immediately try to prove you are not good at it. And the worst of all is that these people could turn you against your closest people. This way, they deprive you of the support of your family and friends and make you more vulnerable to their abusive influence and manipulations.
4. They change who you are
One of the most severe consequences of gaslighting is that in the end, you become someone completely different. Furthermore, you are not aware of what you are going through since the manipulation takes place slowly. So the process might last for a long time before the person is transformed into someone else. Sadly, even the most positive and self-confident individual can end up full of doubts and uncertainties without even knowing why. That’s what happens when the gaslighter replaces the victim’s own point of view.
5. Their words don’t correspond with their actions
Gaslighters talk but when it comes to actions they retreat and deny having said or promised they would do something. So if you think someone gaslights you pay attention if their words correspond with their actions at least most of the time. Be careful with people who try to persuade you to act and think the way they want. These individuals also usually claim they would do something only if you do it first and also try to persuade you they will do it only because of you.
6. They break you down emotionally
A common practice of a gaslighter is to ruin someone emotionally and then to try to reestablish the emotional balance of their victim but, only to tear them down again. Once the gaslighter has made you uncomfortable, they would give you a reward or do something nice to make you feel okay. However, this is only done to make you think that the abuser isn’t a bad person.
7. Living in confusion
Gaslighters never say what they want, and this way put their victims under constant pressure. They do that by making the victim live without having a clear idea of what is going to happen in the future. The constant confusion that comes from the abuser’s behavior makes the victim unconfident and full of doubts.
8. Feeling crazy
The gaslighter tries to make you doubt your sanity and then finds it easy to impose their point of view on you. Consequently, if they call you crazy, you will believe them.
Further, the gaslighter may also tell and try to convince others that you are crazy.
This way, you will eventually lose the support of the other people because they will start doubting your perception of reality and your judgment about different situations. In the end, others won’t be taking you seriously.