Gaslighting: Meaning

Gaslighting is a way of psychologically abusing someone by manipulating their mind so that they lose confidence and doubt themselves and their perceptions. The origin of the term comes from a 1944 movie titled “Gaslight”, in which an abusive husband makes his wife believe she is crazy and to doubt herself by telling her that she incorrectly sees the changes in a gaslight’s brightness; though she sees it correctly, he tells her she is wrong. Gradually, using various manipulations, he destroys her confidence and fills her with self-doubt.

The purpose of Gaslighting is to make the victim feel like he or she is wrong and that the abuser is right. Sensitive, considerate, caring people fall victim to this abuse because of their empathy and willingness to be “wrong”. The abuser counts on that. He or she uses the victim’s consideration against him.

Here we will explore some examples of Gaslighting with which victims of this abuse will likely be familiar.

Making You Think They Are Doing or Not Doing Something

The point of gaslighting is to distort the victim’s perception. One of the ways this is done is to misrepresent what the abuser is doing; of course, usually this is combined with implying what it is that the abused is doing wrong. Here are several examples of how this manipulation is carried out.

It Was Not My Intention

They continue the abuse, constantly interrupting you, for instance; you can never speak, they are domineering, demanding, exploitative; you call them on it and they innocently plead, “But it was not my intention to hurt you.” This is just a game to avoid accountability. It is obvious what is their intention and the fact that they keep abusing you reveals what is their intention.

I Was Only Joking

They belittle you, try to make you feel wrong, inadequate; you feel it in your bones, there’s no mistaking that feeling when you’re around someone and always feel like less than a human. You call them on it, they claim they were just joking and question why you can’t even take a joke.

I Was Just Trying to Help

Interfering with your personal life and relationships, nosy, spying on you; even sabotaging your relationships, manipulating people’s image of you. But their defense is that they were just trying to help. Another deflection. Of course, the intent is to make you think you’ve got a real friend and, Why would you refuse her help?

We All Make Mistakes

It’s an honest mistake or a misunderstanding, supposedly. They are trying to make you think they’re a good guy or gal, but just made a mistake or that you didn’t understand what they were trying to do. Unfortunately, you will notice they are still playing the same games, maybe more slyly, even after you call them on it all. And that’s how you know they’re not sincere in their “admission” of guilt.

Bait and Switch

They entice you with something, as soon as you go for it they withdraw the offer. It’s meant to make you look like a creep or a weirdo or just plain stupid. Here’s a secret: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.


Making You Think You Are or Are Not Doing Something

You’re Paranoid or Too Sensitive

The idea with both of these tactics is to make you feel like your response is incorrect. Even though it’s perfectly natural to be outraged at someone abusing you, they try to make you feel like it’s your own mental disorder to object to their abuse. You’re just being paranoid or over-sensitive. Making you feel paranoid will make you think you’re insane. Making you think you’re too sensitive preys on most people’s sense of being strong and independent, with a thick skin. Who cares what they think, though? They are wrong. Not you. Remember that.

Making it Harder

You organize something, they mess it up. They intentionally misplace things that you had in order. They make you feel guilty for not doing a chore, but make it difficult for you to do it. It’s a game of control; they are trying to control you and the environment, and manipulating the environment to distort your perception and make you think you’ve done something wrong or that you are worthless.

You’re Always Wrong

They shut you down, get haughty, look down on you, argue with you, tell you you’re wrong and get others to tell you you’re wrong, too. The idea is to instill self-doubt, make you stifle yourself, make you question yourself and not them. For the sensitive and caring, this is an easy trap to fall into because we are often self-critical and willing to accept blame. But don’t do it. They are wrong. Not you. Remember that. (Yes, I know, I already said that. I truly would like you to remember it.)

What About You?

This is a classic deflection used by the manipulator. You call them on their abusive behavior and they turn it around on you and say, “What about you? You’re doing it.” This is just a manipulation to divert attention away from their crimes. Again, don’t fall for it.

You’re Abusive, Cruel, and Hurtful

Many of these tactics are ways of turning attention away from the abuser’s behavior and putting it on you. They are abusive, harassing you, degrading you, spreading gossip about you, making you feel like you’re always doing something wrong; finally, you dig into them, having had enough. Then it’s their chance to make it look like you’re abusive and talk about how hurtful it was for you to say all that to them. Lies. They are victimizing you and then playing the victim. Sometimes this takes the form of the abuser “playing dumb”. And when you call them on their abuse, they can make it look like you’re just not understanding of them. A true mind game.

What To Do About It

It is important to understand that the Gaslighter is a coward; or else, they wouldn’t use sneaky tactics. They are hiding behind pretense, hiding their true intentions. This means they don’t want to be found out. One of the best ways to handle the Gaslighter is to call them out. This means you must be aware of what you are doing and what they are doing.

They prey on making you feel inferior and making themselves look superior. The trick is to forget about inferior and superior and just see what is happening. They are abusing you. Be aware of their tricks, see what they are; and, like you would stop someone from abusing a child at the supermarket, or anywhere, you must stop them from hurting you too.

Call them out, remove yourself, get away from them or end their terror. Being around them in their abusive mode will drain you, drag you down, distort your mind. Armed with awareness, you can pin-point their games and make them your target.

Now it’s time for you to shut them down.


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