What Is Gaslighting? Examples And How To Recognize It

what does gaslighting mean

You’ve probably heard of the term “gaslighting” before, but what does it really mean? What are the signs that you’re being gaslighted? What can you do to avoid being manipulated by someone you care about? Learn more about this behavior with this free video on psychology.

Gaslighting can take on many different dimensions, and most importantly, it is much more common than it seems. Typical gaslighter phrases are: “I didn’t say that,” “You’re confusing something,” “It’s just a joke,” and “You are too sensitive.” If you often hear this at your address, we advise you to beware.

What Is Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse where one person in a relationship uses verbal and nonverbal communication to intentionally confuse the target, making them question their sanity and reality [1]. Gaslighting is usually done to gain power and control over someone else, and it is a form of emotional abuse. [2]

The term “gaslighting” was first introduced in 1944 in the American film “Gaslight” by George Cukor. This movie was based on the play “Gas Light” by Patrick Hamilton, which was published in 1931.

The film’s plot tells about the wife who falls into her husband’s hands, forcing her to think that she is mentally ill. At the movie’s beginning, the husband convinces his beloved that she is not talented at singing and persuades her to leave her career and return home to live there.

Then, he begins to arrange strange incidents, making the girl think that nothing unusual is happening around. As it turns out, the hero does all this to take possession of his wife’s inheritance.

Who Are Gaslighters?

Who Are Gaslighters?

Gaslighters are masters of manipulation and can make you feel like your every move is wrong. If you are being gaslighted, you may feel guilty or even as if you are a bad person, and you might start doubting yourself.

Gaslighting can occur in a relationship, in business, or at work. It is insidious and, as we will learn, is often used to manipulate and hurt people. A person who’s like that isn’t easily recognizable at first glance since their insidious nature is so insidious.

It often begins in a subtle and nonverbal way. The person may correct your thinking, refute your assertions, or devalue your emotions. This continues until you gradually become aware of your thoughts, emotions, perceptions, and memories.

Signs Of Gaslighting In A Relationship

Signs Of Gaslighting In A Relationship

Gaslighting can be calculated by a number of characteristic signs. To do this, you need, first of all, to carefully listen to your own feelings. Here is a list of “symptoms” that may signal that you are in a relationship with a manipulator: Take the Gaslighted Quiz.

  • You think you are doing everything wrong;
  • You push your desires into the background;
  • You feel anxious and insecure;
  • You always blame yourself if something goes wrong;
  • You find it difficult to make even simple decisions;
  • You suspect yourself of excessive sensitivity;
  • You stopped enjoying your favorite activities;
  • Do you think that you used to be more confident and cheerful;
  • You often apologize to your partner, parents, and colleagues.

It’s a rule that psychological abuse occurs gradually and imperceptibly. A person being gaslighted goes through three different stages. Sometimes they are inconsistent, and sometimes they overlap.

1. Denial

At this manipulation stage, you might notice your partner behaving more strangely than usual. Please don’t give it much thought, though. For example, if you call him out for a bad habit that he has, he may become angry with you. You don’t mind if people agree or disagree with you because your perspective has its merits.

2. Protection

You began to doubt yourself and your perception of reality. He feels increasingly criticized by the manipulator and feels frazzled but continues to defend himself. You’re arguing with the gaslighter and consistently trying to find evidence to prove your case, so you’ll never let him control the conversation.

3. Depression

The victim doesn’t have the strength to fight and argue – she loses her “I.” You begin to believe the gaslighter’s accusations about you and agree with all of them in order to gain his favor. This sounds like it’s a recipe for disaster. The most common cause of the disease is depression. Some of the symptoms are irritability, loss of interest in activities, and difficulty making decisions.

Gaslighting Tactics

Gaslighting Tactics

A gaslighter uses a variety of tactics to mislead his victim and influence their perception of reality. Brainwashing works. It’s an old but very effective psychological technique used by the Soviet Union, Russia, and other countries to manipulate people.

Gaslighting is when people try to manipulate you into thinking that you’re wrong or irrational. Watch yourself and those close to you. You may be able to recognize yourself or someone you know as the manipulator or a victim.

1. Denial of Facts

Lighters love to rewrite history. They make a person doubt their memories by changing the facts. Even if the evidence suggests otherwise, the manipulator may deny having said anything at all.

He’s going to accuse the victim of lying. Gaslighters can be so convincing that people start to believe their stories. The situation is worse if the victim is not paying attention.

2. Bad Jokes

Gaslighters often come from a close circle. These are the people who have the greatest influence on us. They know how we feel, so they can use this information against us if they wish.

This can include making caustic, rude jokes about the victim, making inappropriate remarks, or giving an offensive nickname. They don’t fool us.

It’s all for the benefit of the manipulator because they are hurting and humiliating the other person, and that makes them feel good.

3. Devaluation of Emotions

People who gaslight typically discount and ignore other people’s feelings. I can’t believe that was such a bad joke. I was going to laugh at myself until I heard you get so offended!

“Don’t make an elephant out of a fly.” If you say that you feel bad, he will answer:

“Better do something useful.” The manipulator shifts the focus to their own experiences and needs, ignoring the state of mind of the victim.

Over time, a person learns to believe that all his emotions and reactions are right and begin to trust his feelings. The gaslighting victim ends up being so desperate to stop the abuse that she accepts the gaslighting in order to feel safe again.

4. Emphasizing the Inadequacy of Perception

Occasionally, you might need to check the clock with other people. We are looking for evidence of the accuracy of our perception of reality and the adequacy of statements. I don’t know.

He is able to do this because he knows all of his victims well. He knows that they will blame themselves for what happened, and for any of his words, he has the skill to know just how to blame the victim. This is the exact effect that the manipulator gets.

5. Shifting Responsibility

Gaslighting is an insidious psychological trick used to deny someone his or her true self. He will look for the guilty among those around him and will always come up with an excuse. “I was provoked.” “I was forced.

People often react in a similar fashion when they get a compliment they didn’t intend. You took me out,” he said. “Now it’s your turn to do something for me.

The perpetrator blames the victim for the actions that he or she engages in. Because of this, a person will begin to make excuses and switch attention from the gaslighter to himself.

6. Aggression and Hostility

The gaslighter is always on the offensive—his favorite form of defense attacks. For example, if you suspect such a person of treason, he will accuse you of pathological jealousy, low self-esteem, and self-doubt. And if you show him evidence, he will become aggressive.

His job is to make the victim feel inferior. In addition, the gaslighter tends to belittle the successes and achievements of his victim. Marker phrases: “At your age, I knew how to do this for a long time,” “Nothing special,” “Everyone can do it,” “And you try to do it faster / better.”

Examples of Gaslighting

Examples of Gaslighting

If you’re being treated as if you are the only one who matters in a relationship, and if someone makes you feel that you have no choices and can’t make a change, that If you want to learn how to use examples effectively, read this book. It will help you understand why you should use examples.

Couples Gaslighting

Here’s an example of how to use this in a sentence: Example: A woman is sure that her husband is cheating on her. He notices that she’s wearing makeup and lipstick.

The boss is increasingly late at work and doesn’t pick up the phone. If he’s telling the truth, then that means I am really crazy! I thought you were smart. See a psychologist! Don’t distract me from work!

She’s starting to doubt her original conclusions, blaming herself for being too suspicious, and she’s finally apologizing to her husband for baseless accusations.

Gaslighting For Children

Example: a boy gets an A in chemistry, a subject that is given to him with great difficulty. After school, he hurries home to please his parents.

He proudly shows the diary to his father, and in response, he hears: “So what? What are you so happy about? Also, a great achievement for me! At your age, I generally had only fives. And you’re not trying hard enough.”

Bottom line: according to the father, this is how he stimulates his son’s interest in learning and motivates him to strive for high results. In fact, the child ceases to trust his own emotions, becomes convinced of his insolvency, and grows up insecure.

Gaslighting With Friends

Example: One friend regularly criticizes another about her looks, hobbies, interests, and tastes. “I’m only telling you all this because I love you,” the girl explains. In addition, she likes to make sharp jokes about her friend and tell them what they say about her behind her back. Most of the time, these are hurtful things. But sometimes you can hear a compliment from her.

Bottom line: a girl’s self-esteem drops, but she continues to communicate with a toxic girlfriend because she creates the appearance of caring. In addition, the gaslighter wants to isolate the insecure girl from other people to gain more control over her. And her rare compliments are a way to confuse and keep her on the hook.

Gaslighting in The Workplace

Example: a new employee receives an assignment from a manager. He writes down everything that needs to be done and gets to work. When the assignment is completed, the boss reprimands the subordinate in front of everyone. He claims to have asked for something else. The employee shows the notes, but the manager replies indignantly: “Are you kidding me? How could I give you such an order! Are you all right?”

Bottom line: after a few remarks, the employee begins to believe that he misunderstands the words of the management. He gets confused, feels insecure in meetings, feels guilty, and is constantly under stress. As a result, its performance drops [3].

In addition, experts distinguish the following types of manipulation.

  • Self-gaslighting: when a person denies and devalues ​​their own feelings (“I always exaggerate everything”, “I am ashamed to be upset because of this”, “I am too sensitive”).
  • Physician gaslighting: when a doctor ignores a patient’s complaints, mistakenly believing that their symptoms are the result of a psychosomatic disorder.
  • Racial Gaslighting: When gaslighting techniques are applied to a person because of their race or ethnicity.
  • Political gaslighting: when politicians refer to the mental instability of opponents, distort facts, or hide information in order to gain control over people.

Why Gaslighting Is Dangerous

Why Gaslighting Is Dangerous

A gaslighted person stops believing that he’s being truthful or believes that others are lying to him. The manipulator will slowly start to convince him that he is mentally ill.

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse that is used to control, manipulate, and manipulate people. Some examples of codependency include eating disorders, an inability to handle conflict, depression, and emotional and/or physical abuse.

If you think about it, it’s almost impossible for the manipulator to stay in touch with someone if he or she refuses to do anything with him.

“Victims of gaslighting usually have very low self-esteem. People who think they are bad may find it difficult to accept compliments from others because they do not recognize themselves in their own opinion.

You instantly feel different, explains Anastasia Afanasyeva, a psychiatrist, psychotherapist, and specialist in the Alter psychologist selection service.

Another important point: emotional abuse often becomes an assault. If someone is gaslighted during a first date, they’re likely to experience physical violence or verbal abuse later on.

According to experts, gaslighting can cause schizophrenia. “Psychosis can potentially happen, but it’s unlikely that gaslighting will be the main trigger for this.

The majority of women have had this gene for hundreds of years. It is probably a very old gene that is passed down genetically.

But to forget what’s happening to you, to lose confidence in your own memory, and to start devaluing what is happening to you – these are the direct consequences of gaslighting.

The best way to see the destructive effects of gaslighting in real life is to have a loved one that goes through it. Biodegradable is the literal translation of the word, which is also sometimes used as a euphemism for “poop”.

In the 1970s and 1980s, this method was actively used by members of the GDR secret services to fight the “internal enemy”.

They entered the houses of dissidents and made minor changes to the interior: they hung towels, rearranged papers, opened windows, changed dishes, or poured a different kind of tea into the kettle.

People at night were bothered by strange calls, their cars were moved to other places, and passers-by in the streets often called them by other names.

As a result, many politicians stopped political activity and sometimes even took their own lives. All that was done to undermine someone’s faith in his own inadequacy. Those who were demoralized by their defeat quickly withdrew into themselves, stopped leaving the house, and became crazy.

How To Deal With Gaslighting

How To Deal With Gaslighting

The psychological pressure can last for years before the victim realizes what’s going on.

At the same time, relationships with a gaslighter are characterized as dependent or codependent, which means that it is particularly difficult to escape from them.

Some useful tips to help you resist manipulative techniques are listed here.

1. Trust your feelings

Listen to your feelings more often. If you’re upset, then you are. Nobody has to convince you otherwise. Remember that you know yourself much better than anyone else, and your judgment of yourself is much more accurate than the opinion of a gaslighter.

Do not try to convince the manipulator during disputes – it is pointless. Be firm: stick to your own version of events and facts. This way, you can deal with uncertainty even if the gaslighter builds up the pressure.

The main thing when communicating with him is a confident tone and a decisive attitude. But you can’t show the aggressor doubts and fears.

“In order to avoid becoming a victim of gaslighting, it is important to be clear about your physical and emotional boundaries. That is, you need to understand what is personally acceptable for you and what is not.

If a person is well versed in his emotions, knows what his life values ​​\u200b\u200band what he aspires to, then it will be extremely difficult to devalue his words and question his perception of reality,” explains Anastasia Afanasyeva.

2. Enlist the support of friends

Ask people you trust to look at the situation from the outside. Do they notice your “strangeness”? Do you really have the problems that the gaslighter always talks about?

In addition, experts advise recording events: keeping a personal diary, taking photographs, and recording conversations on a voice recorder.

Firstly, this way, you will always have evidence at hand that can be presented at the right time. Secondly, it will allow you to double-check your own words and memories. If you are convinced you are right, the gaslighter will not be able to control you.

“The challenge here is not to find the “right” solution but to get a variety of opinions. Perhaps you will see that reality is not as unambiguous as it is presented to you.

In addition, sometimes it is useful to sit down and write a story in the third person as if watching yourself from the side. This exercise will help you understand more clearly whether something is really wrong with you or with another person,” advises Anastasia Afanasyeva.

3. Don’t let yourself be blamed

The next time the gaslighter begins to distort the facts and try to make you doubt your own adequacy, tell him directly that you are not ready to put up with his behavior.

Let the manipulator know that you have figured out his tactics. Clearly define your boundaries and calmly explain that his words offend you; in the future, you will not tolerate it.

If all else fails and the manipulator continues to gaslight you, be prepared to minimize or completely stop communicating with him. The chances that the aggressor will change his behavior are reduced to zero.

4. Ask for help

The longer a person is exposed to gaslighting, the more devastating the effects will be. For example, when it comes to gaslighting as a couple or between family members. Often the victim succumbs to manipulation only because she needs to stay in a relationship with the manipulator and not break it off.

In this case, you need to reconsider the tactics of your behavior and start following the new rules. It is best to seek help from a qualified professional.

A psychologist will help you cope with anxiety and fears, sort out your doubts and get out of the situation with the most negligible losses.


You can’t be born a gaslighter. But you can be born with a predisposition to certain behaviors. Due to the type of nervous system or the physiological characteristics of the body, a person, for example, may be less sensitive to the suffering of others.

Abusive behavior is formed when a child observes how a significant adult uses such manipulative techniques when interacting with him or with other people.

Some parents like to say: “You are making it up – it didn’t happen,” “I didn’t say this and couldn’t say it,” “You dreamed,” “What are you whining about – nothing terrible happened.”

If you have heard such phrases addressed to you and at the same time began to doubt your memories or feelings, you have encountered manifestations of gaslighting.

People prone to abusive behavior rarely consider how it affects others. They seek to derive their own benefit from what is happening. And doubts about whether they behave correctly, as a rule, do not visit them – this is due to the protective mechanisms of their psyche. Therefore, gaslighting is usually noticed by the person carrying it out.

If you want to save the relationship, try telling your partner that you feel uncomfortable when he does this to you. Focus on your feelings and ask him to pay attention to them.

The partner will most likely need professional psychotherapeutic help to get rid of the gaslighting pattern. But if making the relationship more comfortable is your mutual desire, he will most likely take such a step.

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Rebecca Marie

Rebecca Marie, MA, LMHC, LPC, MAA is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and is an expert in anxiety, stress, depression, and relationship issues.

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