Gaslighting: The Mind Game Everyone should Know About.

Via Alex Myles
on Aug 17, 2015
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Unfortunately, there is a good chance that we have all been gaslighted by someone at some point in our lives, even if it was just on a small scale by someone we barely know.

Sadly, many fall victim to it within their intimate relationships, or even in dealings with “friends” or family members.

There is also a high chance that we will have failed to spot someone was playing this insidious mind game with us and until we fully understand it, there is a high chance that it could happen again.

One of the main reasons we may not recognise it is that many of us will fail to believe those we trust and love are capable of manipulating us (it is this denial that keeps the dynamic going.) Also, the gaslighter will most likely be highly skilled at covering their tracks, keeping things subtle and being a skilled master or mistress of deception.

Gaslighting is one of the most extreme, dangerous and effective forms of emotional and psychological abuse and is mostly carried out intentionally. Gaslighting is a game of mind control and intimidation that is often used by narcissists and sociopaths as a way of controlling, confusing and debilitating someone.

The term gaslighting was coined in the 1938 play Gas Light and the film adaptions that were then created helped to enhance its popularity.

In the play the husband used forms of manipulation in an attempt to drive his wife crazy, for example he deliberately dims the gaslights in the house but told his wife that she was imagining it. With the use of various tricks he tried to convince his wife that she was going insane and also that she was losing her memory.

The whole intention of gaslighting is to decrease someone’s self-esteem and self-confidence so they are unable to function in an independent manner. The person being gaslighted will eventually become so insecure that they will fail to trust their own judgment, their intuition and find themselves unable to make decisions.

Eventually the victim will become so unsure of what reality looks like that they become completely dependent on their abuser. The abuser will appear to the victim to be the only one to have a clear grip of their mind and also of what is going on around them.

The abuser will systematically and frequently withhold information and then deliberately alter facts to disorientate their victim.

They may also remove things from certain places and then deny doing so to destabilize and confuse the other person.

The abuser will refrain from mentioning specific details and then convince the other person that they had told them, so the victim thinks they are losing their memory or their mind.

The abuser will say something then ask their victim to repeat what it is they have said. When the victim repeats clearly word for word, the abuser will lie to say they haven’t said a particular word, or that they have spoken it in a different tone of voice to that of which the abuser heard. For example, the abuser may say something angrily or aggressively, but when the victim gets upset, they will completely deny having used this tone, quickly changing their voice to a gentler and calmer tone. The abuser may then accuse their victim of deliberately trying to hear everything they say in a negative way—even though the abuser knows they deliberately wanted to appear as aggressive and negative.

Often, the abuser will want to create levels of distrust within the relationship to make the victim feel they either are cheating, or would cheat at the first opportunity. They may say things to make their victim feel insecure and jealous, for example, deliberately mentioning a certain person in a way that makes it sound as though there is more going on behind the scenes. When the victim questions this, the abuser will accuse the victim of having trust issues and this will falsely further confirm in the victim’s mind that they have serious insecurities and also, that they are extremely paranoid.

The abuser will make up very convincing lies to deliberately upset the other person and then call them names, mock them and put them down for getting upset and for overreacting. The abuser will also make light of anything that the victim feels is important to make the victim’s opinions, life-choices and thoughts seem juvenile or that they are inferior to their own. It is likely that the abuser will laugh at or sneer at their victim, but when questioned, convince their victim that they were imagining it.

Some warning signs that gaslighting is taking place:

Apologizing. A victim of gaslighting will constantly be apologizing for doing things wrong, even if they have done nothing wrong. Feeling sorry for everything means that the accountability and responsibility for all perceived wrong-doings has been claimed by one person—the victim. This ensures the perpetrator remains innocent and the victim is continuously guilty.

Can’t Make decisions. The victim will find decision making increasingly difficult, as they will feel that whatever they choose will be the wrong choice. Everything they do or say is wrong, so they feel that they are no longer capable of making rational decisions about anything, so they will leave it up to their abuser. This just gives the abuser even more power and control and prolongs the toxic dance that is taking place between the two.
Change. Change is not always easy to notice, since most change happens bit by bit, so the process can feel very natural in some ways. However, if the victim thinks back to who they were before the relationship and who they are now, they will probably see significant differences.

Confusion. Victims of gaslighting will often be in a constant state of bewilderment and confusion. They find it very difficult to trust their own mind, and constantly doubt their thought process. Their instinct fails to kick in because whenever it does, it is very quickly told that it is wrong, so it becomes a silent tool that ensures the gaslighter remains on top of their game. The victim will know that there is something seriously wrong, but they will find it extremely difficult to work out what. The person being gaslighted will always be wondering if they are overly sensitive as they always feel triggered to react to the gaslighter’s behaviour.

Withdrawn. The one being gaslighted will become withdrawn and often reclusive as they feel so low and beaten down that they have little confidence to socialise with anyone. The victim will feel safer spending time alone than with other people, as when those around them question what is wrong, or what is happening within their relationship, the victim just will not have the answers to justify what is going on.

Due to either depression or severe anxiety, the victim will find it extremely difficult to function normally within society or even with close friends or family. The abuser at this stage has won the battle for control, as without anyone to confide in the victim will find it very difficult to work out that it is the abuser that is causing the damage. The abuser will not want anyone to figure out their game, so, they will work hard to make sure their victim becomes alienated from anyone who could offer support.

Overall, the main reason for gaslighting is to create a dynamic where the abuser has complete control over their victim so that they are so weak that they are very easy to manipulate.

The gaslighter wants to appear superior to the one being gaslighted. By making their victim feel completely helpless with very low self-esteem, the abuser has complete domination over them, so they are very successful in manipulating their victim to get whatever it is they want. This can range from simply having their ego stroked by feeling like they are significantly better than the person they are with, and at the extreme end to being able to gain financial, sexual or material benefits as their victim feels too emotionally and mentally weak to fight back.

There are many reasons that someone would gaslight someone else, but it is always done for personal gain. The abuser has very little interest in their victim, other than using them for their own twisted benefit. When the victim becomes so low down that they are no longer of any great use to the gaslighter the relationship will die out. The abuser will distance themselves by ignoring their victim and using silent treatment as an intense form of emotional torture.

The victim will have no idea what to do to please or satisfy their abuser, and will often try anything to win over their abuser to regain the affection that was shown in the beginning stages. By now though, it is far too late. Any little amount of respect that the abuser had for their victim will have been completely depleted and it is very unlikely that the dynamic will change again.

The abuser will often walk away from their victim leaving them with a deep sense of frustration, shame, guilt, anger and often riddled with anxiety and depression. The victim is usually left in a vortex that they will struggle to climb out of, however, this will be compounded by a deep sense of relief that this vicious dance is over.

The abuser will walk away with a great feeling of satisfaction having won each and every battle and will move onto their next innocent victim with even more skill and experience, so they can begin this horrendous war once again.

The victim will very likely need counseling and a huge amount of support to build themselves back to a stage where they have confidence and can trust their own mind and intuition. It is imperative that the victim realizes that they have been a pawn in a very nasty game so they can let go of all the blame they have placed upon themselves and become familiar with the warning signs so that they do not fall victim again.

Anyone who has come through this type of experience will feel debilitated at first, however, they will only be temporarily weakened. They will bounce back stronger than before, having learned painful but valuable lessons along the way. The most important lesson—having complete faith in their intuition. As difficult as it is to accept, there are always red flags and warning signs in the initial stages.

When these signals show up, this is when we must trust completely in our instincts and never fail to listen to what our gut feelings are telling us. Our fight or flight reactions are there for a reason—to prevent us from entering into dangerous situations. When we feel an urgency to take flight—fly.

Fly far and don’t look back.



Identifying Emotional Abuse before it Happens.


Author: Alex Myles

Editor: Travis May

Photo: Donnie Nunley/Flickr



About Alex Myles

Alex Myles is a qualified yoga and Tibetan meditation teacher, Reiki Master, spiritual coach and also the author of An Empath, a newly published book that explains various aspects of existing as a highly sensitive person. The book focuses on managing emotions, energy and relationships, particularly the toxic ones that many empaths are drawn into. Her greatest loves are books, poetry, writing and philosophy. She is a curious, inquisitive, deep thinking, intensely feeling, otherworldly intuitive being who lives for signs, synchronicities and serendipities. Inspired and influenced by Carl Jung, Nikola Tesla, Anaïs Nin and Paulo Coelho, she has a deep yearning to discover many of the answers that seem to have been hidden or forgotten in today’s world. To purchase Alex’s paperback book or ebook please click here or click here to connect with her on Facebook, or click here to join Alex’s Facebook group for empaths and highly sensitive people to connect.


72 Responses to “Gaslighting: The Mind Game Everyone should Know About.”

  1. william says:

    I am a man. 31 years old. I have been married twice now. I crawl with anxiety she I think of my current wife. I have been terrified to speak of her to friends and family for few of her anger and shame. Many times she has pointed to past instances when I supposedly said and did something atrocious and I question my own recollections and judgement. Any help would be greatly appreciated. We have a 4 month old child together and my wife is an immigrant. She is rather helpless here without many family and friends. I think often of us separating but whenever the idea arises she suggests that i will never know my daughter and my daughter will know the " truth" about her father, that he didn't care for her. What do I do?

  2. Jolie says:

    If you are on Facebook there are so many support groups where you will meet many others going through the same things you are experiencing. I believe these groups have and continue to help so many people. My email address is on this link if you want the name of some really great groups, I’m happy to share them with you. Know this, you are NOT ALONR.. You are just beginning your healing journey.. I highly recommend Melanie Tonia Evans, she is based in Australia, has many free radio shows, webinars, monthly newsletters and is hands down one of my favorite voices on healing and understanding Narcissistic Abuse. She is not only a survivor, but is thriving after her horribly abusive relationship in which she was completely addicted to him, and nearly lost her life. I wish you peace during this healing time.. Sending love and light

  3. Julie says:

    I waited till I was 28 to get married when I met him he was 18 knocking at my door within a year my life was completely changed two years I didn't know who I was three years I didn't know who anyone ones…I started a new job new life but had the same old boss took me under her wing n taught my about gaslighting…I had answer! Like the light came on! I am not as I had become..nor could I ever be again…I'm stronger i I am smarter…I am free…thank you for this share!

  4. Bracetty says:

    I am gaslighting someone right now. Idk how to stop. I’ve treated people like this my whole life. It’s only been 4 months with this current person and I already feel like I own him. Reading this really scares me because I do all of this and I do it on purpose then I look back at it mentally and think “wow I have so much control, I can do what I want he’s so weak” ect and even laugh about it to my self. The scary thing is idk if I can stop

    how do I get help

  5. Nicole says:

    Bless you for saving my life and mental sanity! 🙂

  6. Anonymous says:

    Where can someone find help when this could be happening to them?

  7. TomC says:

    Can the gaslighter ever realize what they are doing is wrong, get help and outgrow this childish behavior. If so, what kind of help is best?

  8. Stephanie Holz says:

    Yeah, it’s really insane to be on the recieving end of this… This guy was very adamant that I WAS the abusive one, that I was the one making him angry and causing this reaction from him. And when I realised it was a serious pattern that wasn’t going to just end overnight, I tried to leave him… Yeah that didn’t go over well either. He’d throw himself on the ground screaming and crying and threatening suicide, or anohter time I tried to leave him he screamed at me, cornering me on his porch, and wouldn’t let me leave his house… …. Yeah, people are sometimes completely out of their minds…

  9. Johnny says:

    Is it possible to be subconsciously self-gaslighting? If the constant confusion, trouble with decision-making, apologizing, and withdrawnness is present, but no abuser can be identified or even imagined, what is the problem? Just general anxiety or general depression?

    Any help is appreciated.

  10. happy again says:

    I felt sick reading this is all to real and true to how my now ex husband treated me. So glad I found a bit of strength to be able to move on such a hard situation to get out of when your made to feel so useless and manipulated. Onwards and up ward's it's been since and enjoying life again.

  11. Marylyn Dunn says:

    Amen! I have said for a long time that he might be the Anti-Christ. Scary thought!!!

  12. Marylyn Dunn says:

    Veronica … your last paragraph stuck home. I suffer from Chronic Pain Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, anxiety and depression. It's a fight to put all that aside and have some form of life.

  13. Samantha says:

    My stepfather did this to me from the age 8 to 19 when I left home. My mother never said or did anything to stop him and later proclaimed to me that those particular years where the best of her life! When I left home she become his target. They are still together happy in their misery, ah isn’t karma beautiful hehe, myself I am stronger and better than ever!!!

  14. Taxi69 says:

    I think Fox News did this to Republicans. They haven't been able to think for themselves for week over a decade.

  15. Samantha says:

    Can anyone give advice on how to best help a friend leave this sort of relationship? She knows it’s happening but keeps coming up with reasons to stay or reasons why she can’t leave yet. I think she feels he may change but it’s obviously getting worse. It’s really hard to watch.

  16. Gabbie says:

    Yes Morgana I totally agree with you. 'Both parties were attracted to the situation.' Back in the 70's in the city where I live there was a murder. A 35 year old man molested, raped and murdered a 15 month old girl (baby). And you know what. They blamed him completely. I mean, it takes two to tango right! She was just as culpable in her own murder by attracting him. Maybe it was her baby..ish face? her smile? but whatever it was she was equally to blame for what happened to her…right? …right?

  17. Dan says:

    I fell deeply in love with a woman, more deeply than anyone ever before, then she did this to me. This was 5 years ago. She strung me along even after I tried breaking it off within the last two years, knowing I still loved her deeply. I finally told her to never contact me again, that was almost one year ago. I am still broken and deeply affected from her actions. I hate that I miss her and feel love for her. I wish I could scrape her from my mind. I was very successful and confident and never saw it coming. This can happen to even the strongest of people like me, I just fell hard for the wrong person.

  18. krysi says:

    "For example, the abuser may say something angrily or aggressively, but when the victim gets upset, they will completely deny having used this tone, quickly changing their voice to a gentler and calmer tone. The abuser may then accuse their victim of deliberately trying to hear everything they say in a negative way—even though the abuser knows they deliberately wanted to appear as aggressive and negative."

    Psychologically speaking, most who use that particular tactic (and others mentioned) do not deny or change bc they want the other party to think they are crazy. They do it bc it is funny, or they legit dont think they spoke in that tone. I moved this, but when you ask i will deny it. Not to make you question your sanity, but bc i do not wish to be blamed or held at fault (often resulting from childhood trauma or abuse, tho not always).

    While the behaviours in the article are pretty spot on for abusive relationships, the rational behind the behaviours is not quite as malicious as the article would have you believe. Such as never being accountable, specifically because the abuse believes they had zero role and it is really everyone elses fault, not bc they want others to believe it. ANother example:

    "They may say things to make their victim feel insecure and jealous, for example, deliberately mentioning a certain person in a way that makes it sound as though there is more going on behind the scenes. When the victim questions this, the abuser will accuse the victim of having trust issues and this will falsely further confirm in the victim’s mind that they have serious insecurities and also, that they are extremely paranoid."
    No. they say they will cheat, so they can maintain their personal belief that it is not their fault. "I TOLD you i would cheat. you cant be mad." and so on.

    Interesting read nonetheless.

  19. Lesley says:

    I have been reading up on Gaslighting because of the behaviour of 2 friends, mother and daughter towards me. Looking back their approach to life was always verging on creating a dramatic situation they could be the centre of but since I achieved my dream ambition (which was also theirs but they can never achieve) they appear to be resorting to Gaslighting to undermine my new happiness by misrepresenting things that happened in the past. Even when there are witnesses and documentary proof of what happened they still cling to their own versions. It makes me think that Gaslighting is far more dangerous than just trying to get power over someone. It suggests a psychopathic personality.

  20. Teresa says:

    The author says up top that there can be mild cases with people you don’t really know very well. For many other cases, I disagree that this describes the extreme. My gaslighter, my ex husband, was extremely intelligent and broke down several women this way. We were together for 18 years, and he boiled me degree by degree, and did it with such “concern” for me, I truly did not see it. I wound up attempting suicide and was diagnosed with PTSD. I had been controlling bipolar for many years, but in the end I lost control and had a psychotic breakdown. Three years after leaving him I am on Disability and have barely been able to crawl out. I found out later that more than one woman attempted suicide because of him. Best of all, he is a pastor.

    This is a horrible “technique.” I would have rather been hit because at least the bruises would have shown.

  21. Gayle Rancer says:

    Im a survivor. I regret I didn't know of this deliberate gaslighting. It's been awful, but I finally flew away and it's a relief. I couldn't have snapped back without good NEW friends and a supportive evolved man who chose to come into my life and help rescue me. And… lots of therapy. In the process I had to let go of EVERYTHING. It was a long painful process and now I feel totally free.

  22. GlassUkelele says:

    The bit about the victim hearing the abuser say something aggressive and the abuser denying the tone can be used the other way. I have had partners who would mishear words and tone in almost everything I said. Once to the point of where I was only allowed to talk to them in a hushed tone with my "eyes soft". It was part of the overall Change I went through during this abusive period. This article really opened my eyes about how it got so bad, and some things I had only suspected previously, thank you.

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