The dictionary definition of gaslighting is:
“to manipulate (someone) by psychological means into doubting their own sanity”
When gaslighting is done well and repeated (in often extremely subtle and insidious ways) over months or years it can cause confusion and extreme self-doubt in the victim. It is important to note that people who experience chronic gaslighing aren’t weak or stupid, However, they are victims of cruel actions. A victim is someone who is harmed, injured, tricked or duped and gaslighting does all those things.
The Gaslighter will exploit any existing insecurities, traumas or self doubts already present, leaving victims drained, paralysed and dazed as they question the evidence of their own senses. It diverts the victim from what are often horrendous psychological and/or physical abuses delivered by the perpetrator.
Your gut feeling is that the behaviour isn’t okay, you are being played in some way but your general perception of reality is constantly challenged with seemingly ‘normal’ truths
“I didn’t say that, you’re imagining it”, “You didn’t have to eat ALL the leftovers” “Why are you flirting with that guy?” “No I didn’t do that, what I did was…” “Why are you always so angry?”
When you challenge the perpetrator you are met with a mixture of calm blank expressions, accusations, word salad, or complete invalidation and dismissal.
“Why are you lying – you always do/want/say this?” “Oh so you were trying to get something out of me were you?” “You are just making things up now” “You’re just trying to hurt me” “How dare you accuse me!”
They can even make you question what is real. In one extreme case a Gaslighter even tried to repudiate which university his victim went to….”You didn’t actually study there”
One of the key issues many victims report is the “constructed insecurities” created by the perpetrator which are drip fed over time. This forces the victim to focus on the (created and cruelly donated) ‘problems’ rather than the monstrous behaviour of the Gaslighter. When none of these ‘problems’ actually exist victims will spend days/months/years trying to be ‘better’ in order to please the perpetrator and meet their ever changing goal posts.
Common symptoms victims experience as a result of Gaslighting might be:
- Depression – but you just don’t know why
- Lack of confidence, loss of ‘voice’
- Lack of Self Worth & Identity
- Brain Fog
- Sense that “I’m a failure”
- Addiction – eating, drinking, shopping, surfing the web
- Zoning out from life