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Gaslighting is a term that many people may not be familiar with. It is the term used for a particular type of manipulative behaviour. The name comes from a play called “Gaslight” where the husband character manipulates and torments his wife to convince her she is going mad. Gaslighting is the act of manipulating the victim so much that they begin to question their thoughts, memories and events that have happened around them. It can cause the victim to be pushed so far that they even question their sanity.

Where Does It Occur?

Gaslighting mainly happens in dating or married relationships but it isn’t uncommon to occur in many types of relationships. It has been known to happen in controlling friendships or even with family members and it is a type of manipulation. People use this type of manipulation to exert power over others.

How Does It Work?

Gaslighting is a technique that undermines and makes you questions your perception and understanding of reality. After communicating with the gaslighter you are left feeling dazed and confused and wonder what is wrong with you. When in fact, there is nothing wrong with you at all, it is the person showing the controlling behaviour but it is hard to remember that. The manipulation will begin slowly so that the victim does not know what is happening. It is a slow form of abuse that then takes the target by surprise.

Typical Gaslighting Behaviour

There are lots of different types of behaviour that can happen as a form of gaslighting.

– Lying to you – Gaslighters are habitual and pathological liars. They will lie straight to your face and will never admit that they have been untruthful even if you prove them wrong. Even if you know the person is not telling the truth, they can be so convincing that you begin to question what you know.

– Deflecting or shifting blame – When you ask a gaslighter about their behaviour or actions they will respond in a way such as “that never happened”. Shifting the blame is a very common behaviour as they will twist anything about them onto you. They will manipulate everything so that the victim believes that they are the reason for the bad behaviour.

– Creating a codependent relationship – Codependency is known as excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner. If you are a victim of gaslighting you feel anxious and doubt yourself. A gaslighter will threaten to take away the safety, security and acceptance that they have given. This leaves the target vulnerable and totally under control.

– Twisting conversations – This tactic usually happens when the victim and the gaslighter are discussing something that has happened in the past. When stories and memories are constantly retold in the gaslighters opinion then the victim doubts their memory of what happened. Such as if you were pushed by your partner against a wall, they would say that you stumbled and fell.

– Giving false hope – From time to time, the gaslighter will act compassionately towards the victim and show remorse. This is a tactic to give false hope to the target regarding the relationship. They might start to think that things aren’t that bad and that things will get better. The target would then be off-guard and the gaslighter will be able to gain even more control.

Signs Of Gaslighting

Being subjected to gaslighting can cause serious depression and anxiety and is linked to panic attacks, nervous breakdowns and in some serious cases, suicide. For this reason, victims must be aware of the signs being gaslighted and the effects it has on the target. As gaslighting is a form of abuse some of the signs can be similar to other types of abuse.

– Feeling vulnerable and insecure or possibly like you have to be careful around your partner so as not to annoy them.

– Doubt how you are feeling and tell yourself that what is happening is not that bad.

– Afraid to say what you are thinking or feeling as when this happens you are made to doubt yourself.

– Feeling confused by your partner’s behaviour as it changes frequently towards you

– Start to wonder if you are going crazy/insane as this has been told to you so you start to believe it

– Feelings of entrapment and isolation because you fear everyone around you believe your partner and that you are unsure of what you know is right.

– Feeling the need to apologise all the time for whatever you do even if you know you haven’t done anything wrong.

– Struggle to make decisions because you have so much doubt in yourself.

– Frequently wonder what is wrong with you and that you deserve this treatment.

If after reading this you feel as if you may be experiencing gaslighting and you are unsure of what you should do you must speak to a health care professional who will be able to help you and support you. If not dealt with, gaslighting can and will take a serious toll on your self-esteem and mental health. Remember that you are not to blame, the other person is responsible for their actions, and it is not acceptable.

All clinicians at Oxford CBT practice Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or are Psychologists, providing evidence-based interventions and support for a range of issues for both young people and adults. If you would like to book an appointment you can do so on our online booking portal. If you have a question please get in touch via our online contact form or call us on 01865 920077.

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