Gaslighting Examples, Effects and How to Confront the Abuse

Gaslighting: Examples, Effects and How to Confront the Abuse

Gaslighting is a form of brainwashing and manipulation that happens on a regular basis.

What is Gaslighting?

The goal of the gaslighter is to make the victim doubt themselves. Gaslighting abuse causes a person to lose their sense of identity, perception, and worth. Gaslighting is a form of narcissism and sociopathic tendencies as they look to gain power over someone.

What is Gaslighting

Pathological gaslighting is a severe form of abuse through mind control. It can happen in the workplace, with society, friends, family, and relationships. Gaslighting abuse is extremely destructive to victims. Before you ever have to deal with this mode of abuse, learn how to defend yourself against gaslighting. As it is so subtle and manipulative, you will likely need to do some research. Online, you can take an, “am I being gaslighted quiz.”

Where Does the Term Gaslighting Come From?

To understand the gaslighting meaning, you would have to look at the 1930’s stage play called Gaslight (or Angel Street in the U.S.) The play portrays a husband trying to convince his wife and other people that she’s crazy. He manipulates her environment in subtle ways.

He makes her believe that these things aren’t happening and that she hasn’t remembered things correctly. In the play, there is a dimming of the gaslights in the house. She discusses the dimming lights with her husband but he tells her she has imagined this too.

In the 1960’s, gaslighting became a term to describe manipulating someone’s perception of what is real.

Gaslighting Behavior Examples

Gaslighting Behavior Examples

There are stages of gaslighting behaviors that start from subtle to more severe. With any type of abuse, the gaslighter doesn’t want to push the boundaries too far at first. It is a slower form of abuse that takes you by surprise. Here are some examples of gaslighting:

Lying and Exaggerating

The gaslighter will say negative things about you indicating inadequacies, causing you to be defensive.

A husband might say, “my wife is so pathetic, and she should know it.”

A boss may say something like, “Your department is the weakest link to the company, why do you think you should even have a job here?”

Repetitive Gaslighting Behavior

Gaslighting wouldn’t be effective if it were just every once in a while. To gain total control, one has to constantly maintain their offense. Gaslighting narcissists and sociopaths will play psychological warfare in order to dominate the relationship and keep everything in their control.

Disputes are Escalated if Gaslighter is Challenged

Gaslighting tactics will escalate if you attempt to call them out on the lies they are telling. The will start to come up with evidence to prove they are right about your inferiority and uselessness. They will refute evidence. The gaslighter will deny, blame, sow doubt, and add more false claims. You will become so confused that you don’t know what’s right from wrong anymore.

The Gaslighter Will Wear You Down

The gaslighter abuser will be on the offense at all times which will wear you down. You will feel so low that you start to doubt yourself. You become discouraged, fearful, and debilitated. You question reality, who you are and whether you’re perceiving things properly.

Codependent Relationships Form

Codependency is defined as “excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner.” If you’re in a gaslighting relationship, you will begin to feel insecure and anxious. This leaves you vulnerable to them having total control and power over you. They grant acceptance, respect, safety and security and will often threaten to take it all away. These relationships are based on fear, your vulnerability, and marginalization.

The Gaslighter Will Give You False Hope

In gaslighter abuse, they will treat you with superficial kindness and remorse from time to time. This is to give you false hope in the relationship. You might start to think things with them aren’t so bad and believe things could get better. This mildness is actually part of their plan to manipulate you. You will be off-guard which allows them to begin the next stage of their gaslighting abuse. Know this too, they are reinforcing the codependent relationship.

Total Domination and Control

For a narcissistic gaslighter, their main goal is to totally dominate and control you. When they can do this, they are able to take advantage of you with no consequence. Gaslighters can do this to a whole society. The lies that they tell about you will keep you insecure, in doubt, and afraid.

Narcissist Definition

Narcissist Definition

So as a gaslighter is the action, it is the narcissist who is most likely to execute such behavior. It’s important to understand the mental thoughts and beliefs that occur with a narcissist. Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NDP) come with symptoms of grandiosity, no empathy for others, and an obsessive need for admiration. The gaslighting behaviors they exhibit are manipulation and a self-centered attitude. They are arrogant and demanding.

They believe they should have better treatment than anyone else even though they don’t give others the same rights. The narcissist characteristics happen early in their adult life. They will gaslight in the workplace, in relationships, and their social groups. They think they’re unique and gifted which gives them a greater sense of self-esteem. In actuality, their self-esteem is fragile. They need others to think highly of them. They can’t handle criticism or losing and are easily and deeply humiliated.

Gaslighting in Relationships

Gaslighting in Relationships

It’s most common that gaslighting will occur in romantic relationships. Once the gaslighter has taken over control, they can pretty much get away with any behavior. Marital infidelity will often occur and although you know they are cheating, they lead you to believe you’re crazy for thinking so. You may be physically abused but they will deny they were violent. For the victim, it can cause nervous breakdowns and sometimes suicide.

Gaslighting at Work

Gaslighting at Work

Gaslighters at work will often assert things with extreme conviction or indignation. They will often shame co-workers and distort truths. They may ignore you when you respond to something they’ve said. They will counter, block, divert or trivialize what you say.

This often causes people to work harder in order to prove their worth to the gaslighter. You’ll feel like you could get fired at any point so the work environment feels unstable. Anxiety and stress increases as you bend over backwards to try to please an abusive personality. You may feel confused and second guess all your decisions. When dealing with a gaslighter in the workplace, you will likely go through disbelief. You may become defensive and potentially even become depressed.

You have more power to manage a gaslighter at work then with loved ones or family members. Like any type of abuse, you may feel trapped but this isn’t the case. Document all the interactions you have with the gaslighter. Talk to your HR department. Talk to co-workers and try to summon up witnesses during a time they are abusive to you. This kind of mental warfare shouldn’t be acceptable in any workplace.

Gaslighting in Dysfunctional Families

When children are victim to gaslighting, it is a form of child neglect and is one of the most severe forms of abuse. Here are four of the common gaslighting abuse tactics that occur in the family dynamic:

Double Bind Parenting

There has been a connection of schizophrenia and Borderline Personality Disorder for parents who double bind their children. They will go back and forth randomly either smothering their children or rejecting them with no emotion. This leaves children feeling like they are nothing. As they become an adult, they don’t have faith in themselves. They constantly seek out validation from other people. Things seem surreal at all points in life. They have no tools to rely on themselves but don’t know how to lean on others for help.

Unpredictable, Contradiction Parenting

There is an unpredictable environment for children who grow up in this parenting dynamic. A parent who is influenced by drugs or alcohol one day may not be the next day. Parents may be manic depressive and substance abusers so their moods fluctuate greatly. Any plans made will likely not come to fruition. Birthdays will be pushed aside due to some unpredictable pattern with the parent.

The ground feels shaky for children dealing with this upbringing. Their might be a calm environment that turns violent quickly. As an adult, the gaslighter will not trust their abilities or understand people’s body language. They have a hard time managing their emotions. There is very little trust for themselves and other people.

Appearance Conscious Family

For a child growing up in this kind of family, style is more important than anything else. They are also ensuring that their family looks perfectly happy even if it’s falling apart. It’s a strict upbringing with no room for mistakes or emotions. As they look to build the perfect family, they are actually creating dysfunction. Parents and kids alike are described as Running on Empty. These parents are often narcissistic. The adult grows up to believe that imperfection is not acceptable. They will hide feelings and any shortcomings.

Emotionally Neglectful Family

In this dysfunctional family, emotional needs are ignored. Nobody pays attention to a child when they show emotion. If you were to cry in this family, you’d be told that you’re too sensitive. Needs are not met and this causes kids to hide their emotions at an early age. Any deep relationship in adolescence and adulthood will pose a major challenge for the child trained to keep their feelings to themselves. There is a feeling of numbness within these children. It can cause a person to become narcissistic or sociopathic as an adult.

How to Stop Being Gaslighted

How to Stop Being Gaslighted

How do you deal with gaslighting? A gaslighting narcissist ultimately wants to have control over you. Not giving them that control can often damper their attack on you. Quietly standing up for yourself and emotionally removing yourself from the conversation will cause a gaslighter to feel uncomfortable. They have likely been working on breaking you down for a long time. It’s not going to be easy but here are some things to keep in mind to avoid being gaslighted.

  • When you’re with a gaslighter, be very aware of what they’re saying and doing around you. Pay attention to all the fine details.
  • Create an untouchable belief of yourself and what you know to be true. Your intuition is your guidance system, make sure to listen to it.
  • Keep it simple when dealing with the gaslighter and know their true motive is one thing. They are trying to make you believe what you know to be true as untrue (or the other way around.)
  • Don’t allow the gaslighter to think you believe what they’re saying. This gives them permission to continue on with gaslighting abuse.
  • Remember that nothing the gaslighter is doing has anything to do with you. They are the one who is sick.
  • Be okay with not “winning” in a bout between yourself and a gaslighter. Chances are, you probably won’t. This is part of the game they play. It’s few and far between that you will convince them you’re right and they’re wrong.

Can a Gaslighter Change?

Many people that will gaslight have antisocial personality disorders such as borderline personality disorder. They have a great deal of anxiety, they often do what they do to feel a sense of control in their lives. They tend to also abuse substances to numb the negative feelings they have. They will often have a personality that is authoritive so they think in absolutes. Things are either 100% right or 100% wrong. Gaslighters are hard to get into treatment because they don’t see themselves as having a problem.

Gaslighting in relationships may result in couple’s therapy. Even when the narcissist is going through counseling, they will often blame their partner. If a therapist suggests the gaslighter try to make some changes, they will often believe them to be incompetent. Even in therapy, they will have a hard time acknowledging they have a behavioral issue that’s causing the problems.

Ultimately, when you’re in company with a gaslighter, they are trying to make you second guess your choices and yourself. You will have a hard time knowing if you’re the problem or the victim. Subconsciously, you know when you’re being gaslighted. Your brain warns you of a sense of danger which becomes an uncomfortable feeling in your gut. Listen to it. If you believe you’re being abused by a gaslighter, pay attention to all the details. It may be that they will never get the help they need so in the end, you may have to walk away and recover from the mental abuse.

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Gaslighting- Examples, Effects and How to Confront the Abuse

Gaslighting: Examples, Effects and How to Confront the Abuse
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By |2019-06-06T17:28:12+00:00June 5th, 2019|

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16 Comments

  1. Avatar
    John Kaeding June 9, 2018 at 6:51 am - Reply

    My step daughter is gas lightong my wife and has been for years. I am a retired therapist but of course im too close to yhe situation. How can i get my wife to accept help?

    • Northpoint Recovery
      Northpoint Recovery June 15, 2018 at 4:11 pm - Reply

      So glad that this article resonated with you. Since you are too close you may want to consider an intervention and have others confront her with their concerns in addition to yours. You can share your concerns but having others mentioning the same or similar concerns might be enough for her to realize the issues. Wishing you and your family the best!

  2. Avatar
    J July 15, 2018 at 12:59 pm - Reply

    I’ve been struggling to escape a situation that I recently discovered to be gaslighting. There are so many different factors involved, I honestly don’t know what to do. I’ve honestly wanted to seek legal help but I am unsure if my claim would be solid enough for that? If at all possible, could someone contact me directly to discuss my situation more?

    • Northpoint Recovery
      Northpoint Recovery July 26, 2018 at 3:22 am - Reply

      So glad that this article resonated with you. Wishing you the best as you escape that situation and start fresh.

  3. Avatar
    Danielle August 19, 2018 at 3:43 pm - Reply

    My daughter is in a relationship with a gaslighter. I knew when I met him that he was narcissistic. But I gave him the benefit of the doubt……multiple times. A few months ago he hit on me, I was mortified and wanted to puke!! I told her immediately and he lied his way out of it even though I had proof! (Text messages) His pathological lies have gone way too far, and now she just found out she’s pregnant (first pregnancy for her). Now his grip is even tighter. Emailing her this article!! Thank you!!!

    • Northpoint Recovery
      Northpoint Recovery September 8, 2018 at 4:41 pm - Reply

      Glad the article was helpful to you and your family!

  4. Avatar
    Survivor April 19, 2019 at 12:01 pm - Reply

    My husband is an extremely gifted gaslighter.. It took me years and many therapy sessions to understand him!!! When once I tried to leave him, he turned all against me.. even my parents believed that I was the sick one. I got scared due to financial and got back to hell..
    I’ m stronger now.. I believe in my self and my instinct is very sensitive and warns me.
    My kids love their dad.. of course they are afraid of him too..He plays with their mind. I try to stop it when it occurs by getting myself in between. If we get divorced we will share custody and he will brainwash my kids even worse. Now, I feel they are safer because I’ m always there. Do you believe someone can be so strong to keep up such a relation…

    • Northpoint Recovery
      Northpoint Recovery April 25, 2019 at 4:40 pm - Reply

      Only you can decide what is best for your family, as to whether you should stay with him or divorce him. There are many factors to consider, but only you can determine what is best. We wish you and your family all the best!

  5. Avatar
    David Becker April 22, 2019 at 9:10 pm - Reply

    my brother in law refuses to talk to me or acknowledge i exist, his wife ignores me, my in-laws don’t know how to deal with it except not have me visit when they are in town but my wife still goes to see them. this leaves me at home like i did something wrong. all because i called my brother in law out on his gas lighting.

    they all refuse to acknowledge his narcissistic behavior and defend him. and then minimize my criticisms by saying that my brother in law “hate each other.” i don’t hate him, i just don’t like being treated this way.

    i’ve made my points over and over and they fall on deaf ears and everyone refuses to acknowledge anything unusual about his behavior and they all seem okay with defending him.

    the thing that bothers me especially is that if i were to behave in the way he does people would get angry at me. it’s a very distressing double standard.

    • Northpoint Recovery
      Northpoint Recovery April 25, 2019 at 4:16 pm - Reply

      So sorry to hear about what is happening with your family! Unfortunately, when dealing with gaslighters because of the narcissism, many times they have those believing that this is normal and okay. We wish you and your family all the best!

  6. Avatar
    BARBARA May 17, 2019 at 3:05 pm - Reply

    I’ve been in a 7 year relationship with an alcoholic (living with him), I just recently realized that he has been gas lighting me for years. I am in the process of moving out for the 2nd time, I’ve requested that he seeks professional help for his alcoholism and he tells me I have mental problems. I don’t want to go back and forth anymore, we have a pet in common which I cannot take to live with me. Although he loves our pet he uses him to manipulate me by telling me that he is going to get rid of him or put him outside. I’ve even contemplated leaving the state just to get away from him but how fair is that ? I am planning to move away eventually but not for a couple of months (contemplating to retired next year). When I moved out 4 years ago we continued to have a relationship, never without drama, he was better for a couple of months last year with promises of going back to AA I moved back with him, this June will be a year, we were fine for a couple of months and then in November 2018 he just fell off the wagon once again. The past 7 months have been a roller coaster, he attacks me verbally whenever he drinks. After the fact he swears that it’s the last time, I feel like a fool for ever thinking that he would change. He refuses to get professional help, says that he can handle it on his own. I am done just want to get out with my mental health intact.

    • Northpoint Recovery
      Northpoint Recovery June 3, 2019 at 4:20 pm - Reply

      Sorry to hear about all that you have gone through (and are continuing to endure). Great job spotting this and getting out! We wish you all the best on your journey of healing!

  7. Avatar
    Graham May 27, 2019 at 12:37 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this ,,, I am being gaslighted at work by my HOD, all his behaviours are described ,,, but he is also apraising me thus with the GM and owners , but as I dont work closely with those , and he has exclusive contact with them,,, I’ve already had emails from the owner stating things that are not true about me and my work ..
    He actually asked me a week ago if I’d had a stroke because he was so worried about me and my memory seems to be very very bad.!, of course he did this out on a lawn a long way out of any cameras or other people.. he lies constantly,, example ,, i ask, do you want me to get that tool,,,? He does not reply or even acknowledge I’ve spoken ,, so I repeat the question… nothing ,, he then shouts at me because I ignored his request to get a tool.
    Hes an alcoholic and will bang his hands and arms on the desk shouting that he very good at his job ,, hes started to put mr down in public ,,, I’m 48, Male, have run an engineering company and then a building company ,, I am now in hotel maintenance and thoroughly enjoy it,, I have found out in my 5 months there now that he does it to others and hes a bully to others in lower positions ..
    Hes lazy and incompetent yet is making me out to be this with those around him .
    It’s like he’s telling everyone I can’t walk properly ,, then pushes me over in public pointing and shouting “SEE , I TOLD YOU HE COULDN’T WALK.! …
    And there I am,, sprawled out.
    I’ve been here before with a close friend who applied this narcissistic gaslighting to me when I was grieving for a close family member , it took me 2 years to realise what was happening but by then I was questioning everything I was doing at work and at home ,, it led me into nearly another 2 years of depression that took another 2 to get out of and regain my confidence in my working abilities.
    I felt the old bell ring after working for this man for only a few weeks of working with him and should have seen it. Now I’ve been there for 5 months and my working life is plagued by anxiety and self doubt . I find myself standing idle unable to make a decision for fear of getting it wrong and then having to endure his wrath ,, he is very very careful to never say it do anything in public .
    But I read this ….
    Thank you ,, it was a trigger pulled and I’m in with HR first thing in the morning .

    • Northpoint Recovery
      Northpoint Recovery June 3, 2019 at 3:45 pm - Reply

      Thank you for sharing your experiences! Glad the article resonated well with you and gave you the confidence needed to come forward. We wish all the best for you!

  8. Avatar
    Trish June 5, 2019 at 8:26 pm - Reply

    Oh boy………I finally realized my “crush” is a gaslighter. Never could pin it down. This guy does exactly what you describe. I DID go through a major breakdown and it took over a year to get some kind of grip. Then he showed up again…… Still…I hadn’t figured him out. Goes on and on. My heart is destroyed. I’ll never ever trust a man again. And the worst part? I can’t get him out of my head. I’m actually in love with this guy! It’s killing me. I want to get even…….that’s not like me.
    So….ok…..I met the number one specimen. And can’t get over it.

    • Northpoint Recovery
      Northpoint Recovery June 6, 2019 at 5:30 pm - Reply

      Sorry that you are going through that, but now you know how to classify his behavior. We wish you all the best.

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