"Gaslighting Epidemic" by Allison Goldfire
I had never heard the term "gaslighting" until a friend of mine had split up with her
husband of a few years. She was very distressed, hurting, and discussed being a victim of
gaslighting. I did some research on the term, but at that time could not find a decent
I decided to research this topic since it seems this form abuse is now widely
experienced. I have experienced gaslighting myself, and wanted to provide an explanatory
definition of the term.
Robinson (2017) defines gaslighting as a deliberate psychological manipulation, often
used by narcissists and other predators to incapacitate their prey. Gaslighting is designed to
make you constantly question yourself, making reality as hard to see as a dimly lit room
(Robinson, 2017). Women and men can both be victims of gaslighting, and can perpetrate the
abuse as well.
The term comes from a British play created in 1938 called "Gas Light", that later
became a film in 1940 (Croft, 2016). The premise of this play/film was a husband driving his
wife to insanity by constantly insulting her and lowering the gas lights in the house while walking
around upstairs searching for hidden jewels buried in the upper floor of the house. This kept her
helpless, confused her senses by hearing footsteps in the dark, and her husband's denying his
actions made her question if she was really hearing things or not. The dimming of the lights, the
suspicious footsteps above her, and the denials symbolize the confusion that a victim of
gaslighting experiences (Robinson, 2017).
The abuser, narcissist, psychopath has many different methods to confuse the victim.
Gaslighting techniques are used to muddle the truth, and gain power over the other person in
the relationship. Gaslighting can happen with bosses, friends, and parents. The most
detrimental form is when it occurs in relationships between a couple (Morris, 2017). Some
examples of gaslighting techniques are:
1. Blatant lies-these are used to confuse the shit out of you, because why would someone who
loves you lie with a straight face?
2. Use what you hold close to your heart as ammunition. Ex: you have a strong sense of
identity. Not with an abuser, because this is a threat. They will attack you to your core, shaking
that sense of identity to become questionable; why are you so negative? Why did you even
have children in the first place? You're a horrible fur mommy.
3. They use time to gradually wear you down. This is what makes gaslighting so effective. Lies
sprinkled into conversation, snide remarks here and there to start, then upping the intensity and
4. Their actions and words do not coincide.
5. They use positive reinforcement to confuse you. This is the aspect of gaslighting I have
experienced the most. I "have such a great work ethic" but I'm "lazy, have a shitty job, don't do
anything impressive". The person is cutting you down, telling you how invaluable and
replacable you are, and then praising you for the same reasons they cut you down for yesterday
(Sarkis, 2017). Generally, you are praised for something you did for the gaslighter, for example
I have a steady job while my ex bounced around. Once he found something he could keep for
more than 6 months, my job became the enemy.
6. They use confusion to weaken you (Sarkis, 2017). Once you start questioning everything,
you look to something stable to help shake your unsteadiness. The gaslighter paints his/herself
as the rock, because you're the confused one. They know what's real and what's not.
7. They isolate you. Isolation in my experience is the greatest form of control. They tell you
everyone is crazy; for example everyone I work with is insane, and I'm "much better off without
them wearing me down". My friends "never have my back. They called you a bitch once-they
can't possibly be a true friend". "You're being taken advantage of at work. They don't
appreciate you, they're just using you because they are lazy and you work hard". See the praise
thrown in there to confuse me? Everyone to them is a liar, because they are a threat to the
gaslighter's complete control over you.
So, how do you know if you're being gaslighted?
*You no longer feel like "yourself"
*You're anxious and losing confidence
*You think you're too sensitive
*You feel like everything you do is wrong, and you constantly apologize for it.
*You make excuses for your behavior as well as your partner's.
*You isolate yourself
*You find it increasingly harder to make decisions
*You're feeling hopeless. Nothing makes you happy like it used to. (Morris, 2017)
I don't like to use the word "victim". I'm not sure if it's because I was told that I
"constantly make myself a victim of the world" or because I feel like the word has a sense of
powerlessness I never want to experience again. However, realizing that you are a victim, or an
individual crippled by the psychological manipulation of another, is the first step to getting help.
Trust me, you WILL need therapy. Your sense of reality is completely warped, and you will feel
that you caused this to happen to you. Obviously it's not the truth, but it's been drilled into your
head for so long that you will believe it is. Receiving the opinion of a psychologist or social
worker can assist you in re-training your brain. They can help you recognize your doubts,
anxieties, and develop healthy coping skills. I'll be the first to admit my coping skills when my
relationship ended were extremely unhealthy. I would drink heavily (which on my meds is a
major no-no) and paint ridiculous shit that poured out of my fragile mind. The painting was
healthy, but the drinking that accompanied it was not. My therapist, Dr. Diane Schaupp
(Westfield, NJ) is currently assisting me in re-creating my reality that had been shattered for six
years. If I can overcome this, you can too. It's never too late to leave, it's never too late to find
help. If your friends were true, they'll be there for you when you escape. You're not alone.
Morris, S. (2017, March 23). How to Recognize Gaslighting and Get Help. Retrieved from
Sarkis, S. (2017, January 30). Are Gaslighters Aware of What They Do? Retrieved from
Sarkis, S. (2017, January 22). 11 Signs of Gaslighting in a Relationship. Retrieved from
Robinson, S. (2017, May 31). Gaslighting-How Predators Take Control by Turning Down the
Lights. Retrieved from http://openmindsfroundation.org/gaslighting-how-predators-take-control-