• Lisa

Gaslighting - Stop the front page, it’s all about manipulation and self-preservation

When preparing for writing this blog I tried to think back to when I first heard the term gaslighting. Sure, I had heard the term in passing but it wasn’t until I started volunteering at a domestic violence charity that I seriously grasped the true meaning of the term and of the serious psychological and emotional damage that can result in becoming victim to a ‘Gaslighter’. Nor did I realise just how much I’d experienced it but then again, I often allowed myself to be manipulated when growing up but that was more to do with the desire to fit in. Anyway, I digress, did you know that gaslighting doesn’t just happen within romantic relationships? It can happen with any type of interpersonal relationship, be that with your parents or any member of the family unit, in friendship circles, and even in the workplace.

Psychological – cum – Emotional Manipulation at its finest

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse expressed as psychological manipulation, which involves invalidating an individual to such a degree that they question their own experiences of events, reality, and emotional responses. This leads the victim to mistrust their own judgments, which results in negative emotional responses, such as low self-esteem/self-worth – brought about by self-doubt – ultimately believing they are not (or less) deserving of love and respect. This allows the perpetrator to psychologically condition the victim in order to maintain control, which achieves their aims, resulting in depression and anxiety for the victim. The perpetrator's objective is undoubtedly self-preservation whilst doing their utmost to avoid accountability. This can be a symptom of deep insecurity, which may be subconscious. Or could be motivated by a more direct, sinister aim. The term “gaslighting” was coined from the 1944 film Gaslight in which a husband manipulates his wife, via various psychological and physical means, into believing that she is mentally unstable. The motivation for his behaviour is to steal her money.

Tell me more about the perpetrator

Gaslighters tend to display autocratic and authoritative characteristics. Even though s/he gives the impression of being egoistic: underneath their extrovert persona, they are almost invariably insecure. They often present with narcissistic traits and experience deep anxieties: they behave in a controlling way toward their victim in an effort to have a sense of control in their own life. They usually do not perceive themselves as damaging to the victim: in this, they are usually self-deceiving. They see themselves as individuals who go above and beyond to help others yet the truth of the matter is they are self-serving. Gaslighting may be conscious or subconscious learned behaviour. This can be derived from subjectively studying people close to them or objectively observing individuals from different perspectives, such as work colleagues, acquaintances, and the media. The good thing is that learned behaviours can be unlearned!


As stated, gaslighting is abuse in the form of psychological – cum – emotional manipulation: there are numerous tactics that gaslighters will use to maintain their control over their victim.

The following are a few examples; some of these you may recognise :

· Projection of their own faults onto you

· They will confuse you and make you doubt yourself

· Isolate you from family and friends

· Withhold information

· Not allowing you to question

· Create false hope

· Gossip behind your back

· Uses humour and sarcasm to cover their insults

· Turn folk against you

· They will make you feel like you are the centre of their world yet make you feel so worthless at the same time

· They’ll make decisions on your behalf

· Deny any wrongdoing

Common Turns of phrase

Whether gaslighting occurs at home, at work, or within your friendship circles. There are some common phrases that might just be an indication that you are being gaslighted.

· I seriously think you have some major issues

· You are overreacting and taking things to the extreme

· there's no talking to you when you're kicking off, conversation over!

· I never said that, your mind is playing tricks on you

· You’re just damaged goods

· If you just listened or done things my way

· It’s you that’s the abusive one

· You’re supposed to love me no matter what

· And there goes that brain again, you are overthinking things….

· It was a joke, can’t you take a joke no more

· No everyone is your friend be careful what you say to others, anything between us should stay within these four walls

· You are just so negative

· It just hurts that you think I’m even capable of that

· I did my best to raise you. Where did I go wrong?

· After everything I’ve done for you…why aren’t you willing to do this one thing in return

· You should thank me for putting up with you

You are not at fault

Let’s set the record straight, I have been asked on numerous occasions why wasn’t I able to spot what was going on? The truth is very rarely do people realise they are being gaslighted because subtle techniques are used. By the time gaslighting is brought into your awareness the damage to your self-esteem has already been done. Perpetrators often choose to gaslight people who already struggle with low self-worth.

How counselling can help

Seeking counselling after experiencing the detrimental impact of gaslighting might be helpful in helping you to heal, learn and grow so that you feel empowered to take control of your life and wellbeing again. Ultimately, it’s about finding the right mix of techniques for the individual, but they might include psychoeducation, trauma-focused interventions, or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). You will learn how to break the cycle of negative thoughts whilst at the same time forming strategies relating to improving self-esteem and self-compassion. It's about learning to believe in yourself again and that might take some work. If you think I might be the right counsellor for you then get in contact at Lisa@connectandreflectcounselling.co.uk or complete the contact form at www.connectandreflectcounselling.co.uk. I will then organise a free 20-minute appointment to see whether we feel we could work together.

Knowledge is power and all that jazz

You are now aware of a little bit more about gaslighting, if you want to delve a bit more then there are plenty of resources out there on the internet. I believe you should trust your gut, don’t be consumed by other people’s opinions, especially when they are not having a positive impact on you. Remember, you are worthy, you deserve to be loved and you are good enough! Believe in yourself, you are amazing just as you are!

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