Gaslighting - In Depth Essay
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: December 20, 2018 12:38AM

"People aren’t born gaslighters like they are born introverts or extroverts. A gaslighter is a student of social learning. They witness it, feel the effects of it, or stumble upon it and see that it is a potent tool. It’s a cognitive strategy for self-regulation and co-regulation. To be frank, it works."

Quoted from Gaslighting Explained - see below:

This is a meaty, article, full of user friendly information - and a checklist.

A few items are quoted - read full article to get full benefits.


Gaslighting, explained

2018 was the year of gaslighting. Here’s how it works — and how to shut it down.
By Robin Stern Dec 19, 2018, 10:30am EST

First Person
Vox's home for compelling, provocative narrative essays.

es called “We’ll Leave the Gaslight On,” dedicated to the lies of politicians.


In the vernacular, the phrase “to gaslight” refers to the act of undermining another person’s reality by denying facts, the environment around them, or their feelings. Targets of gaslighting are manipulated into turning against their cognition, their emotions, and who they fundamentally are as people.

If a wife tells her husband that he is shirking child care responsibilities and he responds by refusing to acknowledge that it’s even happening, he is gaslighting her.

...Most of us have been gaslighted at some point in our lives, making it important to learn how to spot the technique, shut it down, and minimize the psychological impact on our daily lives. When left unexamined, gaslighting can have a devastating and long-term impact on our emotional, psychological, and sometimes physical well-being.

I’m a licensed psychoanalyst and the associate director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, and over the years, I have spoken with hundreds of people experiencing gaslighting in their personal lives. It’s why I coined the term “gaslight effect” in my 2007 book, referring to the long-term consequences of experiencing repeated gaslighting over time.


Gaslighting in interpersonal relationships often develops or builds on an existing power dynamic. While it’s most common in romantic settings, gaslighting can happen in any kind of relationship where one person is so important to the other that they don’t want to take the chance of upsetting or losing them, such as a boss, friend, sibling, or parent. Gaslighting happens in relationships where there is an unequal power dynamic and the target has given the gaslighter power and often their respect.


The question remains, though: How does someone become a gaslighter? How can you spot when it happens to you? And once you identify it, how do you deal with it?


Undermining a partner’s emotions and feelings is a way to deny their reality. Continuous invalidity of how the other partner feels about a situation is just as effective as saying their perceptions are wrong. The emotional chopping away during those moments has the effect of convincing the other person that they could be imagining or “making up” scenarios that don’t exist, when in all reality, what that person is feeling or experiencing is real.

As Matthew Zawadzki, PhD, noted in his 2014 article on the topic, gaslighting techniques “radically undermine another person that she has nowhere left to stand from which to disagree, no standpoint from which her words might constitute genuine disagreement.”

To get the answers to all these questions read the full article.


How do you recognize that gaslighting is happening?

Take a look at the list below. If any part of the list resonates with you, you may be involved in a gaslighting relationship and need to look further.

You ask yourself, “Am I too sensitive?” many times per day.
You often feel confused and even crazy in the relationship.
You’re always apologizing.
You can’t understand why you aren’t happier.
You frequently make excuses for your partner’s behavior.
You know something is wrong but you just don’t know what.
You start lying to avoid put-downs and reality twists.
You have trouble making simple decisions.
You wonder if you are good enough.

While all of these symptoms can occur with anxiety disorders, depression, or low self-esteem, the difference with gaslighting is that there is another person or group that’s actively engaged in trying to make you second-guess what you know is true.

If you don’t typically experience these feelings with other people but do with one particular individual, then you might be a victim of gaslighting.

(Corboy note: This explains why the most abusive types not only gaslight us but aim to isolate us from outside relationships which validate the accuracy of our perception. The worst gaslighters seek to achieve total monopoly, total control over your relationships, seeking to isolate you. In the worst cases, you become so ashamed that you drop drop away from family, friends and outside interests, hoping to placate your abuser. This is where a relationship becomes the same as a cult - cult leaders do the same thing - monopolize your loyalty and attention.)

Some common phrases you might hear from your gaslighter are:

You’re so sensitive!
You know that’s just because you are so insecure.
Stop acting crazy. Or: You sound crazy, you know that, don’t you?
You are just paranoid.
You just love trying to throw me off track.
I was just joking!
You are making that up.
It’s no big deal.
You’re imagining things.
You’re overreacting.
You are always so dramatic.
Don’t get so worked up.
That never happened.
You know you don’t remember things clearly.
There’s no pattern. Or: You are seeing a pattern that is not there.
You’re hysterical.
There you go again, you are so ungrateful.
Nobody believes you, why should I?

What to do if you’re getting gaslighted.

Here are steps that have helped my patients and my friends over the past two decades:


1) Identify the problem. Recognizing the problem is the first step. Name what is going on between you and your spouse, friend, family member, colleague, or boss.

(Identifying the problem may require recognizing you are in a cultic organization. - Corboy)

2) Sort out truth from distortion. Write down your conversation in a journal so you can take an objective look at it. Where is the conversation veering off from reality into the other person’s view? Then after you look at the dialogue, write down how you felt. Look for signs of repeated denial of your experience.

(If you are in a cult, this requires independant research - learning full facts about the leader and group. A tip off that stuff is hidden from you is when you are told to use only group approved music, videos, and literature, avoid the internet, and have been told why former members must be avoided.)

3) Figure out if you are in a power struggle with your partner. If you find yourself having the same conversation over and over again and can’t seem to convince them to acknowledge your point of view, you might be getting gaslighted.

4) Engage in a mental exercise to encourage a mindset shift: Visualize yourself without the relationship or continuing it at much more of a distance. Importantly, cast the vision in a positive light, even if it causes you to feel anxiety. Think down the road when you will have your own reality, social support, and integrity.

Corboy note: If you find yourself wishfully imagining that the other person has died, or has retired, this signals the relationship is burdensome. If you find you are glad when you have an illness and can cancel a session with the person or avoid going in to work with the difficult boss, this signals you want distance - need distance. Happy people do not enjoy being ill.)

5) Give yourself permission to feel all your feelings. Accept and acknowledge that what you feel is okay. I recommend tracking your feelings. Consider trying the Mood Meter app that Marc Brackett and I developed at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence; it’s an easy way to facilitate your learning about your emotions and track your patterns, allowing you to learn what triggers your feelings and gives helpful strategies to shift your moods.

6) Give yourself the okay to give something up. Part of what makes it painful and challenging to leave a gaslight relationship is that the gaslighter may be the one “someone” you have committed to, such as your best friend, your mom, your sister or brother. It’s okay to walk away from toxicity, regardless of the source.

Corboy: Ask yourself if the abuser has convinced you that they are your only acceptable option, that no one else is expert enough, affordable enough, that you are too stupid or crazy to be wanted by anyone else.

7) Talk to your close friends. Ask them if you seem like yourself and do a reality check on your spouse’s behavior. Ask them to be brutally honest.

(Corboy: This is why cult leaders and the very worst abusers find ways to isolate you from your family and keep you from forming friendships outside the relationship. If you are totally on your own, write a description of what you are going through. Make an appointment with a social worker or therapist, have them read it and then ask them what they think)

8) Focus on feelings instead of right and wrong. It’s easy to get caught up in wanting to be right or spend endless hours ruminating about who’s right*. But determining who is right and wrong is less important than how you feel — if your conversation leaves you feeling bad or second-guessing yourself, that’s what you need to pay attention to. Having a sense of psychological and emotional well-being in a relationship is more important than who is right or wrong in any conversation.

Corboy: endless hours ruminating will exhaust you, get you depressed, and if you do this near bedtime, will disrupt your ability to get a sound nights sleep.

9) Remember that you can’t control anyone’s opinion, even if you are right. You may never get your friend or your boss or your partner to agree that you aren’t too sensitive or too controlling or too anything. You need to let go of trying, as maddening as this can be. The only person whose opinion you can control is your own.

10) Have compassion for yourself. This is really hard even when you are not in a compromising dynamic. But when you are not feeling confident and strong, it’s even harder to give yourself the benefit of the doubt, kindness, and love. It will be a healing influence and help you move forward in your decision making. Now is a time for self-care.

Gaslighting is not the same as sensitivity

It’s important to separate gaslighting from genuine disagreement, which is common, and even important, in relationships. Not every conflict involves gaslighting, and, of course, there are healthy and helpful ways to resolve conflicts. Gaslighting is distinct because only one of you is listening and considering the other’s perspective and someone is negating your perception, insisting that you are wrong or telling you your emotional reaction is crazy/ dysfunctional in some way.

Nor are victims of gaslighting just being overly sensitive. People can be more susceptible to emotional harm than others for a variety of reasons, but gaslighting isn’t about individual personality differences. It’s about knocking one’s understanding of reality off balance.

Robin Stern, PhD, is the associate director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence where she works every day to make the world a more equitable and compassionate place for all. Robin is also psychoanalyst with three decades of experience treating individuals and couples. She is a Yale Public Voices fellow whose work is frequently published in popular media outlets, and she serves on the Advisory Board of UN Women for Peace, Think Equal, Crisis Text Line, and I’ll Go First.

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