What is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting is now a popular term for a type of manipulative behavior to control people or gain the offensive. There are many warning signs of gaslighting: telling exaggerated lies, denying saying something even with proof on hand, attacking what is dear to people, wearing people down, actions not matching words, using positive reinforcement to confuse victims, using confusion to weaken victims, projecting the weakness of gaslighters on others, trying to get people against a victim, telling others they are crazy, and saying everyone else is a liar (“11 Warning Signs of Gaslighting”). Besides these warning signs, there are seven stages of gaslighting this essay will discuss: lie and exaggerate, repetition, escalate when challenged, get the victim worn down, make codependent relationships, give false hope, and domination.

The gaslighter opens his or her strategy with lying and exaggerating about something. According to Psychology Today, “The gaslighter creates a negative narrative about the gaslightee (“There’s something wrong and inadequate about you”), based on generalized false presumptions and accusations, rather than objective, independently verifiable facts, thereby putting the gaslightee on the defensive” (“7 Stages of Gaslighting in a Relationship”). So, they usually stretch facts to land a false claim on someone. Many times, this is done after the gaslighter has been attacked or damaged in terms of self-image.

The second stage of gaslighting is repetition. In order to make the victim question reality, this is done. Stated by Life Advancer, “Does your partner use the same phrases repeatedly when you question them? Repeating phrases is a classic brainwashing tactic. They make you think in the way the brainwasher wants” (“What Is Gaslighting and How to Recognize If Your Partner Is Using It to Manipulate You”). Even if people know something is a blatant lie, if something is repeated enough, people may start believing in it.

The third stage is the gaslighter being challenged and escalating claims. According to Psychology Today, “When called on their lies, the gaslighter escalates the dispute by doubling and tripling down on their attacks, refuting substantive evidence with denial, blame, and more false claims (misdirection), sowing doubt and confusion” (“7 Stages of Gaslighting in a Relationship”). There is almost always a backlash from the victim, and the gaslighter does his or her best to increase the pressure to ensure his or her control is not lost.

As the fourth stage, after the escalation and numerous claims being repeated, the victim starts to get worn down. This is the plan of the gaslighter all along. According to Allison Goldfire from Pinups for Mental Health Awareness, “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 frequency” (“‘Gaslighting Epidemic’ by Allison Goldfire”). Thus, over time, these remarks accumulate into a psychological condition for the victim and this condition makes it easier for the gaslighter to do his or her work on the victim.

At the fifth stage, the condition of the victim is now solidified. Then, codependent relationships are created. As Psychology Today states, “In a gaslighting relationship, the gaslighter elicits constant insecurity and anxiety in the gaslightee, thereby pulling the gaslightee by the strings. The gaslighter has the power to grant acceptance, approval, respect, safety, and security. The gaslighter also has the power (and often threatens to) take them away” (“7 Stages of Gaslighting in a Relationship”). Thus, a codependent relationship is founded on fear, being vulnerable, and feeling marginalized.

The sixth stage of gaslighting is giving false hope. It is common for gaslighters to suddenly act better or act very positive with their victims in order to show they can be good after all. This makes victims consider the gaslighters as possibly good people. But this is often a tactic of the gaslighter to start the next round of gaslighting (“7 Stages of Gaslighting in a Relationship”).

The final stage of gaslighting is domination. According to Psychology Today, “At its extreme, the ultimate objective of a pathological gaslighter is to control, dominate, and take advantage of another individual, or a group, or even an entire society. By maintaining and intensifying an incessant stream of lies and coercions, the gaslighter keeps the gaslightees in a constant state of insecurity, doubt, and fear. The gaslighter can then exploit their victims at will, for the augmentation of their power and personal gain” (“7 Stages of Gaslighting in a Relationship”). There are degrees of narcissism, and its peak, a narcissist has no care for others except to control them.

In review, gaslighting is a manipulative behavior to make victims question their reality. There are seven stages of gaslighting: lying and exaggerating about things, repeating claims, escalating this behavior when challenged, wearing down the victim, creating codependent relationships, supplying false hope, and dominating. If you are in a relationship with a gaslighter, or a gaslighter yourself, get professional help.

Works Cited

“11 Warning Signs of Gaslighting.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/here-there-and-everywhere/201701/11-warning-signs-gaslighting.

“7 Stages of Gaslighting in a Relationship.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/communication-success/201704/7-stages-gaslighting-in-relationship.

“What Is Gaslighting and How to Recognize If Your Partner Is Using It to Manipulate You.” Life Advancer, 19 Dec. 2017, www.lifeadvancer.com/gaslighting-partner-manipulate/.

“‘Gaslighting Epidemic’ by Allison Goldfire.” Pinups For Mental Health Awareness, pinups4mha.com/blog/2017/9/5/gaslighting-epidemic-by-allison-goldfire.

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