March 27, 2023

Gaslighting refers to the process of manipulating a person with the aim of making them question themselves and their sanity. The term gaslighting refers to the process of manipulating a person with the aim of making them doubt themselves and their own sanity.

It is a specific type of emotional and psychological abuse, carried out through a set of attempts aimed at undermining the mental stability of the person leading him to question his perception of reality and thoughts of her. Read down below and find out more about gaslighting.

What is gaslighting

Gaslighting is a real manipulative technique, not always easy to recognize. Much more common than one might think, gaslighting is a typical dynamic of romantic relationships, but it can also be used in a friendship and family relationship.

It often ends up pigeonholing itself within already rather toxic dynamics, and if repeated and taken to its extremes it can be considered a real psychological violence, which can deeply damage those who suffer it. In fact, those who do gaslighting generally try to impose themselves on the other person by undermining their self-esteem.

If you’ve been through it you probably now know how to recognize it, but if you don’t know what it is about, this article can be very useful for you. Below we have put together all the useful elements to understand what gaslighting consists of, how to recognize it, and how to deal with it if you are a victim.

The meaning of the word gaslighting

By definition, gaslighting is a manipulative psychological tactic to induce a person to doubt their perception of reality and in turn their memory. It is to all intents and purposes a manipulative technique that aims to diminish and make a person more fragile, questioning their own abilities, in such a way as to gain power over them.

Obviously there can be various levels of gaslighting, but in the most “serious” cases this manipulative technique can be quite harmful to the self-esteem of the victim. But why is gaslighting called exactly like that? Not everyone knows it but the word “gaslighting” was taken from a movie.

Is gaslighting a narcissism?

The purpose of those who practice gaslighting is to reduce the victim to a total level of physical and psychological dependence, nullify his ability to choose and destroy his self-esteem to get the better of it.

A gaslighter is defined as the person who performs this mental manipulation over time. If you are a victim of it, you will be led to believe that you live in a reality that does not correspond to objective reality, you will feel wrong, increasingly insecure and uncertain. In other words, you are being brainwashed. Research shows that in the vast majority of cases the victim and the gaslighter are people who are in a very intimate relationship, almost always partners or close relatives.

The gaslighter is identified as a manipulator , he can be narcissistic , passive aggressive or violent. In all of these cases, you are dealing with a pathological manipulator who may have adopted these behaviors from an early age, and therefore has great experience in this regard.

In less serious cases we can identify gaslighting as a (certainly somewhat toxic) expedient to be right in discussions. We are talking about the proverbial “turn the omelette”, that is, to expose a point of view that belittles the interlocutor and his way of thinking in order to get the better of it.

So: yes, it may happen that the gaslighter is a narcissist, but it could also be someone more inoffensive, and maybe just a little opportunistic.

How to recognize the “symptoms” of gaslighting

Communication distortion

At first, the gaslighter begins to confuse you, alternating between positive and negative communication. If she’s your partner, she may be flirting and showering you with compliments, but with a negative message behind them. Again, she may tell you lies, which she then denies, so that you are the one to be destabilized and think you have misunderstood.


Your gaslighter hasn’t subjugated you yet, so you still try to confront him, because even if you are doubtful, you don’t feel crazy and on the contrary, you get angry. You seek dialogue, which fails on time, and so you get more angry. You try to defend your position «I’m not crazy», but unfortunately you are playing into the hands of the gaslighter.


In the worst possible case it represents the last stage of the manipulation. By now you have convinced yourself that something is wrong with you, the manipulator has isolated you from others and you have become dependent on the abusive partner. Remember, though, that you are not responsible for this toxic relationship. This is why it is so important to know how to distinguish between narcissism and self-esteem. It is important to distinguish between who could be a “simple” liar and who, instead, tries to manipulate you with gaslighting.

They tell lies without any kind of shame

Someone tells you, for example, a lie. You know very well that this is a lie. This lie is being communicated to you with a very serious air . Why is it so obvious? This is the first step, it is the basis of gaslighting. Once you’ve been told a huge lie, you can’t be sure of anything, especially if you’re told the truth later on. The target? Destabilize and disturb.

They deny having said anything, even if you have proof

You know they said something to you and you’re sure you heard it. But when you remind them of what they said, they deny it over and over , endlessly. This leads you to question the facts and to doubt yourself : maybe it’s true that they never said it? The more they do this, the more you doubt yourself, your reality, thus starting to accept theirs.

They use what is near and dear to you as a means to reach you

They know how important your children are and how important your identity is to you, and that is where they will start attacking you . For example, if you have children, they will tell you that you shouldn’t have any, or that it would be better if you didn’t have those negative traits that characterize you. In other words, people who gaslight attack the very foundations of your being

They take you to usury

This is one of the more insidious aspects of gaslighting: it is done gradually, over time. A lie here, a lie there, a cutting comment every time… And the manipulations start creating doubts in you . Even the smartest and most knowledgeable people can be trapped in gaslighting.

It is American philosopher Noam Chomsky’s boiled frog principle, used to describe those who end up passively accepting harassment without realizing it.

Their actions don’t follow their words

When dealing with a gaslighter, it is better to heed their actions rather than their words. Their words have no meaning, they are just words . The problem lies, in fact, in their actions (what they do or don’t do).

They offer you positive reinforcement to manipulate you

The person who manipulates you yesterday told you that you are useless and useless, but today he congratulates you on something you did. This adds a sense of unease because you’ll be thinking, “well, finally things aren’t so bad!”. It is a subtle and thought out technique to destabilize you and, once again, make you question your reality . Be careful what you are being praised for – this is probably something that serves the purpose of the gaslighter.

They know that confusion weakens people

Gaslighters know that everyone loves to feel stable and poised. Their goal is to destroy your balance and make you doubt all the time. They are aware that the most natural human tendency is to turn to the person who makes one feel balanced and stable: the gaslighter also takes advantage of this.

They try to turn other people against you

Gaslighters are masters in the art of manipulating people and using those around you to turn them against you. They’ll make comments like, “this person knows you’re wrong,” or “this person thinks you’re worthless.” Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean these people actually said these things – a gaslighter is constantly lying. He uses this technique so that you don’t know who to turn to or who to believe. They know it well: isolating yourself from others gives them more power.

He will tell others that you are losing your mind

Here is one of the most effective tactics of the gaslighter: the latter knows very well that if he tells everyone that you have lost your mind, the others probably won’t believe you when you try to justify yourself by evoking his personality.

He will tell you that everyone is lying

By telling yourself that everyone is lying (your family, your friends, the media), it will make you question your reality and the people around you once again . You’ve never known someone capable of such boldness and confidence. So he’s most likely telling the truth, right? No, it’s a manipulative technique that gets people to go to the gaslighter to get the “right” information.

How can you defend yourself and get out of it

By the very nature of this manipulation, it is difficult for gaslighting victims to grasp the situation. More often it is others (family members, friends, colleagues) who make the victims open their eyes, but it is not easy or frequent.

The most important advice is to ask for help. Precisely because it is not easy to understand that you have undergone or are undergoing this manipulation, if you have any doubts, contact the experts (psychologists) to evaluate your situation together. Above all, remember that you bear no responsibility for the abusive behavior of your gaslighter.

Already in the early stages of gaslighting, you may doubt your perception of reality, so it could be very useful for you:

  • keep a written diary where to write down the events and hide it from the possible gaslighter;
  • record conversations and take photographs;
  • e-mailing this evidence to a friend and then erasing all traces of it.

If you realize you’re being manipulated, don’t discuss it with the gaslighter: you could even show him strong evidence, but he’ll still be able to use it against you, reinforcing the idea that you’re the one with the problems. Rather, share them with as many trusted people as possible and, above all, ask for help (we repeat it because it is important). With a therapist you will be able to evaluate if the only possible option is to end this toxic relationship and start a journey of rebuilding your self-esteem.

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