On gaslighting


From the 1944 film Gaslight. (Source)

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse in which the abuser tries to undermine his victim’s sense of reality.

“The gaslighter’s overall goal is to modify evidence then falsify information for the purpose of making their intended target(s) question their own recollection, memory, analysis, and perception of events and/or behaviors. In other words, they reject reality and substitute it with their own for personal gain and entertainment. In short, they enjoy inflicting psychological pain onto others and will stop at nothing to psychologically abuse their targets in order to get their own way. So what is it that they do?  The primary behaviors are listed as follows:

  • Deny existence of an event even when presented with evidence (Denial);
  • Deliberately block their victims from source data (Compartmentalizing);
  • Deny behaviors by immediately putting their targets on the defensive (Deflection);
  • Insist that their targets are imagining things (Chronic Invalidation);
  • Shame their targets for expressing very real hurts (Minimization);
  • Insist that others are the source of their poor choices (Blaming);
  • Mentally abuse their targets with criticism veiled as “advice” (Depreciation);
  • (Usually) must have the last word (again, Chronic Invalidation);
  • Force agreement by their targets to accept their false reality (Domination);
  • Engage in gossip in order to hurt and control their targets (Humiliation);
  • Has the ability to “sell ice to an Eskimo” meaning that they are persistent and manipulative enough to convince someone to invest in something that they could receive for free (Insincerity).”

Amy Lynne Burch

I would add to this list:

  • Insist that victims are lying and/or exaggerating when they notice the abuse and speak up about it.  (Invalidation, Deflection)
  • Insist that the victims “just want to be victims”, are victimizing themselves, or are the victims of someone else, not the abuser.  (Minimization, Deflection, Blaming)
  • Attempt to distance their victims from associating with other people who might contribute a different perspective than the abuser wants by attempting to discredit such people (“They’re not really your friends”) (Compartmentalizing)
  • Accuse their victims of doing exactly what the abuser is doing: for example, the cheating husband who comes home and accuses his wife of cheating (Deflection)

If you have any other additions to this list, please feel free to add them in the comments.  I’d love to hear from other people who have gone through this.


3 thoughts on “On gaslighting

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