What Is Gaslighting?


Part of what we are doing with A Change for Better is to help link you with high quality, accurate, up to date information. Today’s latest resource “What is Gaslighting?” comes from Positive Psychology. Positive Psychology is a website dedicated to providing useful information related to all things mental health and psychology.

Excerpt below:


What Is Gaslighting? A Psychologist Explains


Gaslighting is a malicious power tactic in which “the gaslighter tries (consciously or not) to induce in someone the sense that her reactions, perceptions, memories, and beliefs are not just mistaken, but utterly without grounds—paradigmatically, so unfounded as to qualify as crazy” (Abramson, 2014, p. 2).

In the famous film Gaslight, this phenomenon is portrayed by a couple played by Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer. Boyer plays the role of the gaslighter as he manipulates his wife’s reality through a series of deceptive acts (e.g., hiding precious jewels, accusing her of stealing them, and then secretly placing them in her purse).

One of his most notable strategies is to dim and brighten the gaslights while telling his wife the change in light is all in her head. Boyer also isolates his wife by warning friends of her mental instability. Boyer’s gaslighting tactics go on over a period of time, until his wife becomes increasingly confused to the point of feeling insane.

Gaslighting is a control tactic that leaves its victim in a fog of altered reality in which they question their own perceptions and memories. By creating chaos, gaslighters hold all the power in the relationship as their victims become increasingly oppressed. They often use triangulation, which involves speaking through other people rather than directly, and splitting, which involves driving a wedge between people (Sarkis, 2018).

Manipulative gaslighting is further described as an act of sidestepping evidence supporting the victim’s testimony and labeling the victim as psychologically or cognitively impaired (Stark, 2019).

To this end, gaslighters typically use statements such as “You’re too sensitive”; “You’re nuts”; “Lighten up”; “You need help”; and “I was only kidding.”


Gaslighting techniques are often grounded in social inequalities in which stereotypes are employed as a way to attack specific vulnerabilities (Sweet, 2019). For example, a gaslighting husband might criticize his wife for being too emotional when she becomes upset by his manipulations and too weak to handle his gender-focused jokes.

While there is some disagreement as to whether gaslighting abuse is more common among males, gaslighting practices are frequently reported among men and women.


Check out more of this article on Positive Psychology by clicking here.

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