Gaslighting: Designed to Destroy Your Sanity
The purpose of gaslighting is to destroy your sanity, and thereby gain control over your ability to perceive the truth. Your abuser does not want you to believe your perceptions. They want you to believe their version of reality. Gaslighting is the art of making someone else believe ridiculous lies; gaslighting is designed to destroy your sanity. And it works.
In your gaslighter's version of reality,
- You do not question them.
- You do not have a differing opinion.
- You do not have an individual thought or desire.
Your gaslighter wants you to be just like them so you will feel, think, and act like them, even when they are not present. In this way, the abuser has complete control over his or her own environment--no surprises--no matter where they are. Abusers want a mind-numbed robot to ensure life plays exactly as the cunning manipulator wants it to. You are the robot; you are never the lover, spouse, child or employee.
Gaslighting - How They Do It
There are several ways abusers use gaslighting to deprive you of your sanity. The following is not an exhaustive list.
Gaslighters Manipulate Your Physical Environment
The abuser could purposefully alter their victim's physical environment and then insist the environment had not changed.
For example, the abuser could pick up your keys from your habitual storage place on the kitchen counter and place them on your dresser. The next morning as you frantically search for the keys, he says nothing - he watches you search or pretends to help you look. When you finally find the keys, you wonder, "How did they get on the dresser?" but your gaslighter says nothing.
The gaslighter may put you through this and similar missing item scenarios over the course of time. They'll eventually use your inability to remember where you placed your things to infuse further doubt in your mind. She may say something like, "How can you be so certain you remember what I said yesterday when you can't keep track of your own belongings?! Is there something wrong with your memory?"
And poof - you haven't been able to keep track of your own stuff so maybe there is something wrong with your memory - the seed of self-doubt takes root. You begin to believe that maybe your abuser is right. This opens the door to self-doubt; self-doubt corrupts your perception of reality.
Once you begin doubting your perceptions, your gaslighter gains power over you.
Gaslighters Claim to Know Why You Do What You Do and the Motives of Strangers
Gaslighters insult their victim's sense of security by making you believe they know your motives and the motives of the people around you. It's uncanny how many gaslighters have psychic abilities--they profess to be able to read minds through their assertions of knowing one's inner, true motive.
For example, you know why you smiled at the stranger who was enjoying the time with his daughter at the park. You perhaps felt happiness in seeing a father create sweet memories for his daughter that will last her lifetime. You remember your own father playing with you when you were young, and seeing the stranger in the park do the same thing causes you to feel joy.
You smiled at him - you couldn't help it. He smiled back when he caught you looking because that's what people do.
However, your abuser saw the whole thing. He is sullen and quiet (tempting you to draw out of him what is wrong) or begins telling you what you did was wrong right away. Either method of behavior quickly wipes the smile off of your face.
You abuser says that you smile at too many people - everyone thinks you sleep around or are naive and can be taken advantage of easily (or other such nonsense). Your abuser also says that the man in the park wants to sleep with you. A man's sole motive in smiling is because he wants to get in your pants. He doesn't smile at other women; you shouldn't smile at other men. Your abuser presents himself as being concerned about your well-being.
Gaslighters Exploit Your Worst Fears
When your gaslighter engages in intimate conversation with you, s/he is actually probing your mind for weapons to use against you. Your abuser listens to you intently, their eyes doe-like, concern emanating from their every pore. You feel as if they are listening to you, and you expose your soul.
Every intimate detail you reveal during this conversation will come back to haunt you very soon.
In some future conversation, your gaslighter will say casually: "Don't you see? This is why no one takes you seriously." The "this" they refer to could be your fear that you are too sensitive, too clingy, too something that you definitely do not want to be. And you will take it to heart because your abuser knows you so well! You told them that!
In a future argument, your abuser will threaten you with: "You will end up with NO ONE!" invoking your fear of abandonment. Or they'll say, "No one could love a person like you!" implying that even they do not love you and only tolerate you because they are forgiving/kind/stuck with you.
If you've expressed a commitment, you'll hear "I thought you meant it when you said you would love, honor and cherish me forever! If you loved me you would..." If you've said you thought you were gaining weight, you'd hear "You are getting fat and its ruining our sex life."
Gaslighters Deny The Truth
Then, to add insult to injury, when you feel bold enough to tell your abuser that you were hurt by one of their statements, they will say, "What? I never said that" or "You misunderstood" or "Can't you take a joke?" or "That's not what happened."
Hmph. Can anyone say bull$hit?
There are ways to nip gaslighting in the bud or recognize and stop it at its later stages. In time, gaslighting relieves you of your ability to perceive the truth. Go to the library and check out Dr. Robin Stern's book, The Gaslight Effect or buy it from Amazon.
*Both women and men could be abusers or victims, so do not take my pronoun choices as an implication that one gender abuses and the other is victimized.
Holly, K. (2011, October 27). Gaslighting: Designed to Destroy Your Sanity, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 15 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/verbalabuseinrelationships/2011/10/gaslighters-seek-to-destroy-your-sanity
Author: Kellie Jo Holly
Oh my goodness, I can relate to each and everyone of these horrific stories. I just found the term Gaslighting and I'm just blinded and now am in another and he is exactly the same. I there was another comment about how these men can take a confident, bold, loving kind woman and make her so worthless and broken. j Here is a term for you if you have not heard it "Parental Alienation" my ex convinced me to leave and once I did I couldnt go back, then he claimed Domestic Violence on me and I had to fight it, and won thank gosh but he had brainwashed and lied to my kids so bad that it has been 6 years and they do not talk to ANY, yes ANY member of my family, friends, cousins grandparents. It's the worse form of abuse and the courts don't care. I'm right there with you but to give some added support become a member of the Alienation Group. It offer support, ideas, heartaches but stories of reunification as well. My heart is with you sister and all on this site and all who suffer, most importantly our children. I have all of you and all walking this painful journey. I lean of God, He offers me comfort. God Bless!!!
I'm not so jaded by my negative, albeit, brief experiences with the crazy-makers to take myself out of the dating pool, but I think I need a respite from dating. I'm tired of consuming those "Gas-Lighter" cocktails--a fruity, sweet, tasty drink you initially THINK is awesome, until you discover it's SO full of the hard, nasty stuff, that you suddenly realize how sick you've become by them and find yourself mindlessly staggering into a doctor's office!
(Much love and best wishes to all of you who are still struggling. You will eventually be okay because you truly are stronger than you think!)
He was also telling his friends that they too were "beautiful" too. So I got mad at him but he said I was being too jealous and I cried and he said “I don’t want to lose you” so I stayed. A month later I logged on to the website we met on to see if his profile was still active, sure enough it was active, he was even online at that moment I checked, my heart sank, while he was at work he was looking for women with the headline "looking for fun" and status living together I think I am a pretty smart woman but I lost it, broke down and ran away to the woods. He came looking for me and said that it was to help his brother out.
Being the light hearted person I am, I forgave him but I really never trusted him. Than one night his drunk brother and I got into an argument where he told me all the things my supposed love had thought about me. is brother yelled at me, yelled some more, go in the other room, he follow me and yell at me some more until I had to physically fight him off in front of his 5 year old and 11 year old, My guy sat in the recliner, I beg him to make his brother stop screaming at me, and he just sat there, with no emotion at all claiming that everything this drunk hooligan was spitting in my face, I ran for my life, too many guns in the house, through the front door, in the middle of the country, fell flat on my face as I was running, walked down a dark highway, in a big circle back to that little blue house, and my so called boyfriend never even came looking for me. He told his brother that I was being lazy because I didn’t have a job, although I was a full time writer and going to school online, cleaned the house, did all the dishes, made the bed every morning, scrubbed the showers, to he toilets,and baby sat his brothers kids while he was passed out drunk and I was trying everything to conceive his child. Hum, think he tried to make me look like the bad guy.
Still he said he “loved me” BUt I knew that blank stare he loved himself more than anyone, he was selfish and he didn;t care how much I was hurting, he watched me cry, pack my things an hundred times and than turn around and make me feel like I was the one who did him wrong. FInally, I went to church and the chuch warend me to get out of there, my family, my freindsand even the songs on the radio told me to leave. I didn’t want to let our dreams die, I wanted to forgive and move on. I wanted to love him for enterinty, but its just too hard to love a man with a mental illness. And that is what this is, a very seroius mental illness that may haunt him for the rest of his life, he may never discover true love because of it, but at least I know I can heal and am glad that it was less than a year long. I packed up my stuff and moved to my brothers house 5 hours away, I had to leave my beloved cat because I had limited options, I could only take one, I have two cats, someday I will go back for my cat not for the broken man because I know only God can save his soul. I was wrong to have moved in with him, I had horrible nightmares of cheating, abuse and self destruction but once I moved away, my life has become so much more peaceful, and I get to reconnect with my family and seek truth and healing from God's word . I kept making excuses for his behavior, I was blinded, I didn't see what they saw or at least he painted a different picture in my head, he controlled how I felt about him. We didn't break right away after I moved out, he kept asking me to come back, but deep down he knew that I didn’t want to come back.
So I slammed the door, locked it and threw away the key. No contact what so ever, I want to be nice, I even want to send him a christmas present because he was always such a tight ass with money, He wouldn’t even buy groceries. He made me buy them with my little food stamps. Ug, how could I be so deceived!
He said I was acting crazy, and that he just talks to the other women. I know from the get go he didn't respect women. I wasn't aware of the gaslighting until I received a message from God. I had an owl hoot at my window, well guess what that means, owls reveal hidden truths. And the very next day someone mentioned “gaslighting” and it rang a bell so loud I cried and now I know the truth and can make wiser decisions. I thought I was acting out of control because not only did he make me feel like I was a loser but he thought I was stupid enough not to notice his divided attention. ONe foot in the door one foot out. Should of took a hint when he referred to dating as test driving a car. I guess I had to go back to the dealership I may be a clunker but I have a good engine. Over and over I would be the one crying because I thought I was being a bad girlfriend by pushing him away with my jealousy. He told me : "you are going to have to change if you ever want to come back here" I had to take a day to think about that. “I have to change?” I started to get mad that night, and messaged him the next morning. “No I don’t have to change, what I do have to change is my taste in men”
So I slammed the door, locked it, and threw away the key. It the first time I haven’t talked to him in days, but the more space, the more I see how he was manipulating my thoughts about him and the true status of his heart. I want to be nice, I even want to send him a christmas present because he was always such a tight ass with money, He wouldn’t even buy groceries. He made me buy them with my little food stamps. Ug, how could I be so deceived! Thank you Jesus what A blessing it is to have A God who lets me fall but helps me back up.
Once he had the audacity to tell me "you are the one who is loving and caring you should be the one to go down on your knees and formally ask me to marry you'
Once he said he wants to choose a gift for his friend, and he was insisting on bracelet that had heart and ring...We ended up choosing a bracelet. He was so adament he wants to give her a ring. Later I found out (recently) that she was the girl he told his friends he slept with.
Another time he brought and showed me a necklace, saw how it looks on me and then said it's for his friend's girlfriend whom i knew. But the way he showed at first was as though it was meant for me.
I made it a point to make him feel special on everyone of his birthdays. He did not gift me a single thing. I confirmed that he's a psycho when on my last birthday in august I met him and he frantically emptied a plastic card holder in the parking lot..when i say frantically I mean he was sweating and shuffling his fingers..stuffing the cards in all his pockets. then he hands it to me and says it's for me. and he even mentioned how much it costs. Later I saw the same card holder being sold on the streets for less than 1/10th of what he told. He has financial issues and I've given him lots of money when he needed it for his mother's treatment. But financial burden does not mean you can't do sweet things for your girl on her birthday.
Later while going he said 'sorry i screwed up your birthday'.
He'd complain about my body and praise other girls' bodies in front of me. once when i wore something nice, everyone said i look nice but he asked if i just woke up and came. Once he was supposed to join a talk organized by my office and i kept waiting near the venue on the road.. he kept sayin he'll reach in 10 min and reached after 45 min. I missed the event because of him and was in tears when he came. and he started to blame me again asking me why i didn't go ahead without him. How could I when he kept saying he's going to reach in 5 min and 10 min!? and i was scared he'd scold me that he can't find the venue so i thought i should take him there.
He also has the habit of making girls believe that he has interest in them and then friendzone them.
He's done all kind of weird things no guy would ever do. I still do not know what is the problem that he's got. are a lot of guys like this? Sometimes i completely doubt myself. am i that bad that i don't deserve love? Am i too good natured to not be taken for granted? he's the only boyfriend i've had.
All arguments would turn around and bang on my face as my fault. I ceased fighting with him and started analyzing and taking blames on myself. He lies about the past, cooks up stories of meeting with accidents, makes up all kind of bullshit to gain sympathy, make me jealous or put blame on me. What I can really connect with everyone else here is the fact that I have become a person who is constantly analyzing him, our relationship and doubting myself to be wrong and insane. I'm depressed, guilty and hurt all the time. Always feel confused and guilty while I've given my 200% into the relationship. When I finally realized he's been lying and cheating apart from using me for money, and talking ill of me to people, I was shocked and started wondering how he managed to turn everything on me all these years. That's when I came across gaslighting. He's been crazy making me since the beginning of the relationship. He'd omit things and say he said them to me. In our last fight he even tried to make me believe that in the first year of relationship I was having casual sex with him without commitment or relationship and that's untrue. He almost made me think and analyze about it though I know it's not true.
Oddly, he always introduced me to all of his friends and family but never agreed to meet anyone of my friends or family. He used to say that my friends are really stupid and that I should get better friends.
He'd give me sensible advice, and then say i can't handle things, making me feel like Im the stupid one. I still am not able to start thinking clearly. My life has stagnated and my potential crushed.. I'm just glad I did not marry him. Had I not suspected he's using me I would have ended up making a family with him and I can't imagine what might have happened after that. However I'm not able to trust anyone or myself after what has happened I feel very alone and disconnected. I'd be glad if I can connect with someone here who can help me out because I'm really distressed. We still speak and I'm afraid he will manipulate me. He's even told all his people now that I'm the crazy one. I feel so betrayed and hurt that no one's going to understand to what extent he has control over my mind.
I have finally found out what my husband has been trying to achieve for years. I even went to a Psychiarist because I thought I had the problem, and back then the Dr said my mind was fine it was the person who was feeding it. 27 years from the day after I was married it started not very much at first but when the kids came along it really got bad. Now I am a mess and can't cope with anything. I am not especially afraid of him leaving it's more that I need him to leave me not the other way around. I feel that the kids are watching and waiting and he will manipulate there minds as well. Yes I will go see the Dr. My friends have tried to help him see that my depression is because of his lack of emotion and care and love but he cannot see it and blames me for everything. I think the biggest turning point was when I got a job... Oh he so hates it . The thing is I feel normal and happy when I am at work. But why do I always want tat ideology of maybe we can work on this and be a happy family?
When you're fed up with the gaslighter treating you poorly, you must decide what you can do to save your sanity. It isn't up to you to save the gaslighter, too.
My exprience of this is not so different. I thought i was going crazy in my relationship. Every dispute was going nowhere, or was like a boomrang... it took me a few years to understand that my girlfriend was not a "victim" and i was not a "persecutor" (like she wanted me to beleive it) etc... it took me years to understand (and accept) that I had to "get out of this bus". There is no way to deal with this kind of person. There is nohing to save in this kind of relationsip. Unfortunately. Being seperated hurts. A lot. But what hurts the most is to forget your values, your believes, your personnaltiy, yourself, your life, because you love " a black hole" who CANNOT be loved. I wish more men can talk about their own experience and can be aware about this problem.
We don't get many requests <em>from</em> men for mentoring at this point. But plenty of women don't care what gender their mentor is, so even if we don't have a bunch of guys reaching out, your experience is still needed! If you're interested in becoming a mentor, go to http://verbalabusejournals.com/help-with-domestic-abuse/domestic-violence-survivor-mentors/i-want-to-be-a-survivors-mentor-application/
Putting the keys were you can't find them then yell. When you new we're they were will now I know I was getting gaslighter, wow forty years of devotion to this man I found what a gaslighter was today very happy now I have to try to get way any suggestion that might help me would be apprciated
So nice to see plenty of women with good understanding of the subject and clear, steady insight.
People are starting to cut off from her, because they need to cut off from HIM, really - and that is bringing her lower. Of course he is loving it, watching her friends go away.
I wish I knew what to say to help her see just how manipulative and controlling he is.
Many people commenting have expressed a certain natural lack of understanding regarding why a person would act in this manner. I say "natural" because (I'm taking for granted that) your goal in relationships is one of mutual respect and affection, emotionally supportive, and (romantically or familially) having unconditional love. This is a good thing. And I promise there are other people out there (friends, lovers, etc) who genuinely seek the same things.
So the first difficult thing to fathom for me was that some people just don't have that goal. They will say they do. They might even believe that what they want is the same. But the reality is that some people have different understandings of what a "relationship" is or what "love" even means.
For most of us love means being able to be vulnerable because we know we are still safe. For others love (for whatever reason) is equated with control. In fact the concept of making oneself vulnerable to ANYONE can be in total opposition to what their life has taught them.
You are from Mars or Venus, and that person is from the inside of black hole. And it sucks for them, but there's nothing you can do without getting sucked in too. You can't fix it.
2. Once you understand that you do not have the same goal (love, respect), its a little easier to deal with.
Its like driving somewhere with someone. It seems like you're heading in the right direction, but s/he keeps making turns and detours. And you're like "Am I reading this map wrong?" and you realize "No, the map is right. Oh gosh, my driver only speaks bushman and is made out of fucking Dark Matter. I need to get out of the car."
3. Once you understand you come from different mental/emotional orientations, get out of the car. Now, stay out of the car. Don't try to figure him/her out so that you can communicate, and s/he can "understand." Because you are making the dangerous assumption that s/he even wants to understand. They don't. Why should they? They know they're right, and you're wrong. But they'll let you try to explain to reel you back in. They'll even use your insights when figuring out how to get back in your head.
"But how could someone act so harmfully and cruelly to someone they say they love?!"
Because, this type of control is selfish.
When that person acts out, s/he has no doubt whatsoever that what s/he is doing is Right. And that you DESERVE it. People don't do evil things with the belief that they're wrong (Nazis, Witchhunts, Trail of Tears). They do them with justifications, and will absolve themselves for... ever.
So hang in there gang, its a hell of a lesson to learn, but life's about to get better if it hasn't already.
Its been about 8 years since my Gaslighter. Having been through it, its like you gain superpowers when people try to pull similar tactics again.
Its like you're Wonderwoman, deflecting manipulation with your wrist cuffs, and seeing through the BS with your Lariat of Truth.
And you know that doubt you may have, of whether you are difficult to love, or even worth loving?
OK, think back to one kind thing you've done, for an adult, child, animal, whatever.
No, seriously, stop reading.
Got the memory in place?
OK. Yes. You deserve to be loved.
My observation is based on this horrified reaction to the illustration -- the feeling of, "how could anyone actually *do* that to someone else...let alone someone they supposedly love?!!!" I can't believe it. And yet, I can easily believe all of the other things because I have seen them firsthand. But somehow, this makes those other things seem less despicable to me -- how strange.
I suppose that the basis of this differentiation comes from the strongly held belief that no one I love could be so *deliberate* in trying to hurt me. I know that in my weakest moments, I have used words (that I knew I regretted even as I said them) to lash out/fight back...while weekly feeling even as I said them that they never even hit their mark, but only made *me* feel more horrible for trying to. Guilt over fire with fire and a lack of self-control. This is how I imagine any normal person would feel.
By contrast, I simply cannot fathom such a *strategic* approach to making someone feel awful and/or crazy! To misplace their belongings and then act innocent like that...repeatedly, no less! That just strikes me as the mark of a truly sadistic and cruel person. The painful words born out of heated and regretful spontaneity are so much more forgivable (to me) -- but the evidence of such spiteful and plotted acts is much harder to ignore.
As I type this, though, I am reminded of the existence of that evidence, too. It didn't come in the form of misplacing my things to destroy my sanity (which most certainly did suffer from the other behaviors outlined in your article -- why is that so much easier to overlook???), but it was there. And it was far less covert. I had plenty of time to think about it during the hours spent in a cold jail cell and the five weeks of displacement from my home that followed. Over three months later, I am *still* enduring the hardships brought on by a relationship started less than a year ago -- it feels ridiculous. As does the fact that I continue to wish that my love had been enough to keep any of this from happening.
That I knew the whole time so when I tried to show emotion or get upset and talk about it with him I was immedietly dismissed. I wasn't allowed to say anything because I already knew.
I couldn't believe what I was hearing from him. I was so depressed.....
He must have spent hours planning and thinking.......