What is Gaslighting?

Being Gaslighted

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Fashion trends come and go. In Psychology forms of manipulation come and go but spring up as different forms. Gaslighting may be a relatively new term, but I bet you didn’t know it was around before you were born! The term gaslighting was created from a movie in the early 1940s called ‘Gas Light’. In the movie, a husband intentionally manipulates his wife to make her think she is going crazy by making her having a false sense of reality. This is a movie with manipulation before House of Cards was cool.

Do you like gaslighting manipulation and classic movies? Well, I have the movie for you!

If you want to see concrete examples of gaslighting then you can watch the movie where the term came from. Who doesn’t like a classic black and white movie? There were two movies made in the 40s, Gaslight (1940), and Gaslight (1944). I personally recommend watching the 1944 version. It would be good for a weekend movie, just don’t watch it with the person who is gaslighting you! Ha.

Movie Review:

Even though I am not a huge fan of black and white movies, this has to be one of my favorite classic movies of all time. This is when actors were real actors! Charles Boyer is extremely smooth and plays a caring husband with a manipulative gaslighting dark side. Ingrid Bergman is a sweet and loving wife who believes her everything her husband says and does. Both of these actors are in their prime when they took these roles and they are wonderful in their respective acting styles.

The 1944 version is a step above the 1940 version, it is boring and uneventful. The 1944 version is a visual beauty and suspenseful. This movie tells a great story and illustrates what it means to be in an emotionally abusive relationship. You don’t have to like classic movies to enjoy this psychological thriller, it is a great movie for a date night! Overall I would give this movie a 4.5 out of 5, especially because of the ending monologue when the wife finally calls out her husband and all his lies. I won’t spoil the ending, just wait for it. I recently saw the full movie of the 1944 version on YouTube, check it out.

Gaslighting can happen to anyone.

Yes, someone gaslighting you can be frustrating, but there are some signs you can look out for.

Usually, the person who is making everyone else crazy is actually crazy themselves. These people are master manipulators and share common traits with abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It essentially comes down to emotional abuse, it is a slow process where the victim doesn’t even know they are being brainwashed.

Gaslighting signs to watch for:

  • Tells lies consistently and will deny it when you call them out on it, even if you have proof.
  • You often get confused around this person and don’t know why.

  • It is not one behavior you can point to but a bunch of little lies and manipulation that add up over time.
  • You get so sick of dealing with their manipulation and you eventually just do what they want.
  • Deep down inside you know something is not right with them but you won’t admit it, you are too nice.
  • They have a very strong personality and you are more passive than they are.
  • Degrade you making you feel less than them, ignorant, and insignificant.
  • Constantly holding things over your head, especially things that you have shared with them in confidence.
  • Not practicing what they preach, and when you call them out on it they act nothing ever happened.
  • First, they will give you a compliment or encouragement then put you down, and you end up being confused.
  • They use your confusion to their advantage because they know it makes you weaker.
  • Whatever they accuse others of they actually do it themselves times x10.
  • They will try and put people against you, they will lie about what others say about you.
  • Try to make it seems like no one likes you so all you do is rely on them.
  • Make sure they tell other people that you are crazy to make you look bad.
  • Inform you that you are crazy.

  • They feel the need to control your everything you do in order that you depend on them for everything.
  • An authoritarian personality that thinks in absolutes, everything is either 100% right or 100% wrong.
  • It is hard to get them to admit they are wrong, and they think everyone else is the problem.
  • They refuse to acknowledge that something is wrong with their behavior, and if they do get the therapy they will blame the people around them.
  • Possibly an extreme narcissist.
  • People are constantly making excuses for their bad behavior.
  • Sometimes you feel like you are too sensitive.
  • You stay silent instead of expressing your emotions.

I would say most people that use this type of manipulation know EXACTLY what they are doing.

This type of behavior just doesn’t come out of nowhere, it is possible they have learned how to do this. Which, if you really think about it, it is very dark and disturbing. Most people that have to manipulate others are highly insecure and have major psychological problems whether they know their manipulating ways or not. You should actually feel sorry for them that they feel like they need to have that kind of control over another human being.

Books talking about people who learn to manipulate.

In Robert Cialdini’s book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion he talks about people doing research they can learn how to manipulate others, just plain weird.

  • REVIEW: Cialdini’s book can be summed up in a few pages. You can get a good idea of his six principles he mentions in his book just by looking at the table of contents. But the entire book lays out the principles behind the psychology of persuasion and gives concrete examples with great explanations.

A particular famous political activist Saul Alinsky wrote a book called Rules for Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals. He came up with a book on how to successfully run a movement for change.

  • REVIEW: This book is important if you want to understand ‘human behavior and psychology on many levels’. It talks about how anyone with any level of intelligence can be manipulated. Alinksy was a great communicator and his rules on how to defeat others political positions is simple and easy for anyone to use, which is scary. The reason why I read this book is that in the 2008 election people would accuse then-Senator Barack Obama of hanging out with people who used Saul Alinksy like tactics or accused him of actually doing it himself in the world of dirty Chicago politics. This is not just a book for radicals but a book to understand how people manipulate. You have to become educated in this if you want to stop it these people from doing these things to you.

Dale Carnegie’s world-renowned book How to Win Friends & Influence People mentions the famous cult leader Charles Manson and how he learned how to manipulate his followers. The way he achieved this was by making his followers think it was their idea and encouraging bad behavior.

  • REVIEW: Carnegie’s book stands the test of time when it comes to learning how to communicate with others effectively. He talks about how to apply communication methods to your life in a practical way so that everyone who reads his book can understand. It has practical principles that are repeated throughout the book and emphasizes human contact, especially in our digital world.

Robert Greene’s book The 48 Laws of Power talks about the traits and particular leaders throughout history who have used manipulation tactics.

  • REVIEW: Of course, this book is controversial because the average person just wants peace in their lives and the lives of others. This book can educate you on how to pay attention to details when you think a person is manipulating and preying on those weaker than them. Greene’s book is great for those who want power, or just want to arm themselves against it.

How to deal with it?

Ariel Leve is an American author and an award-winning journalist. Her most notable book is An Abbreviated Life: A Memoir published by HarperCollins. She is most well known for being a columnist for The Guardian and the Sunday Times Magazine for over 10 years. In her TED talk, she expresses her struggles growing up and with dealing with manipulation from her mother. She talks about questioning her own sanity at different times.

She explains that our society is confused about how to deal with these types of situations. When she was 30 years old she ran into a man that knew her when she was younger. He explained to her how she ‘survived’ because he thought that her life would either end up in suicide or murder. Her mother was a poet who lived a lavish lifestyle of partying. She would confront her mother about these parties, her mother would act like these never happen. The mother then would verbally abuse her and then when she would bring the facts of abuse to her mom and her mom would deny she would even say those things.

TED Talk Review:

After watching Ariel’s TED talk I can tell how deeply this troubled her through her childhood by the abuse of her mother. She talked about she would be in this constant struggle of emotional abuse. Her mom inflicted all of that abuse on her. Her mother made her believe events that happened didn’t happen and made her believe that she was crazy.

Ariel talked about some examples of her mother’s abuse. One minute her mother would tell her that she loved her and the next minute tells her that she hates her. Ariel explained how the effects of this child abuse carried over into adulthood.  She looks for reassurance in her adult relationships because she never had it growing up. This type of manipulation is cruel, but usually, the person gaslighting has no sense of reality or logic.

Ariel’s 4 strategies:

1. Remain defiant.

Do not change your story, do not change your reality or facts when the person denies.

“Defiant doesn’t make you difficult it makes you resilient.” Ariel Leve

2. Recognize that you will never get accountability.

Asserting yourself with be harmful when you confront the person because the person doesn’t respond to logic and reason. The person manipulating you will never be able to respond to logic and reason.

3. Let go of the wish that it will be different in the future.

Even if they assure you that it would never happen again, it will. If they make promises that they won’t manipulate you again, they will break all promises and do it again. You want things to make sense but they won’t. Engaging with someone who is gaslighting you, you will never feel heard. The solution is to stop engaging and put yourself first.  

4. Develop healthy detachment.

They will constantly say things like I love you, I hate you, you’re wonderful, you are the worst. It is pushing and pulling of emotional affection. Someone who has been manipulated and abused like this is always looking for certainty in an uncertain world.

“Detachment from the gaslighter does not mean total detachment. It means distinguishing between the world of the gaslighter and reality. Let them have their alternative facts, you stick with reality.” Ariel Leve

5. Write everything down.

Ariel said her mom was a champion of free speech. This inspired her to write down all of the gaslighting moments to help her make sense of all this. But Ariel writing all the events and manipulation down it made her realize that she was not crazy and the reality of her mom was not logical. This is how she survived.

Distance and Recovery

The most important thing is your mental health. No one in this world has the right to abuse you in any way. If you are dealing with a person who is making you think you are crazy, you need to keep your distance. It is also important to understand that not everyone is like that. Do not trust the next person just because the gaslighter took your kindness, deceived, and manipulated you. You didn’t deserve this, no one does. Keep your distance and find healthy relationships. Become confident in yourself, and don’t beat yourself over the abuser taking advantage of you. Instead look to grow in your own life and forget about those people, they don’t deserve your attention.

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