Gaslighting: The Most Subtle and Caustic Form of Abuse

· November 1, 2017

Has anyone ever made you believe you were crazy? That what you say never happened? When someone makes you doubt your judgment or what question what you think happened, you might feel very confused or even depressed. This is a very effective manipulation strategy that people use to take advantage of others and make them suffer. We are talking about Gaslighting, the most subtle and caustic form of abuse. 

The term “Gaslighting” is not random. It’s from a movie called “Gas Light”, in which the protagonist makes his wife believe that she is going crazy and should see a psychologist. His manipulation has a purpose: to steal her fortune. Gaslighting is real torture for anyone who becomes a victim of this cruel hoax. 

Gaslighting is a form of pychological mistreatment.

Gaslighting, a weapon for manipulators

Thought we might not be very familiar with the term, gaslighting is used more often than we think. It’s a weapon of manipulators. With it, they can make their victim go crazy and submit to whatever they desire. Do you need some examples? These may sound familiar.

Imagine that someone says to their partner that they felt hurt during a particular conversation. The other person says she doesn’t remember that, that he is making it up, and that she would never have said that. Although he could question that statement, the manipulator just planted something very important: a seed of doubt. 

gaslighting messages

After this happens, a series of circumstances will follow that will remind the victim of the moment that his partner told him that things were not like he thought. In any other similar situation, the manipulator will say that he is exaggerating, he is lying, that his extreme sensibility causes problems, etc. The seed will sprout and begin to grow. Little by little, the other person will start to think that he actually is blowing things out of proportion.


If you start to lie to avoid being questioned or challenged, or you constantly second guess your ideas and actions, you might be the victim of manipulation.

In extreme cases, the person that carries out these types of abuses will hide objects and constantly make the other person think that she is wrong and that her memories can’t be trusted. The motive behind this might be to control the other person, to feel powerful, to cause harm or to fulfill some particular purpose, like in the movie “Gas Light”. This is clearly an example of a toxic relationship. In a relationship like this, the victim becomes extremely insecure, constantly doubts what she believes to be true, and becomes absolutely dependent on the opinion of others.

Trust your intuition

Is it hard to leave this type of situation? Of course. Just like it is difficult to get out of any situation with a person who is willing to manipulate us. But it’s not impossible. It is important to keep in mind certain key strategies if someone is trying to Gaslight us. These help us open our eyes and escape from a situation like the one we described.

gaslighting woman

The first of these strategies is to trust our intuition. When we feel like something strange is happening, that something isn’t quite right, we shouldn’t believe everything the other person says. Our instinct is talking to us and we need to listen. Our intuition is usually at least as “reasonable” as the other person.

The second key strategy is not to look for approval from the other person. This is something we often do because of low self-esteem or because we need acceptance. But if our instinct is already telling us that something is off, we shouldn’t believe someone who tells us that a particular conversation never happened.

Let’s make him understand how we felt and what we experienced. Let’s make it clear that it is possible he might have forgotten what happened as well and that we aren’t offending him when we doubt his memories. In the same way, he shouldn’t offend us when he doubts ours.

The third strategy is to maintain our boundaries. If the other person yells at us, if he uses hurtful words or we notice that he tries to use us for his own end, we must say something and not just let it go. We can’t allow someone to cross our boundaries or we reinforce the idea that he can do it with impunity. Our boundaries should be impassable. Once we’ve given in there is no going back and psychological manipulator will take advantage of the opportunity.

Gaslighting can destroy our self-esteem, make us completely lose trust in our own judgment, and cause anxiety disorders or even depression.

We may doubt ourselves, but in that case, the best option is to independently look for proof. Gaslighting is a strategy that feeds the belief that what we experience a different reality than what an objective observer would describe. Thus, our thoughts become obsessive, which reinforces this idea.

gaslighting-woman

Distancing ourselves from people who are making us feel this bad is important. With distance, we can analyze the situation from a new perspective, far from manipulation. Agreeing with the other person when they are making us doubt ourselves gives him the power to destroy us.