Published in Apr 2019 / Updated in Aug 2021
In case it’s not clear what gaslighting means, this is an underhanded and bossy form of psychological manipulation.
More importantly, if someone is trying to use this form of manipulation on you, there is something you can do to put a stop to it.
The term gaslighting came from a play by Patrick Hamilton, named Gaslight. The play went on to become a British film and later a Hollywood movie. The play highlighted coercive control and marital manipulation.
In the play, a woman is in a relationship with a man who acts kind and then cold. He also flirts around, but gets defensive and accuses her of misreading the situation when she brings it up. He uses manipulation and hides the truth from her to the point where she has doubts about her sanity.
Consequently, gaslighting has become a term that describes a form of psychological torture that discredits and disorients the victim who can even turn against themselves.
When a psychotherapist, Stephanie Sarkis, wrote on the warning signs for gaslighting after discovering that many of her patients could be victims, she received a lot of accolades from people who found out they were victims.
Gaslighting has been described as “the most useful word” in the US by the American Dialect Society as well as one of the “words of the year” by the Oxford Dictionary. Gaslighting has also been described as the deepest form of moral wrong, as it entails going through the worst kind of experience and then being told it’s not happening.
This form of abuse can happen in domestic relationships and also at work.
In general, gaslighters cannot stand other people’s points of view. Obviously, the best way to avoid gaslighting is to avoid the perpetrators. Both men and women can perpetrate gaslighting, including high profile people such as politicians.
But you have to spot the gaslighter first, and here are some clues.
Signs you are dealing with a gaslighter:
1. They are agitators and instigators.
Gaslighters like to start fights. But they don’t like to take part in the fights, they prefer to watch from the sides as the fights they started unfold.
2. They make conditional apologies.
A conditional apology does not involve the person taking responsibility for their actions. For instance, “I am sorry you feel that way” is not really an apology, but manipulation. The only time a gaslighter will make a seemingly genuine apology is when they need something from you.
3. They pit people against each other.
Gaslighters like it when people are at each other’s throats, also known as splitting. They can peddle unflattering lies between old friends so that they start going against each other.
4. They stop at nothing to get what they need.
A gaslighter will often flatter you for their own gain. However, you will know them by the fact that they will quickly lose this persona as soon as their needs are met. So, if the friendship you have with someone seems suspect, know that you might be dealing with a gaslighter.