Gaslighting is a type of manipulation that causes a person to doubt their own beliefs, sanity, or memory.
Gaslighters undermine the trust a person has in their reality. They create a world in which the victim’s point of view is untrustworthy, dysfunctional, or wrong.
Rather than a single event, gaslighting tends to occur over weeks or years. The gaslighter steadily chips away at the victim’s self-confidence and well-being. Over time, the victim’s self-doubt can lead them to feel confused, scared, and unhappy.
Gaslighting can occur in romantic relationships, friendships, families, and in the workplace.
Why Do People Gaslight?
Gaslighting is often used as a method of control over another person. When someone begins to doubt their own memory or sanity, they may come to depend on the gaslighter to make sense of things. In this way, the gaslighter is elevated to a position of power or authority.
Additionally, gaslighting invalidates the victim’s point of view. The victim is made out to be wrong or not to be trusted, so that the gaslighter always has the upper hand in the relationship. The gaslighter becomes the only one in the relationship who can be trusted.
How Does Gaslighting Work?
The gaslighter convinces the victim they are wrong, misremembering, or are mentally unwell. They might say things such as “that never happened” or “you’re crazy.” Initially, the victim may not be convinced. However, the gaslighter is persistent, and over time the victim comes to believe the gaslighter’s point of view.
Gaslighters often enlist others—friends, children, or other family members—to bolster support for their tactics. For example, they may tell others that the victim is “crazy” and is not to be trusted.