Emotionally abusive relationships: Gaslighting

Emotionally abusive relationships: Gaslighting

Unlike physical or sexual abuse, emotional abuse It can be much harder to identify and recognize. Emotional abuse is often difficult to determine by the victim in terms of quantity and duration, and also occurs in multiple ways. In essence emotional abuse it is based on bringing to light deep-rooted fears of rejection, abandonment, lack of merit, shame and emotional lability.

Gaslighting is one of the main tactics used in emotional abuse.


  • 1 The Gaslighting
  • 2 Main Gaslighting Techniques
  • 3 10 signs of Gaslighting
  • 4 Stages of Gaslihgting
  • 5. Conclusions


It aims to create a great deal of confusion and self-doubt in the victim. The term is based on the play of 1938 and later 1944 film "Gas Light", in which a husband tries to drive his wife into madness by lowering the lights at home, and then denying this fact when his wife verbalizes it. In Spanish it is also called “make gas light” and this form of psychological abuse basically consisting of giving false information to make the victim doubt his memory, perception and / or sanity. This can range from simple denials by the abuser that certain events have occurred, to the staging of strange situations to disorient the victim. This kind of abuse induces the victim to question their own feelings, their memory, their instincts or even their sense of reality.

Phrases like "you're crazy, that never happened", "are you doing things wrong"or"you are too sensitive", are some of those used in these cases.

Main Gaslighting Techniques

People who do Gaslighting often use the following techniques:

1. They tell blatant lies

You know what he is saying is a lie. However, he is telling this lie so surely that he truly makes you doubt. With this attitude, create a precedent and generate doubt and indecision.

2. They deny that they ever said anything, even though you have evidence

You know he said he was going to do something, and you know you heard him. But they flatly deny it. It makes you start questioning your reality, maybe you never said that ... And the more you do it, the more you question your reality and start accepting theirs.

3. They use what is near and dear to you to attack you

Know how important your children are to you, and know how important your identity and your self-esteem. So these may be one of the first things that attack. If you have children, I might even tell you that you shouldn't have had those children. He will tell you that you would be a worthy person only if you did not have a long list of negative traits. He or she attack the base of your well-being.

4. Your actions do not match your words

What you are saying means nothing, let me finish talking and look at what he does. His actions are more sincere than his words.

5. Use positive reinforcement to confuse you

First he tells you not to be worth it and then praises you for something you did. This adds an additional sense of restlessness. One thinks: "Well, maybe it's not so bad." But it is a calculated strategy to keep you off center again and again, to question your reality.

6. They know that confusion weakens people

Gaslighters know that people like to have a feeling of stability and normalcy. Your goal is to eradicate this and it will make you constantly wonder everything. And the natural tendency of human beings is to look at the person who will help them feel more stable, and this person becomes the Gaslighter.

7. Use the projection

Projection is the act of placing unacceptable feelings on another person. For example, a person who feels inferior constantly accuses others of being stupid or incompetent. The objective of the projection is to transfer one's responsibility and guilt to another person. Victims of emotional abuse are not always aware that someone else's feelings are being projected on them, so they interpret these feelings as their own.

8. They try to put people against you

The Gaslighters they are masters of manipulation. They know how to find the people who will be on their side and at the same time against you. They can make comments such as: "This person knows that he is not well," or "this person also knows that you are useless." Keep in mind that it does not mean that these people actually said these things. A Gaslighter is a compulsive liar. When the Gaslighter uses this tactic it makes you feel as if you don't know who to trust, so you start avoiding friendships and your world comes down to the Gaslighter. And that is exactly what he wants: isolation gives them more control.

9. It will make others believe that you are crazy

This is one of the most effective tools of the Gaslighter, because they achieve the indifference of others. Know what if they question your sanity, people won't believe you when you tell them that they are treating you abusively or out of control. It is a master technique.

10. They tell everyone else that you are a liar

Telling everyone else (family, friends or even in the social networks) that you are a liar, again makes you question your reality. This is one more manipulation technique. It causes others to question all your information, believing that it is not really "correct."

10 signs of Gaslighting

  1. You constantly doubt yourself.
  2. Start questioning if you are too sensitive.
  3. You often feel confused and have difficulty making simple decisions.
  4. You apologize constantly.
  5. You can't understand why you are so unhappy.
  6. You often excuse that person's behavior.
  7. You feel you can't do anything right.
  8. You often feel like you are not good enough for others.
  9. You have the feeling that you used to be a safer, more relaxed and happy person.
  10. You don't really communicate with your friends and family, so you avoid explaining things.

Gaslighting usually occurs gradually in a relationship, so gradually that the actions of the abusive couple seem harmless at first. But over time, the victim begins to feel confused, anxious, isolated and depressed, and even loses his sense of what is really happening.

Gaslihgting Stages

The Gaslighting process happens in stages, although the stages are not always linear and sometimes overlap, reflecting very different emotional states and psychological

The disbelief: It is when the first sign of Gaslighting occurs, we think that the behavior between us and our partner, boss or friend is strange or anomalous. But it is a behavior that will not be isolated, but will be repeated over time.

The defense: The next stage is that in which we somehow defend ourselves from the manipulation of the Gaslighter. For example, your boss tells you that he is not satisfied with your work and will not upgrade or assign you; You ask him why, but instead of addressing the problem, he tells you that you are too stressed or that you are too sensitive ... well, maybe there is some truth, but he does not answer the question of why not It takes you into account for these improvements. You try to talk to him to start defending yourself and tell his boss that you are not sensitive or stressed, or that stress does not interfere with your ability to work. During this stage the abused person goes crazy for having a conversation and clarifying things, reviewing again and again in his mind, as in an endless tape, the arguments he is going to tell him. But the abuser avoids any rational conversation that leads to a clear explanation and mutual understanding, simply returns to confusing reasoning that makes the victim more disorienting.

The Depression: when we reach this stage it means that we are experiencing a remarkable lack of joy. Some of our habitual behaviors are felt as strangers and we question our actions or even our way of seeing ourselves. We cut ourselves more and more with friends, in fact, we don't talk to people about this relationship to avoid exposing our "failures." Rarely can people express their concern about how they are and that they feel they are treated as if they really had a problem.


With the Gangslihgtingvictims do not recognize emotional abuse when it is happening. Ultimately, Gaslighting creates a deep sense of confusion, incompetence and fear.

Abusers make it difficult for victims to think clearly enough to take protective measures for themselves.

It's important to put attention on People who have been victims of emotional abuse during their childhood have a higher risk of being victims of emotional abuse in adulthood.

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