The term originated from the play Gas Light 1938. The term has been used in clinical psychological literature, as well as in political commentary and philosophy.
What do Gaslighters do?
Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person covertly sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual, making them question their own memory, perception, or judgment, often evoking in them cognitive dissonance. Using denial, misdirection, contradiction, and misinformation, gaslighting involves attempts to destabilize the victim and delegitimatize the victim’s beliefs. Instances can range from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents occurred.
How to spot a Gaslighter
* Withholding information from the victim
* Countering information to fit the abuser’s perspective
* Discounting information
* Using verbal abuse, usually in the form of jokes
* Blocking and diverting the victim’s attention from outside sources
* Trivializing – minimizing – the victim’s worth
* Undermining the victim by gradually weakening them and their thought processes
What about husband/wife relationships?
In interpersonal relationships, the victimizer needs to be right in order to preserve his or her own sense of self, and his or her sense of having power in the relationship; and the victim allows the victimizer to define his or her sense of reality inasmuch as the victim idealizes him or her and seeks his or hers approval.
The psychological manipulation may include making the victim question their own memory, perception, and sanity. The abuser may invalidate the victim’s experiences using dismissive language,
“Don’t be so sensitive”
“I was just joking!”
“I’m worried; I think you’re not well”
Psychologists Jill Rogers and Diane Follingstad said that such dismissals can be detrimental to mental health outcomes. They described psychological abuse as a range of aversive behaviors that are intended to harm an individual through coercion, control, verbal abuse, monitoring, isolation, threatening, jealousy, humiliation, manipulation, treating one as an inferior, creating a hostile environment, wounding a person regarding their sexuality and/or fidelity, withholding from a partner emotionally and/or physically.
What other traits do Gaslighters posses?
Gaslighters are often Sociopaths and narcissists and frequently use gaslighting tactics to abuse and undermine their victims. Sociopaths consistently transgress social mores and exploit others, but typically also are convincing liars, sometimes charming ones, who consistently deny wrongdoing. Thus, some who have been victimized by sociopaths may doubt their own perceptions.