10 Things I Wish I’d Known About Gaslighting before it happened to me

10 Things I Wish I'd Known About Gaslighting before it happened to me

Gaslighting is the attempt of one person to overwrite another person’s reality.

There’s a good chance that you now know more about gaslighting than most therapists.

And that is really unfortunate because if you have experienced gaslighting, it’s going to be really hard to untangle it yourself.

Unfortunately, you may have to, and I want to tell you that you are not alone.

Let me share my experience. Here are ten things I wish I’d known at the beginning. Let’s do this together.

10 Things I Wish I'd Known About Gaslighting before it happened to me
10 Things I Wish I’d Known About Gaslighting before it happened to me

10 things to know about gaslighting:

1. Gaslighting Doesn’t Have to Be Deliberate

About the fifth time I called a close friend of mine on the phone, gasping for air, asking “Am I a monster?” he finally said, “Emma, he’s gaslighting you.”

What the hell is gaslighting? I thought.

Wikipedia told me that it came from an old movie, where the main character makes changes in the environment and then insists to his victim that she is simply imagining these changes.

What? I thought. My partner isn’t doing that. I could not imagine him plotting and manipulating my environment or our interactions to make me feel crazy. He’s a human being who is hurt, who I keep hurting. It’s me, not him.

Unfortunately, the first definition I looked up was woefully inadequate. Gaslighting does not require deliberate plotting. Gaslighting only requires a belief that it is acceptable to overwrite another person’s reality.

The rest just happens organically when a person who holds that belief feels threatened. We learn how to control and manipulate each other very naturally.

The distinguishing feature between someone who gaslights and someone who doesn’t is an internalized paradigm of ownership. And in my experience, identifying that paradigm is a lot easier than spotting the gaslighting.

Gaslighting tends to follow when intimidation is no longer acceptable.

I believe that gaslighting is happening culturally and interpersonally on an unprecedented scale, and that this is the result of a societal framework where we pretend everyone is equal while trying simultaneously to preserve inequality.

You can see it in the media constantly.

For instance, every time an obvious hate crime is portrayed as an isolated case of mental illness, this is gaslighting. The media is saying to you, What you know to be true is not true.

Intimate partner violence wasn’t seen as a serious crime until the 1970s. So, did we, in the last forty years, address the beliefs that cause intimate partner violence? No.

But now if you abuse your partner, you’re usually considered to be a bad person. So what do you do, with all the beliefs that would lead you to violence, if violence is no longer an acceptable option?

You use manipulation, and you use gaslighting.

2. Manipulation and Gaslighting Are Distinct Behaviors

Maybe a better way to put this is that gaslighting is a type of manipulation, but not the only type.

Manipulation usually centers around a direct or indirect threat that is made in order to influence another person’s behavior. Gaslighting uses threats as well, but has the goal of actually changing who someone is, not just their behavior.

It’s important to recognize that gaslighting and garden variety manipulation is not the same.

Both will degrade your self-esteem but gaslighting, when effective, will actually damage your trust in yourself and your experience of reality.

3. Gaslighting Doesn’t Always Involve Anger or Intimidation

The book The Gaslight Effect refers to a type of gaslighting called glamor gaslighting.

This is where the gaslighter showers you with special attention, but never actually gives you what you need. They put you on a pedestal, but then they’re not there. In fact, they may get angry at you when you need a shoulder to cry on.

21 thoughts on “10 Things I Wish I’d Known About Gaslighting before it happened to me”

  1. I could relate to so much in this article. I’m exiting an abusive marriage where my wife gaslit me for years. Her favorite method was to accuse me of gaslighting, making me question my own reality and then make me feel terrible for bringing up what I was upset about.

  2. Thank you! I knew I’d read this somewhere else first. Great piece, and shame on this site for reposting it without credit.

  3. Wow – I recently had a conversation with my mother that went something like this:

    Me:So what you are saying is that you know my feelings and my reasons for doing things better than I do? And even if I do not agree with the way you are presenting my story that is okay because you know it better than I do?

    Her: Yes, I have spent thirty years working on myself to be as wonderful as I am, and I have this knowledge and understanding of people – I know why they are the way they are and why they do things.

    Me: Well I do not agree with the way you are presenting my reality – it is far from what is actually happening.

    Her: Yes dear. (said in tone that implies she is humouring me and will continue to do what she describes as going into my biofield , believing that she is actually finding out information about me – even though I have told her she can’t do that without permission and I certainly haven’t given it).

  4. One of the best pieces I’ve read written on this subject ! Lived it and had no idea of it until the damage had set in and eventually turned to physical abuse. Thankyou so much for sharing this, I wish I had of understood it a few years ago. I still cant comprehend why anyone would intentionally want to do this to another person. It’s really sickening.

  5. If this article pertains to you and u will know if it does Please look into Narcissistic behavior and abuse the mental and emotional toll this takes on you is immense! Abuse does not only mean getting physically abused. This behavior does not happen over night it happens in time and u stay because u remember that man u fell in love with that was so sincere and loving he was everything your heart desired your prince charming! Im sorry but that mask fell off and that “act” that pulled u in did the job you will never see those traits again no matter how long u wait and try to fix things. These people do not feel inside as we do remember the person u fell in love with was a fraud. Think of them as vampires the will suck the life out of u and continue as long as u stay and u will lose yourself you will be shocked by this behavior “where did he go” Jeckyl and Hyde” he is so mean and cruel he makes you believe its YOU and your crazy! They have no sympothy or empathy they lie constantly they cheat they are very sneaky they hide things from you like there possessions things that u could care less about they now dont trust u and not because u did ANYTHING when u try to commuicate its always a debate you become weak from trying over and over you are lonely and everything is your fault. they eve smear your name to anyone who will listen you become angry that u invested all this time u blame yourself they make a ton of broken promises they hide money from u they believe all is THERES only u are there gas and they will take as long as u allow the ONLY way to save yourself and your life is to Leave and must have NO CONTACT they will try to get u back convince u they changed its bullshit NO CONTACT they never care about your needs they dont care how u feel. If any of this sounds familiar all i am asking is that u research Narcisisst and I hope u will get out. I am a victim of this it took me 9 years and i left 7 times. My 7th was my last i slowly am regaining my life YOU CAN YOU DONT NEED HIM there is help. I am still a work in progress i finally am finding myself again i did not like the person i was around him i became isolated financially controlled the more i gave the more he took and neglected me in every aspect. Hope this helps i am just paying this forward…

  6. My ex-husband was a womanizer. He always chose my closest friends and they usually went along with the gaslighting. When I would confront him with his cheating, he would say, "You are so suspicious. I am not cheating on you. You are so possessive." When I would ask his latest lady love, she would say, " Tim needs his space. You are so possessive." He would bring them home. That is confusing. He couldn't be that brazen. After a while, you doubt everything. I lost all confidence in myself.

    Finally x in marriage counseling, after we split into individual counseling, I found a list he had made for the counselor of all of his affairs. I had been right! About everything and everyone. It was a tremendous relief. But the stress had damaged me. I don't trust anyone.

  7. Great article and thanks so much for writing it. It really helps me put things into perspective and it explains a lot of what I've experienced with my relationship with my wife and how i feel about myself and about life. I feel like I've almost lost myself and I'm quite depressed and I want to leave, but i can't break all contact because of my 21 month old son. What do you suggest in this situation?

  8. Of course it's easier to stay with him.But what will your daughter think about you? Will he portray you as weak, or unintelligent? When he feels he is losing control of his daughter as she grows and spends more time at school and friends he will want to gas light a vulnerable child or teen some day to keep control.. Sure you can chose for yourself. But you're choosing for her as well.

  9. Take good care of yourself and your little one. Be as kind and compassionate as you can to your husband without losing yourself. Stay true to you always though you may not be able to get the respect and honesty you want in your relationship with him. He's on his own journey and it's not your job to fix him or shove a mirror in his face. His behavior has to come to light for him in a way he can process it and that won't mean you having to incur further or worsened abuse. Be good to yourself first and then be good to him. If he thinks you're judging him as abusive, more than likely the behavior will just get worse. For some reason gaslighters have an insecurity they can't face, and they want control over their reality and they seek to do that through control. If you know what his insecurity is, take that into consideration and try to have empathy and compassion for that. It's unfortunate that he's coping with it by gaslighting you but somewhere inside is a need that he fears won't be met and his strategy for handling it isn't healthy. Be careful, not "walk on eggshells" careful but just take it easy. Men I think have a much harder time dealing with insecurities becuase of how much pressure they feel to "be a man." If you let him gently know that you love him for who he is maybe over time he may relax and feel comfortable addressing his fears himself or with you. Some people, and I think men especially, need a baby soft touch in order to address their fears and insecurities. I've made so many mistakes and been too confrontational with gaslighters and gotten very hurt, so I hope what I've learned is helpful in some way. As scary and difficult as it is to deal with this behavior, staying kind, curious, and compassionate would've gotten me much better results, I think. Good luck to you!!

  10. My husband and I have been together for 15 years. Half of my life. Now we have a 2 month old child. I love my husband but I know this hurts our relationship deeply. My mother is a gaslighter and it is what I'm used to. I am fully aware and have been aware that my husband had been gaslighting me for some time but I have no desire to leave him.

    I feel like I can transcend it somehow. At first our relationship was volatile but over time I have developed self confidence within myself and I am a stronger person now that I have found a spiritual path, much to my husband's dismay.

    I would like some opinions on my situation but just be aware that any

    suggestion to "leave now" will not result in me leaving now.

    I'm looking for more in depth and intellectual forms of advice. Thank you for your energy in reading my post. <3

    Thank you.

    1. How about nursing the love of your life, yet while you are nursing them after their operation they are stealing your valuables, and yet deny it when they are the only one with you! Lowest of lows!

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