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Manipulative Gaslighting Abuse: More Than Just Narcissistic Lying

Updated on April 27, 2018
Gail Meyers profile image

Gail is a mother, grandmother, JD and advocate in Kansas City.

Manipulative Gaslighting Abuse

Manipulative Gaslighting Abuse: More Than Just Narcissistic Lying
Manipulative Gaslighting Abuse: More Than Just Narcissistic Lying | Source


Gaslighting invalidation and rewriting history is much more than just lying. The term originated from the movie, Gaslight, which is followed by definitions of gaslighting by the experts. Understanding gaslighting is critical, so providing a firm foundation of gaslighting is the goal as the discussion continues into gaslighting invalidation, how gaslighters love to rewrite history, was is termed as physical gaslighting strictly for clarity and distinction, and some examples of gaslighting. Next, the three phases of gaslighting, and concluding with some of the ways gaslighting techniques are used.

The goal is awareness in order for the reader to equip themselves to begin recognizing gaslighting if it is happening to you or a loved one. While virtually anyone can employ gaslighting techniques against another person, there are some specific situations in which gaslighting is often used. For example, the average person is not intentionally trying to drive their spouse into the psychiatric hospital with gaslighting techniques.

Gaslight Movie Trailer

*Don Juan Perpetrator is a term coined by KC3Lady, meaning pursuing a relationship with someone for narcissistic or even criminally manipulative reasons such as financial gain, as in the movie. The psychopath begins a whirlwind relationship with the niece, after killing the aunt in years past, for the very reason of obtaining the jewels.

Gaslight Movie Review

Gaslight, the Movie

The term gaslighting derives from the 1938 stage play Angel Street, and the 1940 and 1944 film adaptations Gaslight. This is an absolute must see movie because it so clearly demonstrates both the techniques and the effects of gaslighting, as well a hint at the unsavory characters and their motives for gaslighting.

Ingrid Bergman won an Oscar for her performance in this psychological thriller playing the wife and gaslight victim of her greedy, manipulative husband. In true narcissistic style, the gaslighting husband has a hidden agenda as he begins the whirlwind romance of his Don Juan perpetration toward Ingrid Bergman’s character, Paula.

He sweeps her off her feet during the idealization phase, proposing very early in the relationship. Once married, and with all of the legal rights that go along with marriage, the relationship quickly moves into the devaluation phase as he isolates her and begins to intentionally and systematically drive her to insanity with gaslighting techniques.

He undermines her perceptions by insisting she is hearing things when what she is actually hearing is him sneaking around in the attic. He intentionally moves things so she cannot find them, which has been coined "physical gaslighting" for clarity. Then when she comments on it, he responds to her in a way designed to cause her to continue to doubt her perceptions. While he is doing all of this, he simultaneously tells her she is forgetful, before escalating into telling her she is mentally ill.

He is now speaking condescendingly and at times angrily to her as the relationship approaches the discard phase with him threatening to have her committed. He gets the housemaids to join in on the gaslighting, which coupled with the imposed isolation results in her being unable to receive validation from anyone for her perceptions - which are 100% accurate by the way. Keep this very environment in mind for future reference, scenario of a victim being isolated, surrounded by those involved in the gaslighting, and being accused of being mentally ill.

When she insists on accepting an invitation to a party in an attempt to break out of the isolation, he intentionally ruins the event while causing her to look unstable to the others at the party. She is nearly convinced she is losing her mind and is giving up. However, you will have to watch the movie for yourself to see how it ends! I hate it when someone spoils the ending of a movie.

Gaslighting Definition by Dr. Robin Stern

Gaslighting Quote by Dr. Robin Stern
Gaslighting Quote by Dr. Robin Stern | Source

Gaslighting Defined by the Experts

The systematic attempt by one person to erode another person's reality by telling them that what they are experiencing isn't so - and, the gradual giving up on the part of the other person. - Dr. Robin Stern

Gaslighting Definition by Martha Stout, Ph.D

Gaslighting definition by Dr. Robin Stern, created by Gail Meyers on Narcissistic Personality Disorder Mother Facebook Resource Page years ago to raise awareness.
Gaslighting definition by Dr. Robin Stern, created by Gail Meyers on Narcissistic Personality Disorder Mother Facebook Resource Page years ago to raise awareness.

Gaslighting Definition by Martha Stout, Ph.D

Martha Stout, Ph.D, author of The Sociopath Next Door, states:

Gaslighting is a common practice of abusers who attempt to convince their victims they are defective for any reason such as making the victim more emotional, more needy or dependent. For example, if an abusive person say hurtful things and tries to convince you that you are mentally unstable and starts recommending that you get professional help, you might be in the presence of a gaslighter.

Gaslighting Definition by Preston Ni, MSBA of Psychology Today

Quote by Preston Ni, M.S.B.A. Psychology Today
Quote by Preston Ni, M.S.B.A. Psychology Today | Source

Gaslighting Definition by Preston Ni, MSBA of Psychology Today

Gaslighting is a form of persistent manipulation and brainwashing that causes the victim to doubt her or himself, and to ultimately lose their own sense of perception, identity, and self-worth. Gaslighting statements and accusations are usually based on blatant lies or exaggeration of the truth. - Preston Ni, M.S.B.A., 8 Signs of Being in a Relationship with a Gaslighter: How gaslighters emotionally manipulate, traumatize, and exploit victims on Psychology Today

The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout, Ph.D

The Sociopath Next Door
The Sociopath Next Door

Dr. Martha Stout's national bestseller, The Sociopath Next Door is informative and eye-opening. The average person needs to be aware of facts such as 1 in 25 ordinary Americans secretly has no conscience!


Gaslighters Love to Rewrite History

Drawing from experience with my narcissistic mother, being called names or being accused of being crazy each and every time she was confronted the truth. For example, when I confronted my mother about her slandering me she flew into a rage, screaming profanity and accusing me of being crazy. If my mother said someone was crazy, you could just about bet that person saw through her or at the least caught her in one of her maneuvers. She then flipped the tale by telling everyone I screamed profanity at her, and did so without provocation. In other words, even though she was the aggressor, she claimed to not only be the victim, but the innocent victim. Then later was gaslighting me to my face by insisting I owed her an apology for screaming profanity at her when she was actually the one who screamed profanity at me. This can leave you feeling as if you have had your head in a washing machine, especially before you realize what is going on.

Rewriting history can be denying abuse from the distant past or from five minutes ago. The typical example of rewriting history is the husband who is having an affair and the wife confronts him. Rather than admit the truth, he invalidated her perceptions, which are accurate, and tells her she's "crazy," "imagining things," or some other invalidating response. Of course, cheating wives do this to husbands, too.

Physical Gaslighting

Physical gaslighting can accompany the verbal gaslighting as it does in the movie. In the movie the psychopathic husband moves the wife's brooch, then suggests she's forgetful when she is unable to find it where she left it. While this is lying, it is aimed at undermining her perceptions, causing her to doubt herself.

Physical gaslighting is what the Manson Family did while breaking into homes during the "creepy crawler" burglaries of the late 1960's. They did not steal anything, just rearranged a few items enough to cause psychological distress. It was a cruel mind game involving the intentional inflicting psychological discomfort, distress or worry.

Think about that for a minute. You realize someone has broke into your home. You cannot comfort yourself with the thought that perhaps it was just a petty thief who has violated your home, because nothing is missing. Some of your personal belongings have just been moved. Do you doubt your own recollection of how you left things? Do you conclude it is something more sinister than a burglar in your home wanting fast cash? Something that feels much more personal and dangerous, much more sinister. If this occurs, the literature clearly states that you are dealing with a dangerous person or group of people.

Examples of Gaslighting

  • "I never said that!" when the person clearly did say it.
  • "You're so sensitive!" when you are responding as any normal human being would respond.
  • Gaslighting is what a cheating husband does when he has had an affair, denies it and tells his wife she is crazy when she questions him. The wife knows something is wrong even though her husband is invalidating her perceptions by denying it.
  • Staging bizarre events with the intention of disorienting a person. One example was a boyfriend in his 70's going into his girlfriend's backyard at night and rearranging the lawn furniture.

The Gaslight Effect by Dr. Robin Stern

The Gaslight Effect: How to Spot and Survive the Hidden Manipulation Others Use to Control Your Life
The Gaslight Effect: How to Spot and Survive the Hidden Manipulation Others Use to Control Your Life

In The Gaslight Effect, Dr. Robin Stern provides a thorough understanding of this insidious form of "hidden manipulation" and abuse.


Three Phases of Gaslighting

  1. Disbelief - The initial response to gaslighting is often one of utter disbelief. This is often noted as the what-are-you-talking-about phase. There may be confusion, annoyances, and moments when you cannot quite believe what the gaslighter said to you. This is also where criticism may be used as a weapon to wound even if it has more than a grain of truth to it.
  2. Defense - At this stage the gaslighting is producing self-doubt and instability. This is where guilt tripping, belittling, and the silent treatment may come into play. It can cause you to feel lost, confused, and unable to trust your own instincts and memory. During this time the narcissist may try to keep you isolated or your may isolate yourself.
  3. Depression - By this stage you are a shadow of your former self after enduring the battle zone of the narcissist. This is often considered the it's-all-my-fault stage, [victim blaming]. This is the heart-rending, soul-destroying phase of gaslighting. At this phase the gaslighter has often been idealized and you want approval that never comes. - Adapted from Dr. Robin Stern's book, Gaslighting.

Who is Susceptible to Gaslighting?


Anyone is Susceptible to Gaslighting

Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common techique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done slowly, so the victim doesn't realize how much they've been brainwashed.

Stepehanie Sarkis, Ph.D, 11 Signs of Gaslighting in a Relationship on Psychology Today.

Some Different Views on Gaslighting by Dr. George Simon
Some Different Views on Gaslighting by Dr. George Simon | Source

Personality Types of Gaslighters - Dr. George Simon

As you might expect, there's one expert who offers the fairly conventional notion that gaslighters are "generally people who were narcissistically wounded early in life--through emotional abuse, psychological abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, inconsistent parenting and the like" where as I assert that most gaslighters are not necessarily wounded souls but simply aggressive narcissistic personalities - disturbed and disordered character "who are out to dominate, manipulate, and control; and will use any means necessary, including gaslighting (trying to make you feel crazy when they think you're onto them and their schemes and lies) to further their ends." It's a particularly popular tactic among serial cheaters. And I make the point I do because so often victims end up unnecessarily prolonging their abuse because they buy into the notion that their abuser must be coming from a wounded place and that only patient love and tolerance (and lost of misguided therapy) will help them heal.

Dr. George Simon, Some Different Views on Gaslighting and Gaslighters

Gaslighting Quote by Victor Santoro

Victor Santoro Gaslighting Quote
Victor Santoro Gaslighting Quote | Source

Gaslighting: How to Drive Your Enemies Crazy

A systematic array of techniques that destroy your target's mental equilibrium, self-confidence, and self-esteem, and is designed to drive your target nuts. Gaslighting is NOT conventional harassment or physical destruction, but highly refined and subtle psychological warfare.

Victor Santoro, Gaslighting: How to Drive Your Enemies Crazy

Ways Gaslighting Techniques Are Used

  • Victor Santoro, in Gaslighting: How to Drive your Enemies Crazy, states: "A systematic array of techniques that destroy your target's mental equilibrium, self-confidence, and self-esteem, and is designed to drive your target nuts. Gaslighting is NOT conventional harassment or physical destruction, but highly refined and subtle psychological warfare."
  • Jacobson and Gottman report that some physically abusive spouses may gaslight their partners, even flatly denying that they have been violent.
  • Psychologists Gertrude Gass and William C. Nichols use the term "gaslighting" to describe a dynamic observed in some cases of marital infidelity. "Therapists may contribute to the victim's distress through mislabeling the woman's reactions. The gaslighting behaviors of the husband provide a recipe for the so-called 'nervous breakdown' for some women [and] suicide in some of the worst situations.
  • Shrink for Men notes bullies use gaslighting in workplace mobbings.
  • Psychologist Martha Stout, author of The Sociopath Next Door, states "sociopaths frequently use gaslighting tactics. Sociopaths consistently transgress social mores, break laws, and exploit others, but are also typically charming and convincing liars who consistently deny wrongdoing."
  • Sandra L. Brown, M.A., and Lian J. Leedom, M.D., authors of Women Who Love Psychopaths: Inside the Relationships of Inevitable Harm, discuss gaslighting and note, "the psychopath will do all sorts of devious things to try to make the victim think they are mentally deficient or having a nervous breakdown, and that the psychopath enjoys the process of inflicting psychological damage."
  • Gaslighting is used in alleged gangstalking campaigns.
  • Furthermore, gaslighting has been observed between patients and staff in inpatient psychiatric facilities.

Gaslighting During Workplace or School Mobbings

Gaslighting is used during workplace or school mobbings. I have not heard of a fact pattern in which the perpetrator worked alone, but that multiple perpetrators work in teams to target an individual on the job or in the classroom. So, for example, your supervisor might be a bullying boss from hell who targets people in workplace mobbings. He might be able to get the secretary you sit next to to go along with it, as well as a couple of his peers. Recall here, the scenario in the movie.

The goal is to have you as surrounded, and therefore as isolated from normal people, as possible. This way the one giving the orders has better control over your environment, the responses of those around you, hence, the feedback, validation or invalidation you receive, and the criminally inflicted damage they are about to unleash. So the gaslighting here will likely be reinforced by multiple gaslighters.

Workplace and School Mobbings

Directed conversation is one or more persons speaking within earshot of a person they do not appear to be addressing, while using loaded language, keywords or phrases, threats, echoes or harassing terms, while appearing to be speaking to one's self, one another or on the phone.

Gaslighting In Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome - Christine Louis de Canonville


Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse used by narcissists in order to instill in their victims an extreme sense of anxiety and confusion to the point where they no longer trust their own memory, perception or judgment. The techniques used in "Gaslighting" by the narcissist are similar to those used in brainwashing, interrogation, and torture that have been used i psychological warfare that have been used by intelligence operative, law enforcement and other forces for decades.

Christine Louis de Canonville, The Effects of Gaslighting in Narcissistic Victim Syndrome

Gaslighting by Police or Between Patients and Staff of Psychiatric Facilities

It has been my experience that the standard operating procedure of some law enforcement officers is to call the county mental health agency if someone attempts or persists in attempting to report multiple perpetrator stalking. This is the case even when the attempted reporting is done calmly and articulately, even though it is easy to image that is not so often the case. After all, you are talking about toddlers, the elderly, teenagers, and others being targeted, as well as multiple perpetrators potentially violating a person, their loved ones, their property, their finances, career, records, and identity in very imaginable, and in many ways most of us who have not experienced such a malicious ongoing assault can not begin to imagine.

The advocate in me causes my thoughts to turn to those who have not yet learned about narcissistic maneuvers, whose words fail them as they attempt to relay to police what is happening to them. It is not easily accomplished without being able to name it, such as gaslighting. That is under perfect conditions, which are rarely, if ever, present.

Then, I think of the teenagers trying to deal with all of this at such a tender age when it appears they are being targeted. I think of the elderly. I think of those who have any kind of blemish in their backgrounds, that will certainly be blown out of proportion and used against them. I think of those who did not grow up with cops, who might be intimidated or scared of police in the first place.

I think of the way in which multiple perpetrator stalkers violate the privacy of even your own bathroom, and record it, for just such a time as this. The police response to reporting multiple perpetrator stalking is woefully inadequate at best, and at worst there appears to be quite a few police officers involved in stalking, and using their police powers to do so. The criminal justice system is failing to accomplish the very reason for their existence in the first place, and it is absolutely unacceptable.

While it must be noted that nurses and doctors are also targeted by multiple perpetrator stalkers, the idea that the very ones who are trusted with the responsibility to diagnose, medicate, if need be, and administer a treatment plan, would themselves gaslight patients is disgusting. The sons and daughters of narcissistic mothers should be aware of the high spectrum gaslighting potentially existing at this level.

Words: 3116

Gaslight, the Movie on Amazon

Gaslight (1944)
Gaslight (1944)

Gaslight is a must-see movie from which the term "gaslight" originated. As you watch the Don Juan perpetrator in action, be sure to notice the maid who joins in is none other than Angela Lansbury in her movie debut.


© 2018 Gail Meyers

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