5th Group: What Is Gaslighting? (A Form of Abuse) 12/19/14

The Article: “What Is Gaslighting?”

The Main Quote:

“Has someone in your life undermined you by saying and doing things that make you question yourself? Do you often start questioning your own perception of reality, even your own sanity within this relationship? If so that person may be using what mental health professionals call “gaslighting”.”


This term comes from the 1938 stage play Gas Light, in which a husband attempts to drive his wife crazy by dimming the lights (which were powered by gas) in their home, and then he denies that the light changed when his wife points it out. It is an extremely effective form of emotional abuse that causes a victim to question their own feelings, instincts, and sanity, which gives the abusive partner a lot of power (and we know that abuse is about power and control). Once an abusive partner has broken down the victim’s ability to trust their own perceptions, the victim is more likely to stay in the abusive relationship.

The Concept: Examining the techniques that an abuser uses against his victim so we can understand what’s being done and recognize it for what it is.

The Quote:

“There are numerous gaslighting techniques which can make gaslighting more difficult to identify. Gaslighting techniques are used to hide truths that the abuser doesn’t want the victim to realize. Gaslighting abuse can be perpetrated by either women or men.”

The Techniques:

Withholding: the abusive partner pretends not to understand or refuses to listen. Ex. “I don’t want to hear this again,” or “You’re trying to confuse me.”

Countering: the abusive partner questions the victim’s memory of events, even when the victim remembers them accurately. Ex. “You’re wrong, you never remember things correctly.”

Blocking/Diverting: the abusive partner changes the subject and/or questions the victim’s thoughts. Ex. “Is that another crazy idea you got from [friend/family member]?” or “You’re imagining things.”

Trivializing: the abusive partner makes the victim’s needs or feelings seem unimportant. Ex. “You’re going to get angry over a little thing like that?” or “You’re too sensitive.”

Forgetting/Denial: the abusive partner pretends to have forgotten what actually occurred or denies things like promises made to the victim. Ex. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” or “You’re just making stuff up.”

The Discussion:

We went around the group and since there were 5 attendees today, read each technique which I had taken from the two sources at the end of this blog entry and combined on paper. After hearing them all I asked each individual whether she experienced this in a partner or someone they knew. As the two sources are mainly about an abusive partner I made it a point to relay to the group that the person who gaslighted could be a friend, co-worker, partner or family member.

Each person in the group had experience with someone who would do this kind of abuse to them. An interesting comment: “people with Mental Illnesses have a harder time defending themselves against gaslighting techniques.” Everyone agreed particularly because our senses of reality were already compromised. Particularly people with Schizophrenia who had difficulty communicating many times because of voices or their suspended realities. Paranoia in someone who had a mental illness helped an abuser who used gaslighting techniques by using the fact that the sufferer had paranoia.

To fully get the information on gaslighting read both sources.

A note: I try to take as many notes as I can but in a group where sharing is almost free form at times I find it challenging to write down all the concepts that are brought up. This is another good reason to follow each group up with a blog entry.

As part of the group sometimes we might think about the concepts and realize that we have more to say about our own experiences and thoughts. If you care to, and even if you’re not part of the physical group leave an answer to the following:
Have you encountered gaslighting in any of your relationships? Have you ever heard of gaslighting? How were you able to get out of that particular relationship? Were you able to sense that you were being manipulated while in that particular relationship? Keep in mind that being gaslighted can be difficult to identify especially while it is happening.



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