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Up in Flames About It

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse where a person makes someone question their sanity, perception of reality, or memories. Gaslighting can occur in personal or professional relationships. It can be very subtle and they try to “correct” your way of thinking, contradict your statements, or invalidate your emotions. The victim is left questioning their sense of identity, self-worth, and well-being. Manipulative people who engage in gaslighting do so to earn power over their victims. They want any blame or guilt to be pushed off from them and tightly saturated on to someone else. They take great pleasure in this act to control their victim and make them look like the saint. Most people don’t realize that gaslighting has been deployed throughout history and continues to be used today.


In 1938, a play called Gas Light was written by Patrick Hamilton in London. The play portrays a married couple where the husband manipulates the wife into thinking she has a mental illness and tells her that she is hallucinating. He also convinced everyone around them that she was delusional and completely insane. The story unravels and the truth comes out how the overbearing husband was consistently flirting with the servants in front of his wife, cheating on her with multiple women, and would disappear for unexplained times. For the wife, this caused great turmoil and anxiety not knowing where her husband was at and if he will ever return back to her. In the nineteenth century, a woman was solely reliant on her husband for everything. This play revealed the true meaning of gaslighting.


Almost anyone can be susceptible to gaslighting tactics. Those who engage in gaslighting are very good at what they do and are notorious for presenting one face to their prey and another to the rest of the world. They paint a facade that they are just trying to help the victim when they are really trying to destroy their victim’s reputation and life. Gaslighters typically repeat their tactics across several relationships, creating tension and drama wherever they go.


Some common gaslighting responses are:


“You’re so dramatic”

“You’re too sensitive”

“You’re imagining things”

“You’re making a big deal out of nothing, like always”

“I was joking! You take everything personally”

“That never happened. This is what happened…”

“You’re making yourself the victim when I’m the one who should be mad”


Do you notice an overarching theme in the above statements? Many gaslighting statements start with the word you. They want you to feel bad. The gaslighter will hardly ever acknowledge or take personal responsibility for the impact of their own statements or behaviors. You will always be the problem, not them.


Overtime, if you’ve been in multiple relationships with someone who used gaslighting tactics, it can cause psychological damage that can make you feel confused, anxious, and unable to trust yourself again.


Gaining awareness of this type of psychological abuse is so important to heal and move forward from. Instead of questioning yourself, recognize where the emotional abuse is coming from and find ways to avoid these type of people who continue to gaslight.


If you’ve been experiencing gaslighting for a long time, it is understandable if it’s difficult for you to discern who is actually trustworthy. In this case, it is recommended that you seek therapy or coaching to re-learn thought patterns and behaviors. Through treatment, you will gain awareness, recover trust in yourself and your intuition, and attain practical tools to feel empower in your relationships.