What Is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting: manipulating someone, by psychological means, into doubting their own sanity.[1] This may involve saying something and later denying having said it, making you question your memory, making you feel that everything is your fault, and even outright lying to you (and possibly those around you).

Main Techniques of Gaslighting:[2]

  • Withholding: not listening, refusing or pretending not to hear the victim.
  • Countering: questioning the victim’s memory, even when the victim has remembered everything correctly.
  • Blocking/Diverting: changing the subject and/or questioning the victim’s thoughts to gain control of the conversation and the victim’s feelings of sanity.
  • Trivializing: making the victim sense that their feelings and problems are small and unimportant.
  • Forgetting/Denying: “forgetting” things that have already occurred, particularly promises that have been made.

Signs That Someone May Be Gaslighting You:

  1. You can’t place it, but something feels “off” about your partner/spouse/sibling/parent/friend/loved one.[3]
  2. You feel confused much of the time, particularly about past events, and constantly second-guess your ability to remember them properly.
  3. You frequently feel compelled to apologize, just for existing.
  4. You feel inadequate, lonely, and depressed.
  5. You think you’re just being “oversensitive,” and you don’t trust your own judgment.
  6. You think there is something inherently wrong with you personally, that you’re “crazy” or “losing it.”
  7. You avoid repeating to your friends and family the things this person says or does to you; if you do tell them, you make excuses for the behavior.[4]
  8. You find even the easiest decisions difficult to make.
  9. You feel like you used to be a different person, someone who was stronger, more confident.
  10. You’re afraid to stand up for yourself and risk conflict.

What Can You Do about It?[5]

  • Sort Out the Who, How, and When: Identify the circumstances of your abuse. Think about how this makes you feel. Write it down. Validating your experience to yourself is the first step to moving forward.
  • Look Out for the Signs: Do you feel disoriented, demeaned, or “crazy”? Take time each day to take care of yourself and be mindful. Even taking small moments to yourself for quiet, deep breathing and awareness can help you feel more in touch with yourself.
  • Make a Decision about Your Relationship/Friendship: Determine whether it is possible to avoid this person entirely and what the best decision is for you. If you see this person at work, is it worth leaving your job; if you’re in a relationship with this person, can you leave the relationship? It is entirely up to you whether to maintain or let go of the relationship.
  • Talk to Trusted Loved Ones: Family and friends can provide greatly needed support in traumatizing times. A mental health professional such as a therapist or counselor can help you cope with trauma, find closure, and/or teach you how to become your own advocate.
  • Change Your Perspective: You’re no longer a victim. You’re a survivor. A warrior. Whatever word helps you feel empowered. You made it through and are stronger than you were before. Hopefully you can use what you’ve learned to help others who may be dealing with a similar experience.

Some Resources for Seeking Help:

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

Crisis Services 24 Hour Erie County Domestic Violence Hotline: 716-862-HELP

Stern, Robin. The Gaslight Effect: How to Spot and Survive the Hidden Manipulation Others Use to Control Your Life. 2007. Repr.; New York: Harmony Books, 2018.

[1]. Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. “Gaslighting,” accessed April 2, 2018,

[2]. Natasha Tracy, “Gaslighting Definition, Techniques, and Being Gaslighted,” Healthy Place, last updated May 26, 2016, (accessed April 2, 2018).

[3]. Athena Luna, “You’re Not Crazy: 15 Signs You’re a Victim of Gaslighting,”,

[4]. Tracy, “Gaslighting Definition.”

[5] Luna, “You’re Not Crazy.”

Resource Guide created by Hanna Etu (Editorial Assistant at Prometheus Books) and edited by Jade Scibilia (Senior Editor at Prometheus Books)

One thought on “Gaslighting

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  1. This is necessary and a wonderful thing you are doing by assisting the people who have suffered injustice by gaslighting. Thinking about the bully, the criminal, and his motivation for this abusive behavior I am not so thoughtful. I dismiss him as an ass, or stigmatize him as a psychopath. I sympathize and relate to the victim more than the perpetrators. But aren’t they somehow suffering from some sort of abuse that made them abusive? Don’t they need help too? If the abusive people could be somehow resolved, somehow shown crime doesn’t pay, this problem might go away? Is anybody working on the other?


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