“I NEVER said that!” 

(my psychopathic ex)

The entire “relationship” with my psychopathic ex was one long episode of gaslighting, as they are for all of us.

“Gaslighting” is a term commonly used to describe behavior that is inherently manipulative. At its core, gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse that makes you doubt your own perceptions of reality. The term gaslighting is inspired by the film “Gas Light,” where a husband purposely and systematically manipulates his wife in order to make her feel crazy.

Many of us failed to spot someone was playing this insidious mind game with us, and until we fully understand it, there is a risk that it could happen again.

“Gaslighting has come to be applied to attempts by certain kinds of personalities, especially psychopaths — who are among the personalities most adept at sophisticated tactics of manipulation — to create so much doubt in the minds of their targets of exploitation that the victim no longer trusts their own judgment about things and buys into the assertions of the manipulator, thus coming under their power and control.”

(George Simon, PhD, Gaslighting as a Manipulation Tactic: What It Is, Who Does It, And Why)

Using the tactic of gaslighting, the manipulator denies, and therefore invalidates, reality. Invalidating reality distorts or undermines your perceptions of your world and can even lead you to question your own sanity.

When gaslighting, a manipulator will say things like this:

“I don’t know where you got that idea.”

“It’s all in your head.”

“You’ve always had a bad memory!”

“That never happened. Are you crazy?”

“You must be trying to confuse me.”

“Are you calling me a liar?”

“You’re imagining things.”

“I never said that!”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

This kind of deception seems like it would be obvious, but it usually begins very gradually and increases in frequency and severity over time. It leads to anxiety, depression and confusion. Victims eventually question their ‘version’ of reality. When they no longer trust their own perceptions, they rely on the manipulator to define reality and can no longer function independently. Having been rendered helpless and lacking in any self-esteem, the manipulator is able to exercise total domination and get whatever it is they want, whether it is a feeling of superiority, financial control or sexual benefits.

“When they’re confronted, they don’t just deny, deny, deny — they deny adamantly. Such a tactic can be even more effective if they couple it with other tactics like feigning righteous indignation — when the manipulator acts as though they are justifiably offended that their victim would even suspect them of some dastardly behavior or intention and thereby besmirch their character. The script is simple: when you get confronted on something you know will expose you for the unsavory character you are, act offended and hurt, appear resolute, and question the sanity of your accuser. The script is not only simple, it’s also generally effective.”

(George Simon, PhD, Gaslighting Revisited: A Closer Look at This Manipulation Tactic)

Examples of gaslighting:

The manipulator…

Claims that you are mistaken in your belief that he wanted a committed, long-term relationship, even though everything he did and said created that belief.

Says something in an angry tone of voice, but when you become upset the manipulator denies having used an angry tone.

Deliberately upsets you, and then mocks you or puts you down for “overreacting.”

Purposely withholds certain details, and later tries convincing you that they did indeed tell you the missing details.

Moves items from one place to another and then denies having done so.

Asserts something untrue with enough conviction and intensity that you believe it.

Convinces you that you have shortcomings that you really don’t have

Exaggerates your shortcomings in an attempt to damage your self-confidence

Gets angry because you don’t believe their lies

Tries to shame you for not trusting them.

You might be a victim of gaslighting if you apologize often, have trouble making decisions, have changed significantly over the course of the relationship, feel you’re in a constant state of bewilderment, or have become reclusive and withdrawn.


“It’s about making them doubt the accuracy and rationality of their perceptions as a way to manipulate them. There are lots of clever ways to do that, as skilled manipulators know all too well. One such way can be leading a person to believe that the relationship you want with them or actually have with them is of a particular character — such as an intimate, exclusive relationship with long term intentions — so that you can abuse or exploit them (e.g., get them to have sex with you) and then acting like the person had no rational reason to think they were anything but a casual encounter in the first place.”

(George Simon, PhD, A New Form of Gaslighting?)

Signs of gaslighting, from the National Domestic violence Hotline website:

  • You constantly second-guess yourself.
  • You ask yourself, “Am I too sensitive?” multiple times a day.
  • You often feel confused and even crazy.
  • You’re always apologizing to your partner.
  • You can’t understand why, with so many apparently good things in your life, you aren’t happier.
  • You frequently make excuses for your partner’s behavior to friends and family.
  • You find yourself withholding information from friends and family so you don’t have to explain or make excuses.
  • You know something is terribly wrong, but you can never quite express what it is, even to yourself.
  • You start lying to avoid the put downs and reality twists.
  • You have trouble making simple decisions.
  • You have the sense that you used to be a very different person – more confident, more fun-loving, more relaxed.
  • You feel hopeless and joyless.
  • You feel as though you can’t do anything right.
  • You wonder if you are a “good enough” partner.

Gaslighting is a big part of many of the techniques of manipulation, most of which include the element of denying a victim’s reality.

♥ After experiencing gaslighting, it’s normal to feel debilitated at first. However, you are only temporarily weakened. You will come back stronger than before, having learned painful but valuable lessons along the way.




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