What is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic in which one person attempts to distort the reality of another.
- Gaslighting is often done to escape accountability for wrongdoing.
For example, person A might have said or done something hurtful to Person B. If Person B were to bring the matter up to person A, person A might deny their actions. Person A might take it a step further and insult the sanity of Person B. Person A might take it another step and project their words onto Person B and act as if they, Person A, is the victim.
- Gaslighting is often done to maintain authority and control over another.
Person A could assert authority with well-crafted and strategically spoken lies that twist the truth so that Person B believes the claims to authority and truth that Person A makes. Person A might slowly belittle Person B over time, question Person B’s ability to do anything right, and create a feeling of inadequacy and dependence on Person A.
If Person B began to challenge the authority of Person A, then Person A might deny that there is a problem, assert that Person B is the problem, or project the matters in question onto Person B. Person A might fear exposure or uprising then begin to slander Person B to others or otherwise destroy the life of Person B.
Have I Been Gaslit?
If you often question your sanity, your memory of events, or feel overly dependent on the thoughts, feelings, and verification of others, then you might have suffered gaslighting. If you feel emotionally child-like or otherwise stunted in your cognitive maturity, then you might have suffered gaslighting.
This form of manipulation often occurs slowly and over time until the person experiencing gaslighting is easier to control by sheer means of self-doubt and codependence.
Why do People Gaslight?
The reason behind these behaviors can be complicated, but it helps if we look at the results, which seem to revolve around retaining control over others.
The deeper reasons could be things like unsolved feelings of deep shame and fear of abandonment. Though gaslighting is wrong, we can find compassion for these issues because they likely stem from a history of pain and trauma.
A darker reason could be a need to get away with harming others without consequence, simply because the person lacks any real care for others and feels entitled to do as they please. Another dark reason could be the notion that they are superior to all others, so their way is best, and people should defer to them by any means necessary.
Can a Person Learn to Stop Gaslighting?
As with most behaviors, gaslighting exists on a spectrum. Some people might have difficulty accepting fault for wrongdoing, so thy deny, deny deny—but it never goes beyond that. If a person were made to feel safe with their faults so that they could heal their deep shame, then the gaslighting might end.
If a person who gaslights has real empathy for others, then having their behavior and the damage it causes exposed might cause them to evaluate themselves and stop the behavior—even in more extreme cases of insulting and blame-shifting.
If a person who gaslights has become so hardened that they no longer feel true empathy and compassion or guilt for their wrong doings, then the behavior will not be acknowledged and dealt with. Attempting to get such a person to admit to gaslighting could lead to an explosion of abuse, so it is best to leave the person alone in such a case and find a way to protect yourself.
If their gaslighting is minimal, you might be able to ignore it and continue the relationship. If not, find a way to safely walk away.
How Do I Protect Myself from Gaslighting?
As with projection, one of the best ways to protect yourself is to get in touch with what is true. People who have a sense of self and a solid sense of reality in general are less likely to fall victim to these manipulative tactics, though no one is completely impervious to it, especially when gaslighting occurs slowly and over a long period of time. It also helps if you begin to recognize the sources of gaslighting.
Gaslighting can occur in parent-child relationships, between romantic partners, in work settings, and among various relationships between family and friends.
Gaslighting can also occur on massive scale through religion, media and political propaganda, and social reform movements.
Gaslighting from a Christian Perspective
As a Christian, I am thankful to have a relationship with Jesus because He is the Truth. The more I get to know Him and rely on Him to lead me, the less vulnerable I become to all forms of manipulation including gaslighting.
As a Christian, I am thankful to have a relationship with Jesus because He is my strength and validation, therefore I do not need to rely on the validation, opinions, or instruction of others.
As a Christian, I can learn about gaslighting in a meaningful way by studying the life of Jesus. The authorities in His day did not like that Jesus questioned them, so what did they do?
They denied blame, insulted Jesus, lied about Him, falsely accused Him, and blame shifted. Yet, they could not manipulate Him. Though they tried to catch Him in His words and actions at every turn, He remained unapologetically Himself—all the way to the cross. Though they did kill Him, He was not defeated. He rose and He Lives. Jesus reigns and one day His total authority will be known.
As a Christian, I know that the authority of man is corruptible, but Jesus is incorruptible. Though He asserts authority, He is truly benevolent and self-sacrificing for His people. He is not a liar, a manipulator, a man pleaser, entitled, hypocritical, or hungry for power at the expense of others.
As a Christian, I know that Jesus is gracious, and He shares His power and authority with those who serve Him faithfully. “Those that overcome will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame and am sat down with my Father in His throne.” There is none like Jesus, and He never gaslights.
As a Christian, I know that Jesus is merciful, and no sinner is too far gone for Him to reach. Even the most hardened of hearts can be softened by Him, so I can hold hope for those who gaslight. However, I also know that He will avenge the blood of His servants who stand up for what is true—especially when we stand up for Jesus who IS True.
This world is a confused place that is full of deceit and those who want to exert power and control over you. I know that questioning those who assert power and control over you can have dire consequences, just as they did for Jesus. Most importantly, I know that Jesus is Truth and He will make all things known to us so that we can stand by Him faithfully—and if that means our death, then He will raise us up again. Then we will see Him, and everyone will bow and confess that Jesus alone is Lord.
The term “gaslight” came from an old movie. In this movie, the dimming and brightening of gas-powered lights revealed hidden deceit. In like manner, those who are filled with the Light of Jesus will remain in the truth, no matter how dark this world gets.
I am not a mental health professional, but life has taught me a lot about trauma, and Jesus who is Life has taught me a lot about recovery. I want to share what I have received with others in hopes that they can find healing, comfort, and clarity in Jesus.
I plan to write a recovery-themed article on Thursdays. If you would like to receive these by email, subscribe to thelordalone.com. If you have a topic you want to hear more about, questions, or something you’d like to share about your own trauma and recovery, leave a comment or send a private message.