Gaslighting – The Game of Manipulation

 “When people are abused there are signs that you can point to that are much more obvious. Someone who has been hit or threatened for instance – it’s easy to see and understand how they have been hurt. But when someone is manipulating you, you end up second-guessing yourself and turning your attention to yourself as the person to blame”.

-Dr. Robin Stern

In 1938, Patrick Hamilton a British author wrote a play called Gas Light. Later a movie was made on this play with Ingrid Bergman playing lead role.

The story is about a husband who manipulates thinking of his wife so that he can declare her as insane. Actually husband is a criminal who has murdered aunt of his wife. He searches attic of her house for jewelry which he was unable to take with him after he killed the aunt.  While searching attic the gas is used this results in lights getting dimmed and she hears sound of footsteps. When she tells her husband about lights getting dimmed and sound of footsteps, her husband calls this as her imagination. But she happens to meet a police inspector who tells her that what she is feeling is right and they managed to catch her husband.

Word Gaslighting came from this movie. It means “Manipulate (someone) by psychological means into doubting their own sanity.”

Gaslighting is used by people to manipulate thinking of others for one’s benefit.

Dr. Robin Stern has written a book on this- “The Gaslight Effect”. In this book she writes in detail about how gas lighting is done. According to her it happens in 3 stages.

Stage 1 is Disbelief– You start wondering why other person who is otherwise nice, behaving like this. The so called weird behavior leaves you confused, frustrated and anxious ex. Your best friend may start criticizing you for no reason.

Stage 2 is Defense– You try to prove other person that what he/she things about you is wrong, try to get his/her approval and hope that things will be fine or back to normal

Stage 3 is Depression– You become desperate to please the other person, while you keep getting disapproval from him/her. You start feeling that you are wrong.

“We are living in a time where a lot of people are having a tough time deciding what’s real and feeling like they are being manipulated…If they know something is true and somebody tells you it’s not true, holding on to your reality is essential. You can’t be gaslighted if you stay inside your own reality and recognize the manipulation when you see it.”

-Dr.Robin Stern

Best way to get out of this vicious trap is to have faith in yourself and get out of relationship if things are not working for you. Worse thing is to tolerate abuse and keep thinking that things will get better in future.



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