Gaslighting: Are you emotionally manipulated?

If you have recently questioned your perception more often, you may have become victims of gaslighting . It is an emotional manipulation that makes those concerned so insecure that they constantly question their own memories and feelings. This is made possible by a relationship of trust between perpetrator and victim, so that the person concerned does not initially suspect. With fatal consequences. How do you recognize gaslighting and how to ward it off ...

Gaslighting Definition: What exactly is that?
Gaslighting Definition: What exactly is thatWith Gaslighting (from English, for example, "gassing") a kind of psychological violence or abuse is called, in which the self-confidence of the victim is destroyed bit by bit .

Skillful manipulation over a longer period of time sows doubts, so that at some point the victim is completely mentally destabilized.

This approach was named after the play "Gaslight" by Patrick Hamilton from 1938, which describes this practice for the first time. "Gaslight" became known as a film starring Ingrid Bergman as a victim of a manipulative husband who received the title "The House of Lady Alquist" in German.

In it, the husband tries to drive his wife mad by changing trivialities such as the lighting of gas lights in their environment and at the same time constantly denying this to her : she does not remember correctly, she is wrong and so on.

According to this scheme, gaslighting today refers to a deliberate delusion of a person to make them doubt their own perception. This is achieved mainly by ...


The perpetrators, the gaslighters , in turn exploit the existing relationship of trust in order to make their increasingly unsettled victims emotionally and emotionally dependent on themselves. The goal is to gain complete, manipulative power over the victim.

Gaslighting is not a trivial offense. Rather, these are particularly serious emotional and psychological abuse . At the extreme, manipulation can lead to systematic destruction of perception, self-confidence and insanity.

After such experiences, the victims of Gaslighting usually need a psychological therapy in order to process the experiences and to be able to stabilize them again.

Offenders: often narcissists
The phenomenon is not new. Every human being is influenceable and thus susceptible to gaslighting.

It is a method of narcissists , demagogues and religious leaders. As it happens slowly, those affected do not brainwash. That it can come to that is because the victims attributed to the other a greater competence than themselves.

They get - as described above - in an emotional dependence .

The offender twists facts , denying that certain events took place in this way. He spreads lies, behaves inconsistently, and unsettles his victim with phrases like "You're wrong, that was very different." Those who become victims of gaslighting in a relationship live in a dysfunctional relationship .

Not infrequently, the perpetrators of a narcissistic personality disorder . Such a partner makes the other emotionally dependent on a sadistic feeling. He thus exerts power and control over the victim - often out of the fear of being abandoned.

Consideration is a foreign word for such people. Their own interests always take precedence over those of others, they are not capable of genuine compassion.

Talking to them on a factual level is impossible, as they are easily offended and quickly react aggressively or even violently . Her approach is extremely clever, and they often try to persuade the other person that he is crazy.

Gaslighting is usually practiced by a person who is close to the victim . These can be partners, but also work colleagues, friends or even your own family. In other words, people who enjoy our trust , who are important to us and whom we rely on.

So there are cases of gaslighting, in which the gaslighter penetrates into the apartment of a victim in his absence, to manipulate objects such as the computer or to change the decoration.

Personal belongings are damaged, the work is sabotaged and those affected are close to madness. This special expression is mainly found in stalking .

Predominantly women affected
Men women differenceAlthough anyone can be the victim of gaslighting regardless of age, women are often described as victims of gaslighting in the literature .

Empirical studies are missing . But it is believed that this is mainly due to the often existing classical role allocation, in which men take the dominant role in the relationship and make the couple mate - or at least try.

This does not mean, however, that only men are considered offenders. Ultimately, in interpersonal relationships , manipulations take place again and again - in different forms: parents make their children feel guilty so they can clean their room or do their homework.

She also flirts with other men to make him jealous and make him reclaim her again; He buys her expensive jewelry to get her to bed. All of these are ultimately manipulation attempts - albeit on a comparatively harmless level - that continue in the job.

Gaslighting at the workplace
Those who have someone in their circle of acquaintances who can observe tendencies to manipulate will automatically distance themselves . This is much more difficult in working life - even in part-time work, 20 hours or more has to be spent with difficult colleagues .

Again and again Gaslighting appears in connection with mobbing and bossing . For no apparent reason employees are exposed in front of the assembled team, things are twisted.

Precisely because no objective reason exists, the victim does not expect such an attack at the time.

The reasons for such a procedure are different. In some cases it may serve the own power conservation . In cases where the supervisor bullying in such a way, the attempt may be in the foreground to get rid of unpleasant or difficult to quit employees.

Signs of gaslighting: That's what it says
Gaslighting often uses a similar pattern, but as a sufferer, it takes some time to recognize the repetitive pattern . In principle, it is initially completely normal for someone to question his opinion and compare it with other people.

However, if you have the impression for some time that something is wrong and someone in your environment persuades you that something is wrong with your perception, then you should be alert. Typical alerts and gaslighter phrases include:

You are not normal.
If I was not such a patient person, you would not have anyone on your side.
Nobody can handle you.
Be glad that I am still with you.
You just imagine that.
Something is wrong with your perception.
I never said so.
Of course I said that, you just forgot that.
You twist the facts, that's never happened.
Your memory is probably playing a joke on you.
I'm afraid you are suffering from loss of reality.
But you are sensitive!
You should go to the psychologist.

Of course, it can (but does not have to) be true, and those affected actually have a sketchy or selective perception .

Often, however, the gut feeling is a good indication that you should at least pay attention to to develop a feel for possible gaslighting.

The American psychologist Dr. Stephanie Sarkis, for example, warns of typical signs like this:

question of guilt
No matter what it is about - the question of guilt is resolved quite quickly, you are always the culprit. So long are claims made that you did this or that wrong, someone would have told you a situation really before, until you believe it yourself. As a result, you begin to bend accordingly.

Someone may have been completely friendly to you in one situation and said something, the next moment in front of other people suddenly stubbornly and stiffly the opposite is said. Of course, in this situation, it is difficult to prove the actual version. Also, the actions of the gaslighter often do not fit what they are saying, so it is important for those affected to pay attention to what is actually done and less to pay lip service.

time factor
The common is, as mentioned, the longer period gaslighting takes. There are smaller and bigger lies spread here and there, so it does not stand out. The principle is the same as with a frog, which is slowly warmed up in cold water - it does not notice the imminent danger until sometime the water boils.

Gaslighters are great at intriguing. They simply make claims that other people have commented on you in a certain way, for example, "The colleague knows that you often make mistakes." A gaslighter is constantly lying. You should be aware that what has been said so far does not have to correspond to the facts, but just to unsettle you. In the final analysis, this can make you stay out of fear of people who do not want you to do anything wrong - you get isolated, the offender gains more control over you.

Effect of manipulation
Gaslighting movie signs ward off impact workplaceThe doubts caused by the perpetrator cause the victim to feel completely insecure and take an avoiding attitude. Manipulation by gaslighting leads to severe mental illnesses .

Many victims consider themselves crazy, believing they can no longer control their lives. You may experience depression but may also develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or dissociative disorder. Other comorbidities, such as psychosomatic nature, can occur.

As gaslighting happens over a longer period of time, the victim's perception also changes slowly. So it is only from a corresponding distance to see what exactly happened. However, this also complicates the therapy for those affected, who must learn to understand that they have fallen victim to manipulation.

In the respective acute situation, the manipulation can hardly be determined .

Tips: Fend off gaslighting
The first and most important step is to recognize the signs of gaslighting. If emotions such as fear or shame are constant companions, something can not be right. The following tips will help you fight gaslighting :

Contact demolition
Immediately break the contact with the person, where you get these feelings over and over again. Only from a distance and without the poisonous input of this person you have the opportunity to think clearly again.

Be sure to get professional help from a therapist. A psychologist is familiar with the various manipulation methods and will be able to follow your explanations and recognize the underlying method because of his expertise. It will help you to restore the damaged self-esteem , to see more clearly and to be able to survive the everyday life.

Help should also be sought in the form of friends or family members, who will tell you about your observations and who will support and empower you in your own perception. These may also serve as witnesses in the presence of the manipulating person, or at least prevent the gaslighter from reactivating with you - because usually such events only happen when the offender is alone with his victim. The crucial step is to break out of the social isolation that the gaslighter usually wants to achieve in order to make you dependent on it. Involving one's own allies and third parties is therefore often an effective counterstrategy.

Review the facts and document statements, such as your own conversation logs or a journal. Keep in mind exactly who did what when and how. So you not only regain your self-confidence, but can prove the correctness of your own perception with emerging doubts . This gives you the opportunity to convict the perpetrator of your own lie (even if this will deny and go into forward defense).

In general, it does not make sense to go into the discussion with the Gaslighter to uncover the truth. This is exhausting and rarely leads to a good result. Not infrequently, the Gaslighter even believes in its strange reality.

Go to the perpetrators or rather out of the way , you believe in yourself and focus on the future. The best protection against gaslighting is still a pronounced self-confidence . Mindfulness can also be a good way to consciously perceive changes and to check things.

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