What Is Gaslighting? Spoiler: It’s Crazy-Making!!

Have you ever heard someone tell another, “Stop gaslighting me!”? Or, maybe you were having a conversation with friends when one of them happened to mention how their ex-spouse would constantly “gaslight” him/her. Or, maybe you were simply scrolling mindlessly through your Facebook feed and came across an article about a concept referred to as “gaslighting.” Despite how you were first exposed to the term, many find themselves feeling oddly curious about exactly what it means and if it is something that has been happening in their lives. So, if you are reading this, you may already have some understanding of what gaslighting is, but I hope to offer you a little more insight into this concept.


Gaslighting is a clever manipulation aimed at getting someone, usually a loved one, to distrust their own experiences and their own reality. The term comes from an old 1940’s movie called “Gaslight.” In this movie, the husband has a terrible secret to hide. In effort to keep his wife off his trail, he utilizes psychologically manipulation to make her think that she is going crazy! If only he could get her to distrust her own reality, then she is more likely to overlook or dismiss anything suspicious or questionable. Gaslighting has also been referred as “crazy-making” in some circles.

Experiencing gaslighting is different than the somewhat normative experience of being lied to – like when a child lies about eating cookies when he has cookie crumbs all over his mouth. Gaslighting has a power element involved that leaves people feeling uneasy or twisted up inside. These feelings create distress due to how it challenges a person’s own intuition and the love and care they have for the person who is engaging in this manipulative behavior. The partner of a gaslighter often finds him/herself asking the question, “Am I going crazy?,” either to him/herself or even out loud to others.

Examples of gaslighting include blatant lies despite evidence of the contrary or even more subtle examples where actions and words don’t match up. Creating confusion or distraction is another way to keep the manipulation going. This can look like confusing details in a story or challenging or labeling someone else as the liar. Another element of gaslighting is using someone’s weakness or vulnerabilities against them. This is an effective way to distract and redirect the emotional energy of an exchange and take the heat off of the person with something to hide. In the video clip below, licensed therapist, Joshua Nichols, discusses different signs and symptoms to look for in case you are concerned that you are in a relationship with a gaslighter.

What Do I Do About It?

I hope you found the video helpful. After watching, you may have determined that you are in a relationship with a gaslighter. If that is the case, then you are likely now wondering what do I do about it or how do I put a stop to it? Well, below, we have posted a follow up video where licensed therapist, Joshua Nichols, addresses those questions. Please take a few minutes to watch.

If you find yourself in a tough relational situation, despite whether or not your spouse is a gaslighter, don’t waist anymore time trying to figure it out on your own. Seek out a relationship coach, therapist, or other relationship professional to help guide you through this relational journey. You are always more than welcome to contact our wonderful therapists here at FSC, but you can also search therapy directories (e.g., Psychology Today and IITAP) to find quality therapists in your area. We wish you well on this journey.




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