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One of the most sinister techniques that the anti-social narcissist will use is gaslighting. It’s probably their favorite, as the effects can be thoroughly destructive with the effects possibly being lifelong, and causing tremendous amounts of grief and turmoil within the mind of the targeted victim.

It is a psychological trauma that is very similar to brainwashing. On the extremes, it can lead to nervous and emotional breakdowns, suicide and even homicide.

Gaslighting is a very complex method, however simple it may seem once you become familiar with the meaning.

Gaslighting is a complex form of psychological abuse used by pathological narcissists and sociopaths for the calculated breakdown of their victim’s memory and perception of judgment. It can cause an extreme sense of anxiety and confusion to the point where they no longer trust their own memory, perception or judgment.

The techniques used in “Gaslighting” by the narcissist are similar to those used in brainwashing, interrogation, and torture that have been used in psychological warfare by intelligence operatives for decades.

With gaslighting, the victim’s mental balance, self confidence, and/or self esteem are targeted so that they are no longer able to function in an independent way. Gaslighting involves the abuser to frequently and systematically withhold factual information from the victim, and replacing it with false information.

Because it is delivered over time and covertly subtle, this sinister Machiavellian behavior is a deeply insidious set of manipulations is difficult for the victim to work out. On the extreme and with time it can finally undermine the mental stability of the victim.

“It didn’t take me long to see that the sudden loss in business and many of my contacts was due to manipulation by her, and possibly someone else. Many such past losses came into focus and the one common denominator was always present – hiding in plain sight.”

The emotional and psychological damage of Gaslighting can be debilitating on the victim of the pathological narcissist. If they are exposed to it for long enough, the victims can begin to lose their sense of themselves, able to trust their own judgments. In short, the victim begins to question the reality of everything in their life. They find themselves second-guessing and causing them to become insecure with decision making, even around the smallest of choices.

As it happened to me, the victim becomes depressed and withdrawn and cautiously dependent on the abuser for their sense of reality. Lacking self esteem, the gaslighting turns the victim’s reality upside down.

Where does the term “Gaslighting” come from?

The term originates in the systematic psychological manipulation of a victim by her husband in the 1938 stage play Gaslight, known as Angel Street in the United States, and the film adaptations released in 1940 and 1944. In the story, a husband attempts to convince his wife and others that she is insane by manipulating small elements of their environment and insisting that she is mistaken, remembering things incorrectly, or delusional when she points out these changes. The original title stems from the dimming of the gas lights in the house that happened when the husband was using the gas lights in the sealed-off attic above while searching for the jewels belonging to a woman whom he had murdered. The wife correctly notices the dimming lights and discusses it with her husband, but he insists that she merely imagined a change in the level of illumination.

The term “gaslighting” has been used colloquially since the 1960’s to describe efforts to manipulate someone’s perception of reality. The term has been used to describe such behavior in psychoanalytic literature since the 1970s. In a 1980 book on child sexual abuse, Florence Rush summarized George Cukor’s Gaslight (1944) based on the play and wrote, “even today the word [gaslighting] is used to describe an attempt to destroy another perception of reality.”

Sociopaths and narcissists frequently use gaslighting tactics to abuse and undermine their victims. Sociopaths consistently transgress social mores, break laws and exploit others, but typically also are convincing liars, sometimes charming ones, who consistently deny wrongdoing. Thus, some who have been victimized by sociopaths may doubt their own perceptions. Some physically abusive spouses may gaslight their partners by flatly denying that they have been violent. Gaslighting may occur in parent–child relationships, with either parent, child, or both lying to the other and attempting to undermine perceptions.

An abuser’s ultimate goal is to make their victim second guess their every choice and question their sanity, making them more dependent on the abuser. A tactic which further degrades a target’s self-esteem is for the abuser to ignore, then attend to, then ignore the victim again, so that the victim lowers their personal bar for what constitutes affection and perceives themselves as less worthy of affection.

There are two characteristics of gaslighting: The abuser wants full control of feelings, thoughts, or actions of the victim; and the abuser discreetly emotionally abuses the victim in hostile, abusive, or coercive ways.

It is necessary to understand the warning signs of gaslighting in order to fully start the healing process. Signs of gaslighting include:

  • Withholding information from victim;
  • Countering information to fit the abuser’s perspective;
  • Discounting information;
  • Verbal abuse, usually in the form of jokes;
  • Blocking and diverting the victim’s attention from outside sources;
  • Trivializing the victim’s worth;
  • Undermining victim by gradually weakening them and their thought process.

The abuser may hide events or facts from the victim in order to cover up what they have done. Instead of feeling ashamed, the abuser may convince the victim to doubt their own beliefs about the situation and turn the blame onto the victim. This, I believe, is the root cause of my sister’s pathological hatred of me.

Another deceiving quality of the gaslighter is he/she feels the need to change something about the victim. Whether it be the way the victim dresses, acts or even the books he reads, they want the victim to mold into their fantasy. If the victim does not comply, the abuser may convince the victim that he or she is in fact not good enough.

The abuser may want full control and have power over the victim. In doing so, the abuser will try to seclude them from other friends and family where only they can influence the victim’s thoughts and actions. The abuser gets pleasure from knowing the victim is being fully controlled by them.

Gaslighting is aimed at undermining someone’s views, beliefs, reactions, and perceptions. The final “stage” of gaslighting is severe, major, clinical depression.

Gaslighting is Pathological Lying

As mentioned in a different blog post, when the need to investigate the reasoning behind some very obvious cover-ups that didn’t make sense, I did a search for “narcissist” on the internet. Immediately, I was overwhelmed by the number of queries that were available on the topic of narcissist. I quickly became enmeshed in this topic as I felt a compelling need to understand further, the psychological concept behind the ancient myth of the hunter and his suitor.

It didn’t take long to understand that I had been a victim of targeted narcissist abuse of the sociopathic kind. All emotions aside, I clicked on links that led to site after site, most of which were stories, some clinical, others personal experiences of victims. All of them listed “Gaslighting” as a tool that the anti-social predatory sociopath and narcissist will use against their targets.

This was the first I had ever heard of, or read about gaslighting.

Video courtesy of Merideth Miller – Used by Permission

I recognized the technique immediately as manipulation that I was subjected to about the time that I was beginning to be scapegoated in the family. Both techniques were deeply troubling, and now, I’m seeing a pattern of abuse from the same people during the same time frame.

It caught me in a state of fear and an incredibly deep sense of shame once I realized that I had been deliberately subjected to this powerfully destructive form of control.

A Dark Disguise

From a sister and brother, no less. My sister had become distant and aloof during this time, and my brother was going through his own tough times. But I never could have imagined that it was guilt and shame that they were reacting to. And even why it was happening and being directed toward me.

Gaslighting is about punishing people with untruths, the stretching of facts and supplicating information for one’s own self. It is cruel, void of conscious, and malicious.

The gaslighter essentially trains you to believe the gaslighter, even as the evidence doesn’t compare to what you know to be true. I had been in an unknown and undefined battle with a couple of these malicious abusers beginning in my early teen years.

The pathological narcissist will use the technique of gaslighting whenever it is feasible for them to so. Even after a couple of decades of “no contact” from the abusers in my family, the narcissist sister wasted not a day of returning to her gaslighting technique that she had aggressively employed some years earlier, causing my decision to go “no contact” and essentially disappearing. It was a painful but necessary decision to follow through on.

While I had my guard down and open for what I was hoping to be much needed discussions, I quickly fell into the trap of her manipulations. Just like in times past, I felt the old familiar sense of foreboding that my intuition was warning me against, whenever we were talking, even by telephone.

However, I allowed myself to be taken in by her coy innocence and also believed her when she asked for forgiveness, which had always been easy for me to do.

I had missed many warning signs that were cloaked to evade detection and quickly lost my business venture as well as many of my closest contacts. Within months, I was sweet talked into moving to her city, only to be discarded immediately afterward.

Something big was going on behind the scenes and it would be a some time before I put it all together to realize that this was not the person whom I had been led to believe she was. She was hiding not only herself, but something bigger.

There was something that she was keeping me away from.

The sustained gaslighting campaign was obvious, and yet fully in denial when I confronted her on her actions and words. Quickly, the truth emerged that this was a very dishonest person that I was calling “sister”.

I had enough of the obvious lies and manipulations and packed up and left again. Of course at this time, I lacked the understanding of pathological narcissism or the concept of “gaslighting”. She had, however, revealed some tell-tale signs that were frightening to witness. For a brief moment I caught a glimpse of Sadism in her eyes, and quickly recalled moments of the identical look that transpired years earlier and always at a time of need.

That glimpse of sadism caused me to take a very close look at who I was dealing with.

It didn’t take me long after the above moment in time to see that the sudden loss in business and many of my contacts was due to manipulation by her, and possibly someone else. Many such past losses came into focus and the one common denominator always present – hiding in plain sight.

Remember always that you hold the truth. You cannot force someone to see what you know to be truth.

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