Adult Survivors of Emotional Child Abuse · Child Abuse · Gaslighting

The Mind Games of Gaslighting [Types of Emotional Child Abuse Series, Part 2]

Photo: John Irving, "Ingrid Bergman"
Photo: John Irving, “Ingrid Bergman”

When you look up the definition of emotional child abuse, it includes different kinds of emotional child abuse. In our Types of Emotional Child Abuse series, the first post discussed the silent treatment. In this post, we’ll explore gaslighting.

The Dark Art of Driving Someone Who Trusts You Crazy

In the 1944 film “Gaslight,” pianist Gregory Anton launches a secret campaign to drive his wife, Paula, insane—and to have people in her life also believe she is crazy. He dismantles her sanity through subtle manipulations of their home environment and little changes in the details of their conversations.

Because Gregory portrays himself as calm and reasonable when Paula grows upset at those discrepancies in her life, she assumes he is the clear-headed one of the pair. Paula then begins doubting her perception of reality and her own sanity.

Gregory’s gaslighting of Paula is slow, steady—and very subtle. No one in their household, especially the maid with whom Gregory flirts, would suspect he is slowly driving his wife insane. No one in their social sphere would ever accuse the golden-voiced, sophisticated Gregory of being insane. And because he spins stories in public about poor nutty, fragile Paula (while he keeps her isolated at home), their social circle favors him.

At home, Gregory continually hammers away at her sanity. He makes her believe she is mentally unstable and a kleptomaniac. He makes her doubt her memories, her behavior, herself. He is the worst sort of villain. He is a soul killer.

Definitions of Gaslighting

The psychological term gaslight comes from this movie. When Paula is left alone in the evenings, she sees the gaslights in her room dim for no reason, but Gregory, when told of them, tells her she is imagining such things. Throughout the movie, Gregory continually presents himself as a loving, nurturing, attractive and talented husband; Paula starts out seeming beautiful, talented, and sane, but her husband’s mind games wear away at her, so she begins to break down, even in public.

The mind games that Gregory plays are familiar to psychologists, who use the term gaslighting to explain them.

“Gaslighting is a form of mental abuse in which false information is presented with the intent of making a victim doubt his or her own memory, perception and sanity.” (Theodore L. Dorpat, “Gaslighting, the Double Whammy, Interrogation, and Other Methods of Covert Control in Psychotherapy and Analysis“)

Emotional abusive parents use gaslighting to break down their children’s perception of reality.

“Gaslighting is an insidious form of abuse. It makes victims question the very instincts that they have counted on their whole lives, making them unsure of anything. Gaslighting makes it very likely that the victims will believe whatever their abusers tell them regardless as to their own experience of the situation.” (Natasha Tracy, “Gaslighting Definition, Techniques, and Being Gaslighted“)

The cruelest part of gaslighting is how it slowly erodes at the mind of the abused child.

The abusive parent makes a child question himself:

  • Did this really happen?
  • What did my parents really do?
  • What did my parents really say?
  • Did I hear them incorrectly?
  • Did I not remember that right?
  • Did I misunderstand something?
  • Was I not paying attention?
  • Why am I always getting everything all mixed-up?

To make a child rely on the memories and the telling of events from the abusive parent instead of himself is the ultimate triumph for the abusive parent.

“Gaslighting occurs when a person you trust to tell you the truth about reality, is, in fact, bending reality with lies. When this happens consistently over a period of time it causes you to question your sanity.” (Anna Valerious, Narcissists Suck)

Moreover, because the gaslighting is a slow erosion, an abusive parent often gets away with it. If an adult survivor of emotional child abuse calls the parent on such an occurrence, the abusive parent can say such things as:

  • “I don’t remember saying that.”
  • “You remembered that wrong.”
  • “You aren’t getting your facts straight.”
  • “No, I never said that.”
  • “No, I never did that.”

Because people don’t go around habitually recording their conversations, the adult survivor cannot prove that the gaslighting happens. And because the adult survivor has been conditioned by years of abuse from their parents, he or she is apt to believe the gaslighting parent rather than his or her own recollection of the event.

Examples of Gaslighting

In my conversations with adult survivors of emotional child abuse, I’ve heard myriad accounts of gaslighting. The following are a few examples.

  • A gaslighting parent makes a dinner appointment with an adult survivor at 6 p.m. at the child’s house, but then the parent does not go over until 8 p.m. When the adult survivor mentions it, the abuser says that the child said, “8 p.m.” The adult survivor says, “No, it was 6 p.m.” The abusive parent denies it and even adds the comment that the adult survivor’s memory must be going.
  • A gaslighting parent makes a cruel comment to her child. The child later mentions the comment in the hopes that the abusive parent will apologize for the comment. The gaslighting parent denies the comment was ever said, and he gets furious when the child says that it really did happen. The gaslighting parent denies it over and over again.
  • A gaslighting parent asks a child if he wants to go to the movies during the weekend. The child says she would love that. That weekend, the child mentions going to the movies. The gaslighting parent tells the child that he had said he didn’t want to go to the movies. The child says, “No, no, I said I’d like it.” The gaslighting parent says, “No, I remember you saying you didn’t.” The child cannot prove what he said.

What comes through in the recollections of the adult survivor is how the abusive parents changed details just slightly, enough to almost be right. (For example, in the third story, the parent did keep the element of asking the child about the movie and the plans for the weekend, but changed the child’s “yes” into “no.”) Also, the abusive parents will always deny the occurrence, even if told the conversation verbatim.

The adult survivor starts to feel that he is losing his mind, his ability to trust his own memory.

Are You a Victim of Gaslighting?

If you suspect you are a victim, check out the signs of gaslighting. Among the signs that psychoanalyst Robin Stern mentions are…

  • You are constantly second-guessing yourself.
  • You ask yourself, “Am I too sensitive?” repeatedly throughout the day.
  • You often feel confused and even crazy at work.
  • You’re always apologizing to people in your life.
  • You know something is horribly wrong, but you can never express exactly what’s wrong, not even to yourself. 

If you come to the realization that you are a victim of gaslighting, first be grateful for the awakening. Though the realization is difficult, at least you now know. Then, as always, we recommend seeking a therapist or mental health professional to help you identify other signs of it and get the resources you need to start rebuilding your mental health.

In finding the right therapist, take the time to research the therapist, get to know what his or her areas of expertise are, and take time to do an initial interview to see if you two are a right fit. If not, keep searching for one; don’t give up.

Onward and upward.

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43 thoughts on “The Mind Games of Gaslighting [Types of Emotional Child Abuse Series, Part 2]

    1. Exactly… Don’t expect validation of memories from emotionally abusive parents. They have their own filters and agendas.

      But I’m glad to hear you know better now.

      Onward and upward!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, onward and upward. Ten years of therapy and people who are supportive have helped me to be where I am now. When I was young there was a time when my life seemed to be some sort of black hole and I was stuck in it. But there is light and I can see it. I went ‘no contact’ with my mother. She is a toxic woman and not allowing her to be part of my life has helped a lot!

        Liked by 1 person

  1. my mother used to trick me into going places I wouldn’t have otherwise gone to by lying and saying she was taking me elsewhere. Usually to somewhere she didn’t want to go to either but wouldn’t say “no” to my equally loony father who she was always afraid of “losing.” I always looked like the nutty one. Best one ever was saying there was a dress up party with an Hawaiian theme and it wasn’t but she knew I loved dressing up so I turned up looking inappropriate. 😦

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    1. Sadly, so many adult survivors of emotional child abuse have similar experiences. Gaslighting is so horrible. There’s a reason people call it “crazy-making.” Ugh.

      Sorry to hear you’ve had to endure it.

      Peace.

      Like

    1. I’m glad the post was helpful… and I’m so sorry that you’re going through gaslighting. I wish you the best in finding help to heal…

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Not sure if this is gaslighting, but it sure is weird. When I was little, my mother and my oldest sister (11 years older, the Golden Child) always said I had curly black hair. That’s what they told me, a little kid, and how they described me to other people. When I looked in the mirror, I saw dark brown hair, just a little darker than that of my sister and my mother. And it curled a little at the ends but not all over my head like the girl down the street who had real curly hair. Still, they insisted my hair was black and curly. When I was a little older I asked my mother about it privately, and she told me it was like black and curly when I was a baby (the pictures I saw show my hair sticking out straight, and I found a lock of baby hair that was brown). My hair only looked straight now because it was so thick and long, but it was really naturally curly. When I was in sixth grade they insisted I get a super short haircut that would be so cute with my “naturally curly hair.” Of course it looked hideous on me. They dropped it after that, so maybe the hairdresser told them they were mistaken.

    For my kindergarten class picture, my mother set my hair in pin curls and clipped it behind my ears. That’s the only picture of me in which I have really curly hair. And my mother and my oldest sister will swear that I always looked like that as a little girl. I always knew that what they were telling me was wrong, but I couldn’t figure out why they were making up this story. All anybody had to do was look at me to know the truth, and what a silly thing to make up. And how cruel to lie to a kid about how she looks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That would qualify as gaslighting, it seems. The mind games, the repetition of the wrong information, the making the victim doubt herself…

      It’s a strange story indeed. And, yes, abusers use gaslighting for all sorts of things. I’ve heard people get gaslighted over ages, times of parties, clothes, hospital visits, etc.

      It’s all so very cruel. And I’m sorry you had to endure it.

      Peace.

      Like

  3. hi there

    I wonder if I could do sth legal about this gaslighting. I have been NC with my NDP parents for 4 months , but they have started to spread some rumors about me that I have caused my sister to divorce , I affacted sister’s ex husband with my thought about my mother… nonsense things like that. And now I have heard that especially my NPD father is talking negative things about me in occasions like relatives meetings or weddings. And my uncle and aunt tries to get connected with me because they are “flying monkeys” I have tell specific and different things to both uncle and aunt then , two weeks earlier , NPD father has emailed me , really long accusative mail which I didnt even read to the end, there were things that I told to aunt and uncle. This was my tricky movement infact , I just wanted to learn if they are flying monkeys. They have financial connections with each other and they dont want to mess this up I think.

    Now NPD father tried to connect with my friends ,but ofcourse my friends know me better than them so they dont care. And ofcourse he acts exactly like a narsistic does, he told them , lets end this fight, erase everything that has been lived and be a family again. I had believed this lies before, and started to connected them and the result was even worse.

    To sum, I wonder what kind of precautions are you taking to this kind of gaslighting, because I keep up my silence, people started to believe this rumors ( my thought). I have write to a family law lawyer about this , I am waiting for a reply but, what do you suggest? should I announce that I am innoncent and this people are sick , or keep up with my silent status?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I relate to your story. True friends are everything to me. I am 28 and cut contact. Because of emotional abuse since childhood and gaslighting recent property damage facts… I’m on a mobile but when I get a laptop ill say so much more. My whole family believe im nut case

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you Sarah, I would like to hear your story asap.

        I would like to share sth just happened yesterday. Since my husband works abroad, I live alone and nowadays I am in a preparation that he will come home for christmas. I left my mobile at home and gone some shopping and do other stuff. When I turned back home, I saw my father who I am in NC for 6 months was standing in my door! waiting for me , he said I missed you and come and the inevitable question was asked “where are you?” This was the most annoying question that I have been exposed through all my life. Although my hubby is away he never ever asked me once this question because he exactly knows me and trusts me.
        So I said I was out, and I welcomed him to my home, we drank coffee, He tried to talk about my mother and I have changed the subject.after a half hour of chitchatting , I said I have to go training to sport centre he said ok and we left home together.
        He asked me what did you fell when you saw me, I only said I am suprised.

        To sum up , this was a good exam for me to evaluate my healing status. This was an inproper and unexpected event and my behaviors were mature and I was so cool-headed that I am also shocked about on my own coolness. It doesnt suits me to turn back someone who comes to my home, but i didnt let him to manipulate the conversation, showed him his boundries and that was enough for me.

        Then my uncle called me to asked ” how are you , I told your father to go and see you” I am sure that they wanted me to feel bad or shameful or guilty but I felt NONE OF THEM! and this was my success story. and I said I am completly OK.

        If I didnt know about the ways of Narsistic people’s manipulations, I couldnt be so ready. So thanks to this blog and the people who share their stories.
        The main fact to handle this kind of unexpected situations is the “knowledge” and the awareness of observation. So I did this and observed him during his conversations. And his speech didnt annoyed me because I accepted that he is not mentally normal and it eases the acceptance.
        And since yoga& meditations is in my life it is much easier to observe.

        And here is the good news, my husband got promotion and the company hired him a good flat with new furniture and home appliences and now he started procedures to take me with him. And in 2 months time, I will be moving from the country and leave everything behind and start a new life.

        me and hubby is flirting nearly for 10 years and married for 4 years, and whenever a conversation about a baby taken , I have always overreacted and rejected the idea of being a mother. And now I am sure why I showed this extreme reaction because I have always afraid of being a mother like mine. and for the first time in my life, today I looked up baby girl photos on internet . And I know this is a sign of healing for me.

        And I am sure now that everyone of us can heal him/herself. It is a long path but nothing is impossible. I think the best part is to know that you are not alone and there are many people all around the world that exactly understands you.

        I wish 2015 will bring all of us a joyful life that we will leave all the bad memories behind and replace them with wonderful, healthy memories.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. I am so sorry in my delay. New to the site. Now the new year is well underway I’m back in learning this site.

        Your reply details narcissist behaviour so familiarly and I am so happy to read of a successful healing story. An end to the pain caused by narcissism. I’m using a small phone and that’s why I cant make Lon posts. Working on a laptop purchase.
        I have followed you. I really hope we keep in touch.

        Peace and love

        Sarah xxx

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Thanks for sharing your story here! (And an apology for the late reply.)

      Since you asked, here are some of my thoughts regarding this…

      1. In conversations with an NPD parent or a person supporting that NPD parent, you probably need a quick escape route. I suggest that, if you do open the door (nothing wrong with not doing so; your home is YOUR space), you step outside onto the porch or driveway. You need a quick escape from the conversation if/when it grows belligerent or exhausting or whatever.

      Think of them as emotional vampires. Once you invite one into your home, you cannot get them out without a fight. By keeping the conversation on your porch, you can easily duck back into the house and to a safe place.

      2. Block your parents’ address from your email account. It’s simple to do so. And it’s easier to just block the communication rather than to let them reach you and have curiosity win and put you in an emotional spot.

      3 Be very blunt in your conversations with friends. Tell them not to entertain any conversation with these NPD parents. Tell them you are being harrassed and to not talk to them. This might look rude to outsiders. No one wants to be rude and walk away… but walking away from harrassers and abusers is a safety measure. Don’t feed the bears. They keep coming back when you do.

      4. Decide whose opinion matters to you… If your NPD parent is spreading malicious rumors to Auntie Hugglebottom Poopkins in Podunkinsky, Nowehere, do you care? Are you in a relationship with that person? Think about whose opinion matters to you, and talk to them about it. Tell them you have chosen, for your own private reasons, to distance yourself from your parents…. If you are not in a relationship with the people to whom your NPD parent is gossiping about, don’t worry about it. “Let their gossip be like spitballs launched at your ship,” a therapist once said. Unaffecting, pointless, pathetic, and ridiculous.

      If your NPD parent is spreading rumors that are slanderous, in other words, gossip that is definitely affecting your daily life, your workplace, your standing in your community, you need to talk to a professional therapist and family lawyer about what you can do. Some ACoNs choose to put restraining orders on their NPD parents… but what you can do about gossip is far more difficult.

      So, short version (after my long-winded reply): Take measures to block their communications with you. Talk to people whose opinions truly matter to you. Seek help, if necessary, from a family lawyer or local police official about what to do to limit contact and prevent slander.

      But don’t let the NPDs win in the battle they want to win most: inside your head. Keep strong. Keep reading about NPD. Keep safe. Nurture your heart and soul, and foster good, healthy relationships. Get professional help and move toward emotional healing.

      You are braver than you think. You are stronger than you think. You are worth so much more than the NPDs can ever understand.

      Onward.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I want to start off by thanking the creators of the blog. I have awakened not more than one week ago and you have helped me identify a lot of the toxic behaviors of my abusers. Reading through the posts has been a “That’s so my mom!” and “My mom does that too!”

    One behaviour of my mother that I can’t quite put a finger on is the one I’m going to explain now, though I don’t know if it can classify as gaslighting. It didn’t really make me question my memory, but it did make me question my feelings, if the way I react to certain things might be wrong, if I might be making a big deal out of nothing.

    Basically what my mom does is this : We fight very often, and in every fight we have, no matter what’s the topic of the fight, she always manages to incorporate insults towards me or faults I don’t have. She never forgets to end the fight with a line such as “Look, I’m not putting the blame on you, but if you were more like this and like that these fights wouldn’t happen.” OR “If you didn’t do this or that, I wouldn’t have to waste my time lecturing you” (How does “lecturing” your child involve shredding them to pieces, stomping on said pieces then setting them on fire along with what’s left of their self esteem and self confidence?)

    I also have to mention that she always says, regardless if the circumstances are appropriate, that I’m too short tempered and that I get worked up over anything and that I can’t take any criticism (this foreshadowing is very important)

    So going back to the topic of fighting, after the fight is over she acts like nothing happened, like she didn’t do me any wrong and she never apologizes. She acts normal, talks to me normally, she might also hug me or engage in some light spirited conversation. Normally, after a fight, I feel very sad and offended so I’m bitter towards here and mostly never respond nicely to this kind of behaviour, unless I’m too emotionally drained to fight anymore and all I want to do is sleep. If she senses that I act offended and sad, she gets angry again and in the mood to fight and says I shouldn’t be offended when she merely points out things about me or when she simply states the truth, she says I overreact, that I’m easily offended, that I’m downright insane and dangerous to be around (no kidding, her exact words).

    I know that’s a downplay on my feelings and that she’s trying to make me feel guilty for feeling the way I do (she also always guilt trips me when I feel sad because she feels worse yet nobody gives a damn about it etcetc). I know that she’s also trying to trick me into thinking that she’s right and that I am the problem here, that I should take the abuse without feeling bitter towards it because she has no ill intentions, and that if I feel anything different about our “little fights” it’s my fault and it’s irrational to feel like that.

    What could this kind of behaviour be called? Does it count as gaslighting or is there another term to define it? Thank you

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh, I forgot to add that yes, she does badmouth me to everyone, from her to my father, she managed to turn all of them against me. Even my father (Who has also abused me in the past) thinks I’m some kind of psycho, and her friends do too. The only one who’s on my side is my cousin, as soon as I told her the whole situation she confirmed my suspicions about being abused were right.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. The smear campaign is a common tactic used by Narcissist. It is an effective way to isolate their victims so no one will believe anything they say. Over a period of time, they believe them especially since they never hear from the other side. Normal parents will not wholeheartedly and intentionally disparage their own children to others.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. This reminds me of my experience. My mother told me when I was a child that one of my character flaws was that I didn’t want to hug her after she had smacked me and once she was no longer angry. (I was a very good and easily controlled child – the smacking was usually for crying: “You’re just looking for something to cry about. I’ll give you something to cry about.”) Even as a young child, I thought her behaviour was insane, for not realising that I had emotions too.
      I’m not sure whether that is gaslighting, but I have become convinced my mother has NPD, and I’d say that behaviour is a reflection of a typical attitude that only her feelings count.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I believe this is one of the hallmarks of a Narcissist mother–only her feelings count, which always left me with the vague feeling that I had done something wrong.

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    3. Thanks for taking the time to share your story.

      Gaslighting, for sure, is happening. But I also spy with my little eye a whole lot of blaming, name-calling, and manipuation.

      IF you didn’t do this, IF you didn’t do that, IF you weren’t this, IF you weren’t like that, then she would treat you with love and respect and kindness?

      I call bullshit.

      To place the reasons for the argument on you is just blaming. It takes all responsibility off her.

      It’s unfair and manipulative. She’s trying to control your actions.

      Your “little fights” are actually a part of an enormous battle.

      I suggest therapy… I always suggest therapy, I know, but it’s because adult survivors NEED it. They need to find the tools, understanding, help, and hope. How else can one get healthy without having a guide showing them the way? Especially considering how adult survivors of emotional child abuse have been conditioned to think the abuse is normal and that they deserve it.

      Before you go to therapy, write down all these arguments in a Word doc or piece of paper. Put all the wording there. All the little comments and behaviors. Writing them down will help you have something to give to your therapist about what has happened, and it will help you to see the cyclical abuse that is happening.

      I wish you the best on your journey to healing.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Emotional abuse is not deserved by anyone.

    Everyone has rights.

    To be loved and not judged
    To feel special and be treated with respect
    To choose to disagree and have an opinion
    To be told the truth!!
    To be happy
    To change your mind
    To be confident
    To say no

    Destructive criticism is aggressive

    Being assertive is

    Achieving goals without hurting others
    Protective of your own rights
    Respectful of others rights
    Listening to others
    Negotiating fairly
    Taking responsibility for own actions choices and feelings
    Feeling good about yourself
    Having confidence.
    Being socially and emotionally expressive
    Asking directly for your needs to be met
    Accepting the risk of rejection
    Being comfortable giving and receiving praise

    Xxx

    To speak and be heard

    Liked by 1 person

  6. My mother had a pattern of making it an absolute mission to persuade me to do something. It wasn’t the content that mattered to her. It was the winning. It would be something I adamantly did not want to do, and which wouldn’t benefit anyone else, and she would go to absurd lengths of persuasion, looking intently into my eyes and saying with great emphasis “Trust me. I promise that couldn’t possibly happen.” I would hold out for a long time, sometimes even weeks, but she never gave up and I eventually gave in. Inevitably, the outcome I had anticipated happened, sometimes through her doing, sometimes beyond her control, and she would act like the massive persuasion offensive never happened, brushing it aside with something like “Oh yes, it does do that”.
    I have read that determination to win any argument, however trivial, is typical of NPD, and that the point is ‘proving’ their superiority by being able to control others. I was left feeling bewildered and frustrated, but I’m not actually sure whether she was thinking two steps ahead to the gaslighting, or whether she had simply got what she wanted by demonstrating control and wasn’t interested in discussing it further.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jane,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

      And, ugh, that’s terrible, but sadly, not unique to NPDs. They want to be right in all things. Check out Claire’s comment at the top of these comments…. Her mother fought her on whether she had curly black hair, for heaven’s sake.

      NPDs want to be the best at everything, know everything, and make everyone conform to their way of thinking. And they will argue, argue, argue, manipulate, badger, attack, name-call, etc. until they get their way.

      What ACoNs often forget is that they can actually ignore the parent. They can turn off their phone, block their emails, and just bring some nice, lovely peace and quiet into their lives by not engaging in such conversations.

      Here’s hoping that you’re finding your peace!

      Like

  7. What a great article!

    Many years ago my sister’s husband died in a car crash, and everyday for the 2 months after I sat with my sister while she grieved. Our NPD mother, who lived only a few streets away, visited once a week, claiming that she didn’t need to visit more often because me and my father was looking after my sister.

    Recently this came up in conversation with mother who now claims it was she who took care of my sister and I wasn’t around. For a split second I actually doubted what had happened, especially since my father was in the room and he didn’t bother to correct her.

    This is for me, an obvious incident of my mother’s gaslighting (and father’s enabling), but there must be tons of other times it’s gone unnoticed. I have a deep sense of not being able to trust my own perceptions and memories, and automatically assume that I am wrong and everyone else is right.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A very obvious one at that. Narcissists, I’ve learned, always try to take other people’s good deeds as their own. Unfortunately, your father sounds like an enabler–anyone that doesn’t speak up or do anything to stop or correct the narcissist, even though they know the truth.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh my god! My dad always does that even though it doesn’t work anymore! When my parents divorced my dad used me and my sister to hurt our mother. He knew that i was frustrated because mom ignored me all my life (by the way, my dad worked abroad so i only saw him about 2 months a year) and he gave me lots of attention and presents and praise, well, even more than i ever dared to wish from my mom. So yeah, he made me think he was a saint (it wasn’t hard, i was only 10), i trusted him completely, but he slowly implanted the idea that my mom was evil and she hated me into my head. (Does that make sense? Sorry for the disorganised writing.) And i think it would have worked even now if he played nice, but soon after the divorce he started to show his true colors. He was violent (he always hit us when he was angry), he insulted us (one of his favourites was “Shit with eyes” for me), made us do all the chores in difficult conditions (we didn’t have water, electricity or heating sometimes), he borrowed or stole money from shady people and made us lie for him… and don’t get me started on the women he brought home! 😄 So yeah, it would have worked, but he’s quite oblivious since i suspect he’s a bit of a psychopath.

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  9. My mom always confused me as a kid. When we first were required to bring a calculator to school, she bought me one. It was stolen, and when I apologized and asked her to get me a new one, she told me that she was not buying me a THIRD calculator. I was confused because I only remembered her buying me one, and said so. She responded by saying she got me one the year before as well, and that I lost it. I asked my sister about it, and all of my friends. They all said that they only remembered me getting the one. Halfway through the next school year, I ended up being forced to ask for a new calculator. She said that I’d already lost three and she wasn’t getting me a new one. According to her, I got my third one at the beginning of the new school year. I spent several months worrying about my sanity and memory, because I kept forgetting things I said/remembering things wrong according to her. I asked my sister and friends again. They were all confused, and told me the same thing. She only bought me one, which was stolen.
    She would do similar things during arguments. Once, my father asked to take me to see a band. She was fine with it at first, but about ten minutes later, she completely denied doing so and started shouting about how my dad would not, under any circumstances, take us to see the band, and that he needed to listen to her, because she was never okay with it.

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  10. I’m not certain whether my mom is a narcissist, but she’s definitely emotionally abusive and gaslights me constantly (I still live with her, but hopefully not for much longer). The gaslighting is mostly in the form of her mentioning X, I’ll say “no, actually, it’s Y” and she’ll say “I said Y, you may have THOUGHT you heard X, but I said Y.” Even if X and Y sound NOTHING alike. There was also a time that I was in my bedroom with the door closed and I saw the hall light come on under the crack at the bottom of my door. It stayed on and a little later I went to her room to tell her I wanted to go to the store, and then I asked her if she wanted the hall light off. Note that the switch for it is across the hall from my room, and next to her door. She said she didn’t turn it on, that I did. I most certainly did NOT turn on the light. It had already been on before I came out of my room, and I HAD NOT been out of it beforehand. I even TOLD her that I hadn’t been out of my room before it came on and she STILL insisted that I turned it on, not her. Even if I had come out of my room, I NEVER turn that light on unless I need to get something out of the hall closet, which obviously wasn’t the case here, and if I accidentally do (the switch is next to the switch for the lights along the stairs) I’ll notice and turn it off immediately. “Well, you probably just forgot that you turned it on.” Yes, I totally forgot that I had eight-foot-long Inspector Gadget arms that can go through a closed door. We argued over it for like ten minutes (she still insisted she hadn’t turned it on and that I did it and “probably forgot”) and I was still fuming about it when I went to the store. I still get angry when I think about it.

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  11. I have a lot of experience with gaslighting. My ex-husband was masterful at it, and my sister trained me from my earliest memories to accept gaslighting as “normal.” I’m am now NC with the majority of my family. It is mentioned over and over on this site to find the right therapist and I can’t agree more. Before my ex-husband left me, he insisted that I had anger management issues and that I needed serious therapy. I found a highly educated and experienced therapist who specialized in anger management but by chance, she also specialized in addiction which gave her insight into all the different kinds of manipulation. It may sound unrelated, but through the course of my therapy, she used her knowledge of “manipulation” to diagnose my ex as a societal sociopath and narcissist who uses gaslighting to control people. He did some very textbook things: he tried to diagnose me w a personality disorder, he tried to diagnose me w anger issues, he rewrote history, he used silence to get his way, he presented a different reality to everyone in his life, so much so that I always felt like I was standing on quicksand. Bc my therapist so clearly saw who he was, she would not allow me to blame myself, she was very direct about the “reality” of what my marriage was, and she completely discounted his diagnosis of me. She saved me, she awakened me and bc she came into my life I’ve seen the emotional abuse in my family and childhood and in a few of my friends and I’ve cleansed these toxic people from my life. The right therapist can do an amazing amount of good! On the flip side, while I was married, I was in couples therapy w my ex and that therapist was completely controlled by my ex, to the point where the couples therapist yelled at me in therapy, cut me off, and agreed with my ex that I needed to be medicated. So, the wrong therapist, uneducated therapist, can do a lot of harm. I can’t encourage survivors enough to find the right therapist, it has completely changed my life for the better, and forever. I am now in a genuinely loving relationship with an emotionally healthy man, and I’ve found enormous peace and joy in having relationships/friendships based on mutual love and respect, it really can happen.

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  12. I would like to know if you think this scenario sounds like gaslighting. My father and mother divorced when I was eight years old. My father married another women in less than two years after their separation. This woman had two children close to my age. I moved out of state with my mother and new stepfather when I was 14. I lived out of state for just over 20 years. My family and I moved back near my real father almost 9 years ago. My father has always given me cards, letters, and gifts that praise me for being a great daughter. However, in the last 9 years since returning to the area every time my young son and I try to spend time with them they will both say mean and inappropriate things out of the blue to me and to my young son. We are routinely made to feel unwelcome and uncomfortable in their presence. Other people have even noticed it too. However, I will still get the appropriately timed card and gift that tell me what a wonderful daughter I am. I am feeling at my wits end. It leaves me AND my son feeling confused and rejected. I have tried to create distance to protect myself emotionally but inevitably get sucked right back into the same situation. Please let me know if this sound like gaslighting. I only recently realized this is what it could be. Thanks in advance for your advice.

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  13. I would also like to point out that the effects of gaslighting can be multiplied for people with various mental illnesses and other neurological conditions that deviate from the norm. Heck, as an autistic, I can tell you that the description of autism is extremely gaslighty. Not sure why that is? Simply imagine yourself being described in those terms. Wouldn’t you have trouble trusting your perceptions if that’s what your read?

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  14. Wow, really interesting posts and its opened my eyes i think! I feel kinda sick and disturbed to be honest because ive known theres been something seriously wrong for a long time, but not heard of this gaslighting before tonight so i looked it up.. and some of it describes my mum perfectly
    Firstly my mum has a terrible temper, she sees red immediately in any situation and is one of the worst ive seen in anybody, she can be scary.. her pleasant face changes into someone you barely recognise, all screwed up and pure anger and hate, face of a psycho really.. i can remember so many examples where ive had to endure that and had to just escape her, to the garden or wherever. All of these could have been over the slightest of reasons, eg the dishwasher wasnt emptied or something when she got in from work. An understandable irritation maybe but her reaction was x 100 what it should have been in a normal person. The point of it isnt her anger, its her perception of it afterwards which is just deluded. She thinks she has been attacked (or wants me to think that) and id hear her on the phone a few times telling her sister, mum or my older bro about the bust up and how awful i could be. I remember shouting out once, thats not what happened!!! Why are you lying?! To the point where id get a phone call or visit to discuss my behaviour towards my mum. I remember one time she was squaring up to me, and i just wanted to get past her to the garden but she kept blocking my way. Seriously thought i was going to be attacked! I mention that now and she says that never happend, im just making it up
    Sometimes id address these points to her, that she could be psycho and really intimidating, and shed reply with, well all my friends at work think im wonderful and such a lovely person, so how can i possibly be like that with you? In fact my friends think you are the problem!!! So she discussed me at work then too it seemed lying about me. Shed always become tearful too when i ever brought it up like i was the one who was mis remembering everything and i ended up feeling really bad!
    Every holiday or trip away she goes on she falls out with who shes with and came back early, with stories of not being treated nicely or they were nasty to her or something. Every trip. Hell of a coincidence that..
    Its still going on to this day, ive moved away now but she sees one of my elder brothers frequently and she constantly falls out with him. She phones me up every time tearful makung him sound like an evil bast#*d. Of course when i get the version from him its soooo so much different and what she said isnt close to the truth. So that means she doesnt care what that might make me think towards my brother
    There is obviously something else involved with her temper, but she NEVER remembers it correctly!! Well actually as it turns out she does, she just wants me and others to believe her version.
    This is only a few examples, i could really write an essay on it ive got so many memories lots of bad ones
    Ive been questioning myself as to why i dont feel like contacting her often, thinking im a bad son and have been shrugging it off as laziness or something. But ive realised im not bad like that, i think shes had a long standing effect on me and i dont contact often because shes been awful in the past and its effected me. I cant talk to her about it either as she wouldnt understand, would claim not to remember doing any of that and i would end up feeling cruel for saying it. Guaranteed

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