Gaslighting – How Does it Work

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During my research for my blogs I have come across a number of phrases that I have never heard of before. One them is a term called ‘gaslighting’. This term is used a great deal by our American relatives. So what is ‘gaslighting’?

So what is gaslighting?

Gaslighting is another branch of mental abuse. Without realising, this is a powerful form of manipulation in its most awful form. If you are in an abusive relationship you would have been subjected to this type of exploitation.

Gaslighting seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or members of a group. The result is that the targeted then questions their own memory, views, understanding, and at worse; sanity. It is implemented by using denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying. It finally results in the targeted individual to question their own beliefs and knowledge about a certain event or action of which they had previously been sure of.

As a result, the abuser takes greater ownership of your understandings, knowledge and question-ability of their actions.

The 7 stages

Below are listed seven stages of how a gaslighter dominates their victim (the points below are excerpts from; How to Successfully Handle Gaslighters & Stop Psychological Bullying, by Preston Ni).

1 – Lie and exaggerate

My ex was proficient at being able to lie and exaggerate. She was able to create a negative narrative about the me (“There’s something wrong and inadequate about you”), thereby putting me on the defensive all of the time.

In found that I was always being compared to her ex (incidentally, of whom she had tried to have arrested but her allegations were proven to be false – no charge was brought against her). She always had the ability to criticise my fathering role – although her own parenting skills were questionable also.

2 – Repetition

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Gaslighting - How Does it Work

Joseph Geobbels was once quoted as saying that,”…. if you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it.” Repetition, like psychological warfare, is when the falsehoods are repeated constantly in order to stay on the offensive, control the conversation, and dominate the relationship.

My ex would continue to criticise and find any opportunity to find a reason too. This action became her daily obsession and chore. She found a hook on which to constantly reel me in with. As my psychological well-being had been so down trodden (with her dubious evidence), I came to believe her objections and began to agree with her views and opinions.


3 – Escalation

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Gaslighting - How Does it Work

My ex was able to step up her offensive behaviour (escalation) when challenged. When called on her lies, she escalated the dispute by doubling and tripling down on her attacks on me. She was proficient at refuting the evidence with denial, blame, and more false claims (misdirection), sowing even more doubt and confusion.

When I discovered that she had been messaging another man of whom she had been seeing regularly behind my back, she flatly denied it (even though I had spoken to the chap directly before I asked her).  She had suggested that I had imagined the whole thing. She even went further to suggest that I needed medical help and that my insecurities.

4 – Wear down

A favourite trick of my ex was her attempt to wear me down. She continued to stay on the offensive, until the point came whereby I was utterly worn down. I became self-doubting and anxious and I further started to question my own identity, and reality.

5 – Co-dependency

This behaviour formed a relationship based on co-dependency. The Oxford Dictionary defines co-dependency as “excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner.”

I can now see that I felt constant insecurity and anxiety based on what she told me of who I was. As a result, she seemed to have made most of the decisions. This was because I was made to think I was incapable of making such important choices.  Furthermore, I was unable to see friends or family without her direct approval. This element created a relationship that was based on fear, vulnerability, and downgrading.

 6 – A battle on two fronts

My ex had the ability to play Jackal and Hyde so often it was difficult to see the edges of her personality. It became a battle of two fronts. She often gave me hope that she had seen the errors of her ways and would spend moments explaining her actions that would draw pity from me. Therefore, justifying her actions. Occasionally she would show me tenderness and kindness.

7 – Divide and conquer

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Gaslighting - How Does it Work

Her ultimate objective was to control, dominate, and take advantage (divide and conquer) of everything around her including her own daughters. She maintained and intensifying her lies to continue the image of perfection to other people not in the relationship See blog on blonde hair and blue eyes. She involved my father to try and gain numbers for her quest. This action was to increase her personal gain over my self-respect.

Gaslighting has no centre point

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Gaslighting - How Does it Work

With gaslighting, it feels as though the ground is always shifting beneath you. There is no centre of gravity or a single point that you are able to focus on. Throughout my blogging experiences I have suggested that you keep records as soon as you have doubts. These records showed me that there was a distortion of the facts as I knew them. This, although I didn’t know it at the time was gaslighting.  My records kept me focused on the fact that I was being abused.

The reality is that you will never change a gaslighter. They are unsure themselves of what is black and white because their own distortions have weakened their own state of reality. They only gain success if they have drawn you into their whirlpool of self destruction.

If you lie enough


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