In News

    • The act of gaslighting isolates people from society and distorts their reality.

    Key Points

    • Background: 
      • In 1938, playwright Patrick Hamilton wrote a thriller play called the Gas Light, which tells the story of a man who attempts to drive his wife insane in order to steal from her. 
        • He convinces her that she was going insane, to the point where she was made to believe that the noises from the attic and the flickering gas light were imagined by her, while in reality, he was responsible for it. 
    • Origin of Term:
      • Psychologists R. Barton and J. A. Whitehead coined the term “gaslighting” in 1969 as they analysed involuntary hospitalisation as a form of abuse. 
      • Rarely used after this, the term was popularised by psychotherapist Robin Stern in 2007 and has now become a ubiquitous term.

    Gaslighting and it’s Working

    • Definition:
      • Gaslighting is a type of psychological abuse. One person or a group manipulates another, making them question or doubt their own mental health.
    • The workings of the phenomenon:
      • Gaslighting is a phenomenon wherein techniques of manipulation are used to control people in politics and interpersonal relationships. 
      • Stern explained that in order for such abuse to exist the “mutual participation” between the “gaslighter” (perpetrator) and the “gaslightee” (victim) is imperative. 
    • Experience:
      • When a person is gaslighted they experience confusion, anxiety and loss of trust in themselves. 
      • If successful in the act of gaslighting, the perpetrator can isolate the victim from society and even from their closest social circles to the extent that the gaslightee starts believing that the gaslighter is the only person they can trust.


    • There are various methods used by gaslighters to manipulate their victims into questioning their realities.
      • Under countering, the perpetrator questions the victim’s memory.
      • The perpetrator acts like they don’t understand the conversation or refuses to listen, convincing the victim that they must have misunderstood.
      • By trivialising the victim’s experiences or feelings, the perpetrator makes sure that the victim starts questioning their own character.
    • The perpetrator also tends to deny taking responsibility for their actions of hurting the victim by blaming the victim for causing the situation that resulted in abuse by the gaslighter. 
    • Moreover, they divert the focus of a discussion, when the gaslightee starts questioning the gaslighter’s credibility. 
    • Perpetrators can also use negative stereotypes, based on the victim’s gender, class, caste, race or ethnicity to lower their self-esteem.

    Impact of the Gaslighting

    • It highlights the importance of intimate relationships in the phenomenon, ignoring the gender-based inequalities that make it a common feature of domestic violence
    • Perpetrators of such abuse, use the already present structural inequalities and stereotypes, and institutional vulnerabilities to control their victims
    • Persistent gaslighting can be catastrophic for the mental health of the person on the receiving end causing him/her to believe they deserve the abuse. 
    • The impact can last long after the gaslighter is out of the victim’s life and very often leads to a lifetime of self-doubt and difficulty making decisions.

    How to protect self from Gaslighting

    • Pay attention to what the person does, not what they say. Gaslighters say one thing, but their actions say another.
    • Don’t listen to someone who constantly tells you “you’re crazy” or makes similar comments that make you routinely question yourself.
    • Don’t believe anyone who tells you that others, especially your family and/or friends, agree with them and not you. Gaslighters will often use those closest to you as ammunition.
    • Remember that it’s not you; the gaslighter is 100% responsible for their behavior.
    • Present incontrovertible evidence and be direct with the gaslighter when they try to deny or evade the truth, as long as you are in a position of safety when doing so.


    • Gaslighting is a serious issue which can be difficult to recognise especially when one is involved in an intimate relationship. 
    • Moreover, it is possible for a person to get used to such behaviour from their partners, mistaking it for love. 
    • The first step in abusive relationships is to become aware of one’s own role in gaslighting, the ways in which one’s behaviour, desires, and fantasies may lead to idealising the gaslighter and seeking their approval.

    Source: TH