definition of gaslighting / definition of gaslight

by J. E. Brown

A mind game. A common form of brainwashing in which an abuser tries to falsely convince the victim that the victim is defective, for any purpose whatsoever, such as making the victim more pliable and easily controlled, or making the victim more emotional and therefore more needy and dependent. {You’re reading “Definition of Gaslighting” by J. E. Brown.}

Often done by friends and family members, who claim (and may even believe) that they are trying to be helpful. The gaslighting abuser sees himself or herself as a nurturing parental figure in relation to the victim, and uses gaslighting as a means for keeping the victim in that relationship, perhaps as punishment for the victim’s attempt to break out of the dependent role.

Example 1: If an abusive person says hurtful things and makes you cry, and then, instead of apologizing and taking responsibility, starts recommending treatments for what he or she calls “your depression” or “your mood swings,” you are in the presence of a gaslighter.
Quick Survey: Suppose your partner says “I Need More Space.” What does it mean?
Example 2: If someone insults you or criticizes you, and then pretends it was a joke and asks “Don’t you have a sense of humor?”, that’s gaslighting.

Perception blaming is a common form of gaslighting, and a common technique for evading the consequences of one’s actions. Example: “I’m sorry you perceived my words that way; it wasn’t my intention.” Translation: “You are perceptually defective. Everyone else in the world can read my mind; if you can’t, there must be something wrong with you. Or so I’d like you to believe.” Unspoken Message: “My intention should change your actions (even though it didn’t change mine).” This presupposes the reasoning “Most people are judged for their actions; but *I* want to be judged for my unseen intentions.” For more about this double standard, see Definition of Conceit. {Read this comp1ete article at .}

Etymology: Term is named after the film Gaslight (1944), in which the villain used the technique.

Related: Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSBP).

Synonyms, nonstandard: gaslight syndrome; gaslighting syndrome. Gaslighting consists of only one type of behavior, and so, is not really a syndrome.

Related reading at this site: How to correct someone in a letter.

Excerpt from my book (in progress)

One reader writes:

I hadn’t heard of the term gaslighting before. It reminded me right away of a guy I went out with last year. After he cheated on me, I got upset and reacted... go figure, but after we broke up he suggested I go for counseling. He never apologized for the cheating or lying or admitted to doing anything wrong.

— 1GuyNamedJoe

5th edition. 22 Dec 2009

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