Gaslighting is a psychological manipulation involving a person tactfully changing the narrative to make someone doubt their reality. Derived from a 1938 play called Gas Light, the phenomenon makes the perceptions of a person quiver and make them look for trusting grounds. We have been guilty of gaslighting someone or being the victim of gaslighting, or both. Another aspect of this tactic is that the web that the gaslighter spreads on his victim’s psyche is slow and gradual.
Gaslighting can vary from an unconscious malevolence to a conscious intent to harm someone’s mental space, from being subtle to emotionally abusive, and from putting the victim to a temporary state of exasperation to making a permanent dent on the victim’s mind. It lays grounds for the fact that gaslighting is not a targeted, uni-structural manipulation but a spectrum that varies on the degree of damage and the level of consciousness of the gaslighter.
Paget Norton, an author for Good Men Project, cites a personal experience and dissects the concept of gaslighting into four levels. As aforementioned that gaslighting is a spectrum, these four levels are based on the character of intent and the nature of the damage being incurred by the victim.
Gaslighting? I don’t Think I Understand.
The first kind of gaslighting is the one where the gaslighter doesn’t know they are indulging in the act of manipulating the gaslightee and giving minor earthquakes to their grounds of reality. In this type, people are themselves confused about the situation and tend to think that the uneasiness created in discourse has nothing to with their own actions but the fate of how events unfolded. Due to this, they try to put the onus on the victim and themselves cover their minds with a layer of oblivion.
I think I Smell Something Fishy.”
The second type comes with consciousness a notch above the previous level of oblivion. The gaslighter can sense that something is off and the conversation is not meeting a cohesive end. However, rather than contemplating their own actions and making an effort to kill the conflict, they try to suffocate the discourse by over-explaining things. As Paget puts it, the second type takes the defense of the “flood of words” and over-analyzes and explains things without realizing the impact it is having on the gaslightee.
“I am Just Trying To Make You Understand and Not Gaslighting You.”
The third type comes with a revamped realization of the events unfolding in a conflicting conversation. It is because the main intent of these kinds of people is not to gaslight but to have an overall victory in the conversation, which to them is a debate. They don’t want to harm you; rather, they want to protect their ego — a classic case of power struggle.
“You Think You’re Better? Let Me Give You A Reality Check.”
This is the person who is fully aware and is gaslighting you on purpose, despite knowing the impact that it is doing on the victim’s mind. Wearing the victim down, blatantly lying to them, using their weak points against them, confusingthem andaligning people against them are classic signs of a gaslighter.
People who indulge in gaslighting tend to make others believe things about them and their surroundings that are not true. Gaslighting is more prevalent than people think and can happen to you, or you can do it to others in various forms.
Keywords: Gaslighting, Gaslighter, Gaslightee, Impact, Emotional, Derived