How ‘Gas lighting’ is destroying you

‘Gas lighting’ is a manipulation tactic in which someone interacts with you in such a way that you start to question your perception of events, accuracy of memories, and even your sanity. And worse yet- you’re probably experiencing a degree of this right now.

Here is a list of the specific manipulation tactics used and how to shut it down.

  1. Blatant Lying. Whether it doesn’t make sense for the situation or for common sense- the lie itself is obvious but the liar is convincing.
  2. Unpredictable. Sometimes things are really good, so you hang onto the these moments when things are bad. It makes you think the bad times are less bad and less often. It distorts your perception of how the relationship really is.
  3. Deny things they said or did. Even if you have proof! It is maddening that they can’t just admit what is true.
  4. Attack what is near and dear. They know your weaknesses. They may say things like, ‘you shouldn’t have ever been a parent- you have no idea what you are doing’ or ‘if people knew ____ they would never talk to you again.’
  5. Wear you down. Gas lighting gets worse over time. It starts small and gets bigger and bigger. It’s the same idea of the frog not noticing that the water getting hotter and hotter until it is boiling and he dies. If it started off boiling you would jump out of the pot.
  6. Broken Promises. Promises are just talk and no behavior is changes for the long term. It is just to get you to come back/stop bringing it up/etc.
  7. Rescue. Here is the really terrible one. They will appear stable but at the same time will create confusion so that they can rescue you and be your support. It is a way for you become dependent on them.
  8. Distraction. They accuse you of cheating so you don’t notice that they are cheating. Like a magician, they are moving your attention where they want it.
  9. Make sure your alone. They isolate you by destroying friendship and turning people against you. That way you have no supports or resources.
  10. Telling people you’re crazy. When you come to others with concerns about your gas lighter, they are less likely to believe you because they have already been groomed to think you don’t know what you are talking about.
  11. Everyone else is wrong. They try to make you feel a ‘Romeo & Juliet’ connection where the rest of the world is against you two and don’t want to see you happy. This sets up the dynamic that your gas lighter knows better than everyone else and the only one you should trust.

Shutting down ‘Gas lighting’

  1. Trust yourself. This will be the hardest step because all these techniques are about making you question yourself. So go with your gut and really take the time to think about what you think.
  2. Are you gas lighting? Pay attention to your own behaviors and actions to make sure you are not also gas lighting someone else. Sometimes it is easy to fall into these poor interactions, so stop if you see yourself doing these techniques.
  3. Keep your confidence up. Do at least one thing a day that makes you feel confident and proud. When your confidence is up, it is easier to stand up for yourself and express your wants and needs.
  4. Focus on your feelings. Move away from black and white thinking of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, and express how you are feeling.
  5. Keep relationships, activities, hobbies, and personal goals outside of the gas lighting relationship. By doing this you keep your supports, confidence, and resources.
  6. Communicate. If you are seeing gas lighting in your relationships, everyone needs to be made aware of it and create goals to stop. Everyone needs to find a better way to communicate and get their needs met.
  7. You can’t control anyone or what they do. You can only control your behaviors and actions, so keep your locus of control on yourself.
  8. Keep yourself healthy. Set good boundaries and unfortunately, you may need to leave the relationship. Remember you need to keep yourself safe and healthy.

My Challenge to you: Review these gas lighting techniques and see if you are doing or receiving any of them. If you are, create a plan to stop these situations. Remember that gas lighting can be happening in any of your social relationships including co-workers, family members, significant other and even your kids.

Happy boundary setting friends!
– Jessie the Therapist

Photo by:
Thomas Roberts

Jessie Shepherd is a Mental Health Counselor and owner of Blue Clover Therapy in Utah. She has a Masters Degree in Mental Health Counseling from the University of Phoenix and a Bachelors degree in Psychology from the University of Utah. Her focus is treating trauma, eating disorders and adjustment issues in adults, adolescents, children and their families. She utilizes Dialectic Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Play Therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Neurological Feedback.

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