Gaslighting: What it is and Why it occurs

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which someone attempts to make another person doubt their own perceptions or memories. It is often used as a way to exert power and control over someone else.


There are a variety of reasons why someone might engage in gaslighting behavior. Some people do it intentionally, as a way to manipulate or control others. Others may do it unconsciously, as a way to defend themselves or to avoid taking responsibility for their own actions. In some cases, people who engage in gaslighting may have a personality disorder, such as narcissistic personality disorder, which can involve manipulation and a lack of empathy for others.


Gaslighting is not a healthy or acceptable behavior, and it can have serious negative consequences for the person being gaslighted, as well as for the relationships and trust within a family or group. If you are experiencing gaslighting or other forms of manipulation, it’s important to seek support and to learn healthy ways of communicating and interacting with others.


One of the most famous examples of gaslighting is in the 1938 play “Gas Light” by Patrick Hamilton. In the play, a husband named Jack manipulates his wife, Bella, into believing that she is losing her mind. He does this by dimming the gaslights in their home, but denying that he is doing so when Bella brings it up. This causes Bella to doubt her own perception and memory, and she begins to believe that she is going mad.


The term “gaslighting” comes from this play, and it has been used in psychology and popular culture to refer to this type of emotional abuse. Gaslighting can happen in many different relationships, including romantic partnerships, family relationships, and even friendships. It can also happen in the workplace, with a boss or coworker manipulating an employee into doubting their abilities or value to the company.


The effects of gaslighting can be devastating for the victim. They may begin to doubt their own memories, beliefs, and perceptions, which can lead to feelings of confusion, anxiety, and low self-esteem. In severe cases, victims of gaslighting may develop mental health conditions such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


Gaslighting can occur for a variety of reasons. It is often a tactic used by someone who wants to gain power or control over another person. They may use gaslighting as a way to manipulate the other person into doubting their own perceptions and memories, which can make them more susceptible to the manipulator’s influence. In some cases, gaslighting may be a result of a person’s insecurities or lack of self-esteem. They may use gaslighting as a way to deflect blame or to avoid being held accountable for their actions.


Gaslighting can also occur in relationships where one person is abusive or controlling. The abuser may use gaslighting as a way to manipulate their victim and to maintain control over them.


It’s important to note that gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse, and it can have serious psychological consequences for the person being gaslighted. If you suspect that you or someone you know is being gaslighted, it’s important to seek support and help. If you or anyone you know is being gaslit or need help, please contact Specialized Therapy Associates at 201-488-6678 for our Mental-health related services. Our highly experienced team of mental health specialists are here to help you heal and assist with your mental-health related issues.


Written by: Dr. Lynda R. Fabbo




Sweet, P. L. (2019). The sociology of g-lighting. American Sociological Review, 84(5), 851-875.


Tormoen, M. (2019). G-lighting: How pathological labels can harm psychotherapy clients. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 0022167819864258.


HARRIS, D. M., & MACNEILL, D. N. (2021). Gaslighting 2: Victimhood and learned helplessness.

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