What Is Mental Gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a form of mental manipulation that systematically breaks down a person's reality by eroding the victim’s mental equilibrium, self-confidence and self-esteem. It is a slow process initiated by an aggressor who makes subtle changes to the victim's surroundings, then states that the changes never occurred and the victim's perception is the result of an unreliable memory, not manipulation.

Gaslighting is seen by psychologists as a form of psychological abuse employed by narcissists, especially psychopaths, to control another individual. In popular culture, the phenomenon was introduced in the 1944 American movie "Gaslighting."

The victims of gaslighting often go through an initial defense stage where they feel undue stress or dissatisfaction. When these feelings are addressed, the aggressor redirects conversations to avoid the topic. This inability to address the issue compounds the problem.

The second stage of victimhood is depression. In this stage, victims feel dissociated from reality. The aggressor often pretends to care about the victim's well-being, all the while continuing manipulative behavior. Manipulative behavior includes moving or removing furniture or making claims of past behavior that never actually happened.

The most vital component of gaslighting is deception. Through this deception, the manipulator exerts greater and greater control by undermining the victim's mental equilibrium and the certainty of reality, making the victim dependent on the manipulator.