It is a beautiful day here in Manchester.  I have no idea why I am drawn to blog about abuse tactics, but my blogs seem to have a mind of their own.  I simply feel a fire in my belly, run with it and before I know it there is a blog.  So here is today’s belly fire….


OK time to get serious as this form of carbon monoxide form of abuse can be very damaging to victims.


Gaslighting or gas-lighting is a form of mental abuse in which a victim is manipulated into doubting their own memory, perception and sanity.

We easily recognise an abuser who is openly abusive, who uses physical violence and who is so unaware of their behaviour they may feel it is appropriate.  What about those that are more sly and manipulative?  Some may wish to harm others, but are also concerned about their reputation.  There is less support for this form of abuse, yet many who have experienced this as well as the physical violence, will tell you that it was the psychological abuse that was most damaging to them long term.

Have you ever experienced any of the following:

  • Do you feel panic or short of breath due to shock at the thought of how horrible you may be?
  • Are you questioning your sanity or personality?
  • Is there someone who cares about you showing real concern and constantly pointing out that they are worried?
  • Are the people close to you also acting like there is something wrong with you?
  • Do you constantly suspect people dislike like you, or may turn on you at some point?

You could be a victim of gas lighting and smear campaigns.

Abusive relationships can be formed in work, families, romantic relationship and friendships.  Extremely manipulative people can create a situation to ‘unhinge’ you and then look at you with full concern and state that they are worried, that there may be something wrong with you.  (please refer back to the Jack Nicholson expression)

Again seriously; this can be an extreme form of psychological abuse and can lead to people being consumed with self-doubt and reliant on the perception of their abusers.  Once a person loses touch with reality, they are much more easy to manipulate and could be at risk of developing mental health issues and trauma bonding may also occur.  (this is where the fire in my belly comes from)

One sign of this type of abuse taking place, is when an individual who is ‘concerned’ starts to rally up troops and exaggerate and maybe even lie, to get others concerned also.  Then when they have an audience, they will deliberately provoke a reaction, then point at that reaction as evidence that they was right to be concerned.

The unfaithful partner will exaggerate the mistrust of the partner they betrayed as evidence of mental instability, when in reality, it would be healthy to not fully trust someone who had been unfaithful.

The narcissistic Mother will scapegoat a child (usually the one who is weak or more outspoken and a threat) and turn others against the scapegoat.  Often the scapegoat will face mass rejection and isolation and when this happens, they will be told they deserve to be treated that way, they will be told there is something wrong with them.  They will be treated like there is something wrong with them if they do not come back into the family when it suits others.  These type of parents will exaggerate or even lie about the scapegoats to get others to join in with the abuse.  Many will not be able to see beyond the fake concern of the abuser and may be unaware there is a controlling and manipulative person who thrives on destroying the spirits of others, especially those they see as a threat.

At work you may face ‘cliques’ with one person controlling groups and spreading gossip and again even lies, to scapegoat other workers who may have potential and be seen as a threat in some way.  Often belittling can be used.  Victims may be given a task that will set them up to fail, or given the worst jobs.  Then if they protest, they will be made out to be the trouble causer.  There will be promotion opportunities, but equal opportunities will be manipulated to give the favoured workers the promotions.

Often you can feel powerless against these types of individuals, as they can manipulate whole groups.  They are extremely controlling and resentful.  If they see some people doing well, they may want to sabotage their success.  If they see certain people becoming close, they may want to bulldoze in and be the centre of attention.  When abusers see victims becoming more empowered, they are likely to want to undermine the victim to remain vulnerable, so they have more control.  If they are challenged about what they are doing and questioned about their behaviour, you are likely to see a massive smear campaign and gas lighting, to discredit anyone they perceive to be a threat.

Abusers need to have power over others and these tactics are a way for them to gain power.  Often abuse can be carried out privately on a 1-1 basis, where they undermine an individual.  It can be subtle, like a smirk when you have an idea, they may treat you like you are inferior, less knowledgeable and speak in patronising ways, showing arrogance, or treating you constantly like there is something wrong with you.  If they know what your weakness is, they will use that to hurt you in some way.  They can give what appears to be a compliment or a comment of concern, which is really a ‘put-down’ in disguise.  If you react, it is your reaction that is used as evidence that you are the issue, not them.  Often triangulation can be used as a tactic for gas lighting.  If an abuser is bored with you, and you are in a devalue stage (see idealise, devalue, discard) they will seek out ex’s or new friends or other family members to appear close to, as a way to let you know you are valued less.  They will want a reaction, if you react, you will be accused of being jealous or neurotic etc.  Often the devalue has come after a phase of idealise, where you feel number one, where you have lots of positive attention from the abuser, just as you are feeling great, they will pull the rug from under you.  Feeding you crumbs of positive attention keeps you hungry, keeps you making effort and keeps you more likely to pander to their every venomous whim.  If you are due money, or have something they want, you are likely to go straight into idealise phase.  Once ‘bled dry’, the devalue is likely to begin.

Politicians may use gas lighting to control groups of people and turn other groups into scapegoats, manipulating the minds of the masses to think a certain way about others.

Never listen to gossip.  Always judge a person by what you see, not what another tells you. Concern can at times be hidden abuse.  If for example someone has a narcissistic parent, it is likely they may go into relationships and also friendships with other narcissists, so may be discredited by a number of individuals.

Abusers want victims and others to believe there is something wrong with the victim. This puts them in a powerful position to attack anyone they see as a threat.

If someone is genuinely concerned about a person, they should seek professional advice from a service like Mind or a GP or other professional.  Slander should never be used.  If someone comes to you with concerns about another, tell them to contact a professional body.  If they are genuinely concerned they will do.  If they are abusers, they will resist this, as they will be aware that their opinions may be discredited and their abuse tactics be revealed.  There have even been reports of children being turned against parents due to the influence of abusers within family relationships.

Personally I believe that abuse is the root cause of most of the problems in our society.  I strongly believe it is the root of many mental health issues and problems in addiction.

We need to challenge abusers more, and to do this, we need to be more aware of the vile tactics that are used to bully and seriously harm others psychologically and emotionally.

If you try to communicate directly with an abuser, it is likely you will be dismissed and what you say discredited.  If you challenge certain things they have done, it is likely they may deny those things ever happened and try to make you believe you are mistaken and confused.  They may minimise anything you bring up, or divert the focus onto something completely different.  Trying to get sense out of these types of people is exhausting and maybe even impossible more often.  Responsibility is often an alien concept for abusers.


How many may have ended their lives due to this, while abusers carry on walking freely? How many turn to substances and make themselves more vulnerable?  How many react and are considered the problem, while the real problem remains hidden?  How many lose their minds?  We need to fight against this insidious form of bullying and help victims if we want our children to grow up in a better world.

There is a lot of information on the internet, if you wish to learn more about this:


Stay safe and take care


Angela Neild


Manchester Counselling


4 thoughts on “Gaslighting

    1. Thank you. I love Jack! The effects of this kind of abuse are no joking matter, but it may help if we can find ways to empower victims to see it for what it is and take their power back. It is great that this kind of abuse is in the spotlight now.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Agreed. My ex husband was clinically passive aggressive but since it had been removed as a diagnosis it took me forever to figure out his behavior. Needless to say, I couldn’t stay. Important topic for sure.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Sometimes, as sad as it is, losing naivety can be the best thing that can happen for some. I love the quality of bonds that can form between those that have experienced this. Vital, when trust can be left so damaged for some. It is a real pleasure to cross paths E.B Fitzgerald.


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