The term “gaslighting” comes from a 1944 movie called Gaslight in which a husband tries to slowly drive his wife insane to cover up a big secret. There are three primary stages of gaslighting, as it applies to the psychological term. Gaslighting is a form of emotional manipulation.
The 3-Ds: The Stages of Gaslighting
Gaslighting Stage One: Disbelief
“The process of gaslighting happens in stages – although the stages are not always linear and do overlap at times, they reflect very different emotional and psychological states of mind,” writes psychoanalyst Robin Stern in Psychology Today. “The first stage is disbelief: when the first sign of gaslighting occurs. You think of the gaslighting interaction as a strange behavior or an anomalous moment. During this first stage, things happen between you and your partner – or your boss, friend, family member – that seem odd to you.”
So, in layman’s terms, that means you’ll find yourself wondering what just happened. You’ll think the person just “sort of snapped” and that the behavior might be out of character.
You’ll be shocked at some of the things the narcissist says to you and you’ll find yourself going “huh?” when they react or respond to you because the things they say are so far outside of anything anyone has ever said to you before. A gaslighter almost seems to go out of his way to make you wonder, but they’re not really trying to do that. In reality, a gaslighter is using an insidious form of manipulation that aims to throw you off-balance so you can remain under their control. They are trying to make you doubt your own perception, to question reality, and they want to essentially to render you helpless without them.
In other words, they are, in most cases, just acting in a way that feels natural to them. They are just being who they are: a narcissist.
Gaslighting Stage Two: Defense
“In the second stage, defense, the gaslightee has begun to second-guess himself,” writes TheWeek.com’s Shannon Firth.
This means that you start to wonder if maybe the narcissist is right–maybe you are the one to blame. You find yourself being constantly criticized by the narcissist and you being to think that you are really as slow, stupid, bad, lazy, or whatever other rudeness is being spewed your way.
Again, often the narcissist doesn’t even see what he’s doing here–but you won’t miss it. You’ll feel almost exhausted by the constant barrage of insults and digs being thrown your way, and you might even vow to make personal changes in order to become whatever it is the narcissist says you’re not. You lose a bit of yourself, really.
Gaslighting Stage Three: Depression
“By the time you get to this stage you are experiencing a noticeable lack of joy, and you hardly recognize yourself anymore. Some of your behavior feels truly alien,” according to Marriage Advocates. “You feel more cut off from friends – in fact, you don’t talk to people about your relationship very much – none of them like your guy. People may express concern about how you are and how you are feeling – they treat you like you really do have a problem.”
At this point, you’re probably in need of a serious life overhaul. Whether you get professional help or you simply take your power back by recognizing the serious nature of the situation and taking appropriate action to make it change–you’ve got to do something.
Staying in a gaslighting situation is clearly dangerous for you as a person, but in some cases, it can become even more serious since some narcissists will abuse their victims physically too.
Learn More About Gaslighting in Toxic Relationships
What is gaslighting? Why do toxic people and narcissists gaslight you? What does it mean and how can you stop letting gaslighting bother you? How can you overcome toxic relationships? All of these questions (and more) answered in this video that features several YouTube experts, including Angela Atkinson, Ryan Long from Unleashing Potential, Lise Colucci from QueenBeeing, Colleen Brosnan from QueenBeeing, Dana Morningstar from Thrive After Abuse, and Kim Saeed from LetMeReach.com.
Remember: Gaslighters make you feel crazy because they act like your reactions to their abuse are not rational. If you’ve ever had a friend, family member or co-worker who is a narcissist or who suffers from narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), chances are you have been the victim of gaslighting.
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