If you are (or were) married to a narcissist, then you may be familiar with the term, “gas lighting.” It is the narcissist’s masterful manipulation technique to gain control over you. As your relationship begins to weaken, he carefully causes you slight anxiety or confusion. But as the relationship worsens, he punitively devalues you, and you thereby question your mental sanity. Extreme or long term gas lighting can ultimately lead you to having a distorted sense of reality: not knowing who is right or wrong, feeling guilty for being the person you are, and losing any remaining self-confidence.
Gas lighting is an extremely dangerous form of emotional abuse, as it causes the narcissist’s victim to question her judgment, on even the smallest issues, thereby making her dependent of him. If, for example, she is repeatedly told that she is bad with money, she will begin to believe it, and think that without her narcissist by her side, she will be financially ruined.
The term “gas lighting” comes from the 1944 film, ‘Gaslight,’ where a young woman named Paula falls madly in love with her suitor, Gregory. After an intense romance that led to marriage, Gregory begins to display pathological narcissistic behavior, leading to Paula’s insanity. In one scene, Gregory tampers with the gas light in the attic, causing the house lights to dim. When Paula mentions hearing footsteps in the attic and the lights dimming, Gregory tells her it’s completely her imagination, making Paula question her judgment. Gas lighting is now the widely used term for when a narcissist truly messes with your head.
Depending on the stage of your narcissistic relationship, gas lighting at first appears to be subtle, but then gradually worsens. Below are the signs you are a victim of gas lighting, in order in which they may occur. This list illustrates that as the relationship declines, so does your mental clarity and grasp of reality and truth. Continue reading