How Can You Protect Yourself From ‘Gaslighters’?

A Little Lesson

Gaslighting is defined as a tactic used to gain power by making a victim question their reality. How can you identify and protect yourself from gaslighters in your life? Learn more!

two people arguing

The following excerpt is taken from a transcript of the video above.

How can you protect yourself from gaslighters?

I want to build a little bit more on my last Little Lesson in which I discussed how you should respond when somebody accuses you of being defensive. Well, Of course, you know as well as I do, everybody knows this, people defend themselves. People go to court to defend themselves. They spend tens of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend themselves, and there’s nothing wrong with defending yourself. It’s natural. Everybody does it. But gaslighters, and I’ll explain that in a little more detail in a second, will sometimes accuse people with whom they are in conflict, “Well, you’re so defensive,” as if that’s a fault and something unusual about you that makes you a flawed individual. You’re defending yourself.

Well, Jesus defended himself frequently. I mentioned on our last lesson that Job spent an entire book of the Bible defending himself and God considered him the most righteous man on the face of the Earth, so it’s not wrong to defend yourself. And I did a little lesson by that title. So, what is gaslighting? Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation where the gaslighter tries to make his opponent, or his a victim, doubt his or her perceptions. Let me read a more technical definition of what gaslighting is that I pulled up from Wikipedia. Listen to this. Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person or a group… so not necessarily just done by an individual, it can be done by a group, a gaslighting group… covertly sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or group. Okay?

So, this can be done by individuals or groups and it can be done against individuals or groups. And here’s what it does, it makes them question their own memory or their own perception or their own judgment, often evoking in them cognitive dissonance and other changes including low self esteem. So, the gaslighter is just trying to make you doubt your own perceptions and your own judgment. And it’s done in some covert manner, it’s not just blatantly said. Now, here’s some of the methods that they use: using denial, misdirection, contradiction, and misinformation. That’s a big word for lies. Gaslighting involves attempts to destabilize the victim and de-legitimatize the victims’ beliefs. Instances can range from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents occurred. See, there’s one I’ve seen and experienced and suffered myself. Gaslighters rewrite history.

“Well, that never happened. No, you’re not remembering that correctly. You’ve got that all wrong.” So, they’re making you doubt your judgment, your perception, or your memory. Here’s another one: belittling the victim’s emotions and feelings. So, they don’t have a substantive thing to say in a conflict and they’re not going to accept blame or ask forgiveness themselves. So, they resort to illegitimate means of gaining the upper hand and belittling a person’s feelings or their emotions, is a way of that gaslighters work. Finally, also it could include the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim. I mentioned in the last lesson the term gaslighting came from a play that was adapted to a movie in the 1940’s about an evil man who was trying to drive his own wife crazy and he did it by different ways.

One way is he turned down the gaslights in their house so that they dimmed, and she perceived that and she commented on it, and he would say, “No, you must be losing your mind. Something’s wrong with you. I haven’t touched the lights.” And he’d be up in their attic, rooting through boxes, I think he was looking for jewelry of some woman he had murdered or something, and she would say, “I hear these noises like someone’s up on the attic. Have you been up in the attic dear?” “No, I haven’t been in the attic.” So, he’s making her doubt her perceptions and trying to drive her crazy. I never saw the movie so I don’t know if he succeeded. He probably succeeded. And so, that’s how gaslighters work. They will try to make you think that there’s something wrong with you. A very common line is, “You need to see professional help because you’re just mixed up.”

So, they’re coming across as concerned about you. “You need to seek professional help.” I had some folks say that to me one time, and honest to goodness, I had thought to myself, I never said it but I thought to myself, “Boy, these people need professional help because, look at their lives and look at their relationships. They’ve got problems.” But I never said it. And yet, those very people are telling me that I need professional help. I need to go see a psychologist. So, that’s gaslighting, making you doubt your own perceptions and judgements and gaslighters rewrite history. They make ad hominem attacks when they have nothing substantive to say to you because they don’t have the facts so they have to attack you, belittle you and your emotions.

“You’re so emotional about this. You’re overreacting. You’re so defensive,” and so forth. It’s all just a form of gaslighting. They don’t have anything substantive to actually say. All right, that term gaslighting, according to Wikipedia, and I knew this before I read it in Wikipedia, but it’s now been used in clinical psychological literature. So, psychologists use that terminology to describe a common thing that happens to good, honest, sincere people. And that’s the thing, as I said in the last lesson, I’m going to close on this, when you’re a good person and you love people and you’re sympathetic to people, that’s the kind of people that selfish people look for. They’re their predators.

How can I gain from this trusting person? That’s what they’re all about. And people enter into marriage on that basis sometimes. And boy, does it ever wind up with a lot of suffering and heartache on the part of the abused person and the victim of the gaslighter. You can look on YouTube and there’s just hundreds and hundreds, maybe thousands for all I know, of videos by psychologists that are on this topic and on related topics. Pity the person who has suffered. So, how can you protect yourself from gaslighters? Well, Jesus said be as wise as serpents and innocent as doves, I think he said doves or children, either way same idea.

That’s the trouble, so many of us who are sincere, good people, we’re as innocent as doves but we haven’t been as wise as serpents. And so, we don’t believe people could ever treat us like they ultimately do because we would never treat anyone that way. Never. So, we just can’t imagine other people doing it and it shocks us when other people try to take advantage of us or use us or abuse us. It’s just so foreign to what we’re all about. But eventually you learn and sometimes it’s a hard lesson. A very, very, very hard lesson. But, with a little experience, you learn to beware of the gaslighters. Oh, I want to close with one thing. Gaslighters, and selfish people in general, are very reticent to ever communicate by any means by which they will be ultimately then held accountable.

For example, they would never let you record a conversation because they know it could be used against them in the future. They don’t want to communicate via writing because they know that’s something that could become referenced later on. Well, in conflict… again, face-to-face is a good way to work it out with a friend… but deep conflict it needs third parties involved. So, the gaslighters can’t say, “I never said that.” Well, then the third party can say, “Oh yes, you did. I heard it.” And could even resort to written communication to where, “Let’s settle this in writing. I’ll write to you and you respond in writing. That way we’ll have a record. No one can say I never said that.” And they’re going on record, and good people don’t mind doing that.

Good people don’t mind doing that even if they know the potential is they could be proven wrong in what they wrote by facts that are later revealed. But they’re not worried about that because they’re for the truth, even if it’s against them.

Until next time, may the Lord bless you richly.