“Gaslight” was an American 1944 thriller about a guy slowly driving his wife crazy by making her doubt everything she knows and everything she sees. However, it’s not so much the Academy Awards it won at the time that make it popular today, rather than the fact it lent its name to one of the worst forms of manipulation in a relationship: gaslighting.
What Are The Stages of Gaslighting?
By definition, gaslighting does not happen overnight. It takes systematic effort and a plan to work. And there are various degrees to it, from a mild doubt about your judgment to the total eradication of one’s self-worth and grip of reality. These are the stages of gaslighting, even though you may find they are not absolutely clear or they overlap sometimes.
#1. Lying and blowing things out of proportion. The first stage of gaslighting usually causes a great deal of surprise to the gaslightee. The gaslighter may appear to suddenly change, becoming more offensive and basically setting the ground for what’s to come (which the victim can’t imagine at the time).
#2. Repetition is the mother of manipulation. This is where it becomes clearer that the gaslighter’s outburst was not a one-off thing. He/ She will now start repeating the offenses, trying to cause their victim to start doubting themselves and how they see things.
#3. Exhausting the gaslightee. In the third stage of gaslighting, the process is well underway. The idea now is to refuse any and every kind of accusation and continue to cause the person gaslighted to doubt their perception of reality so that they drift slowly to stage 4.
#4. Forming a co-dependent relationship. To be more precise, forming a dependent relationship. By now, the victim will be feeling helpless and unable to function in the simplest of situations, since their whole world will have been turned upside down. Who will they turn to for help? Their closest person; their partner, of course.
#5. Offering (fake) help and giving (false) hope. This is the penultimate stage, where a very calculating manipulator will enhance the feeling of dependence and instill false hope that things will get better with his/her assistance, winning one final battle and the victim’s trust before he/she is in full control.
#6. Taking over. In the final stage of gaslighting, the gaslighter has got the victim exactly where he/she wants them to be. This is where the manipulator can control, feed with lies and take advantage of the victim, in an incessant cycle of lies and feeding off his/her insecurities.
If you fear that you are the victim of gaslighting, recognizing these signs in your own relationship (romantic or otherwise, as gaslighting is not limited to romantic relationships), it’s a good idea to seek professional assistance and try to regain your ground by stepping away from the relationship with an emotional pirate.