The Ultimate Resource: A Complete Guide to Gaslighting with Therapist Insights


Gaslighting is a manipulation tactic that occurs when someone intentionally or unintentionally doubts or denies reality. 

The term “gaslighting” originates from the 1938 play (and later 1944 movie adaptation) “Gas Light.” In this story, a husband manipulates his wife into believing she’s going insane by subtly dimming the gas-powered lights in their home while denying that the lighting has changed, leading her to question her reality.

Understanding Gaslighting

The Different Forms of Gaslighting


Trivializing is a technique wherein the gaslighter intentionally minimizes or downplays the feelings, thoughts, or experiences of the individual they are gaslighting. They may resort to belittling comments or derisive responses, such as, “You’re too sensitive,” or “You’re overreacting,” dismissing the person’s emotions as irrelevant or disproportionate. This can make the person question their own emotional response and undermine their confidence in their ability to assess situations.


Denying is a manipulative tactic where the gaslighter feigns forgetfulness of events, conversations, or circumstances or outright denies the occurrence of specific incidents. Expressions like, “You’re imagining things,” or “That never happened,” are commonplace in this method, causing the person being gaslighted to question their memory and trust in their own perception of reality.


Diverting is a tactic where the gaslighter subtly shifts the subject or questions the person’s thoughts and decisions to divert attention away from the real issue. They may deviate from conversations with deflective remarks like, “We’re not talking about that right now” or “Why are you always bringing up old topics?” This is done to avoid taking responsibility for their actions and to invalidate the other person’s experiences.


Countering is a tactic that involves the gaslighter questioning the person’s recollection of events, even when the person remembers them vividly. The gaslighter might dispute their memory with statements like, “You’re remembering it wrong,” or “That’s not how it happened,” challenging their perception and making them feel uncertain about their memory or judgment.


Stonewalling is a method where the gaslighter refuses to entertain or acknowledge any concerns, complaints, or worries raised by the other party. They may accuse the person of trying to confuse or mislead them, using dismissive comments like, “I’m not going through this again,” or “You’re trying to confuse me.” This approach inhibits communication, leaving the person feeling unheard and invalidated.

Gaslighting by Proxy

Gaslighting by Proxy is an advanced technique where the gaslighter manipulates a third party into assisting them in their gaslighting endeavors. For instance, your boss might deny criticizing your work, then persuade one of your colleagues to suggest that you’re “misinterpreting” your boss’s feedback. In this case, your boss has leveraged this colleague as a proxy, using them to deepen your self-doubt and further destabilize your perception of reality.

Why People Gaslight Others


Gaslighting can allow a person to control another by undermining their confidence in their own perceptions and judgments. For example, in a romantic relationship, one partner may continuously challenge and dismiss the other partner’s feelings and memories, causing them to rely more on the gaslighter’s version of events. This grants the gaslighter control over the relationship dynamics and decisions, as their partner may feel incapable of trusting their own judgment.

In this video (see below) Dr. Natalie Feinblatt explains how narcissistic individuals gaslight to gain control over others.

Evasion of Responsibility

Gaslighters often use manipulation to evade accountability. For example, a manager who made a mistake that caused a project to fail might gaslight their team into believing they misunderstood the instructions. This diverts blame away from the manager, preserving their reputation and possibly their job.

To Hide Their Own Insecurities

An insecure person might use gaslighting to mask insecurities and maintain an upper hand. For example, a student who is insecure about their academic capabilities might gaslight a classmate into believing they are the one failing to understand the course material, thereby shifting focus away from their own struggle with the subject.

To Maintain a False Image

Gaslighting can be used to uphold a false self-image. For example, consider a respected community leader who does something morally questionable. Suppose someone tries to bring this behavior to light. In that case, the leader might gaslight them, creating doubt around the incident to maintain their reputation and continue to be viewed positively by the community.

Influence or Manipulate Circumstances

Gaslighting can be used strategically to manipulate situations. For instance, in a group of friends, one might spread false narratives about another friend to cause confusion and discord. This can enable the gaslighter to position themselves as the ‘trusted’ friend, manipulate the group dynamics, and influence the group’s decisions and activities.

Examples of Gaslighting

Anne and Jack have been dating for a year. Anne feels that Jack dismisses her concerns about his late nights out without contacting her. One day, she gathers her courage and brings it up: “Jack, it worries me when I don’t hear from you during your late nights.” Jack scoffs, “Anne, you’re always overreacting. I was just out with friends, nothing more. Stop being so sensitive!”

Growing up, Emily had fond memories of her family vacations. However, her older brother, Tom, often recounted different versions of these trips, featuring Emily in embarrassing situations. “Don’t you remember when you lost the hotel key, and we were stuck outside all night?” Tom would ask. Emily, puzzled, would respond, “That never happened, Tom!” But Tom would insist, leaving Emily confused about her memories.

Sam and Lisa have been friends since college. Recently, Lisa repeatedly contradicts Sam’s recounting of their college days. One day, while reminiscing, Sam says, “Remember our road trip to the coast?” Lisa interrupts, “No, Sam, we went to the mountains, not the coast.” Sam’s clear memory of the trip to the coast leaves him questioning his recollections.

Laura works for a tech company, with Alex as her project manager. Alex often changes project requirements but denies doing so. During a team meeting, Laura mentions, “These new specifications contradict last week’s guidelines.” Alex replies, “Laura, those were never the guidelines. You’re misunderstanding again.” Laura starts questioning her comprehension, while Alex avoids responsibility for the confusion.

Identifying Gaslighting

Signs You Are Experiencing Gaslighting

Constant Self-Doubt

Gaslighting often leads to persistent self-doubt. It might be a sign of gaslighting if you find yourself questioning your own perceptions, feelings, or judgments, especially when you didn’t before. For example, you might start doubting your musical taste or ability to remember events accurately because someone else constantly belittles or denies your experiences.

Confusion and Forgetfulness

A key gaslighting strategy is to make you question your memory of events. If you often feel disoriented or struggle to recall situations that you once remembered clearly, especially in relation to one person, you could be experiencing gaslighting. This can lead to feelings of confusion and increased forgetfulness.

Feeling Crazy or Insane

Gaslighters often manipulate by suggesting that you’re “losing your mind.” This can make you feel as if you’re going insane when in reality, your perceptions and emotions are perfectly valid. You might question your sanity, especially when the gaslighter contradicts your memory of events or dismisses your feelings.

Difficulty Making Decisions

As a result of constant self-doubt, you might start finding it hard to make decisions, even about simple things like what to wear or what to eat. The fear of making a “wrong” choice can become paralyzing because the gaslighter has conditioned you to distrust your judgment.

Walking on Eggshells

Gaslighting can lead to a heightened state of anxiety, where you feel you must be extra careful to avoid upsetting the gaslighter. You might constantly monitor your behavior or words, fearful that the slightest misstep could trigger a negative response.

Constantly Apologizing

Gaslighters often shift blame to the person they are gaslighting, making them feel responsible for the gaslighter’s actions or reactions. It might be a sign of gaslighting if you find yourself apologizing frequently, even for trivial things or situations beyond your control.

Feeling Isolated

Gaslighters frequently try to separate you from your support network to make you more dependent on them. If you’re feeling cut off from friends and family, either physically or emotionally, and the person in question is discouraging your relationships with others, this can be a sign of gaslighting.

Feeling that Something’s Wrong, But Not Sure What

Sometimes, the only sign might be a persistent sense of unease. You may feel like something isn’t right in your relationship, but you can’t quite put your finger on what. This nebulous feeling can signal that you’re being manipulated through gaslighting.

Insights from a Therapist: Signs of Gaslighting

In this video, Dr. K-P goes through some of the signs that someone is gaslighting you.

The Difference between Gaslighting and a Simple Disagreement or Misunderstanding

Understanding the distinction between gaslighting and simple disagreements or misunderstandings is essential. Although both involve contrasting perceptions or opinions, these concepts differ drastically in terms of their intent and subsequent effects.

Simple Disagreement or Misunderstanding:

Disagreements and misunderstandings are normal parts of human interactions. Everyone has different perspectives, and it’s common to have differing views or misunderstandings, especially in close relationships. 

Typically, these disagreements are resolved through open and respectful communication, and both parties are open to each other’s viewpoints. They involve no deliberate intent to undermine, manipulate, or cause others to doubt their reality. Misunderstandings can be clarified, and disagreements can lead to growth, compromise, or agreeing to disagree.


In contrast, gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person seeks to sow seeds of doubt in an individual or group, making them question their memory, perception, or sanity. 

Unlike simple disagreements or misunderstandings, gaslighting is persistent and systemic. It’s not about reaching an understanding or compromise but about controlling the narrative to maintain power or hide the truth.

Insights from a Therapist: Is It Gaslighting or Disagreement?

In this video, you can hear Lucianne Gerrard’s, Registered Counselor, thoughts about the line between gaslighting and disagreement.

Common Gaslighting Phrases

Responding & Preventing Gaslighting

If you want to stop a narcissist from gaslighting you, you must use the J.A.D.E. technique to prevent yourself from allowing the narcissist to gaslight you, practice emotional detachment to stay grounded, and document your interactions with the narcissist to hold onto your reality.

If you want to download our “J.A.D.E. Technique Checklist”, click here.

Step 1: Use the J.A.D.E. Technique

The first step to preventing a narcissist from gaslighting you is using the J.A.D.E. technique, which stands for “Don’t Justify, Don’t Argue, Don’t Defend, Don’t Explain.”

You might be wondering, “How will this help me?”

Well, when you justify, argue, defend, or explain your actions to the narcissist in your life, you inadvertently provide them with an opportunity to gaslight you.

For example, imagine that the narcissist in your life said, “You always forget to take the trash out; you’re so irresponsible.”

Instead of adhering to the J.A.D.E. technique, you try to defend your actions by saying, “But I took it out last night, don’t you remember?”

This gives the narcissist an opportunity to gaslight you, and they could do so by saying, “No, you’re wrong. You never remember to do it.”

Now, let’s imagine that you adhere to the J.A.D.E. technique when the narcissist says, “You always forget to take the trash out; you’re so irresponsible.”

To use the J.A.D.E. technique, you could say something like, “I understand why you might see it that way.”

In response to this, the narcissist may continue to try to gaslight you by saying, “Don’t you care about keeping our home clean? It’s just like last week when you forgot to wash the dishes. You’re always so forgetful.”

Again, you can respond to this with the J.A.D.E. technique by saying, “I hear your concern. I see how it could seem that way to you.”

Notice here how you’re not justifying or explaining your actions. You’re simply acknowledging their statements. 

By responding this way, you avoid getting pulled into a futile debate and prevent yourself from giving the narcissist an opportunity to gaslight you.

Common J.A.D.E. Responses

Insights from a Therapist J.A.D.E

Watch our discussion with Ellen Biros, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, about the J.A.D.E. technique when interacting with a narcissist.

Step 2: Practice Emotional Detachment

The second step to stopping a narcissist from gaslighting you is to practice emotional detachment. This means actively working on keeping your emotions separate from the actions or words of the narcissist. 

This is an important part of protecting yourself from gaslighting because narcissists use emotional manipulation, including gaslighting, to control and confuse the people they abuse.

When you practice emotional detachment, it helps you stay grounded and hold onto your reality, despite the narcissist’s attempts to distort it with gaslighting.

For example, imagine that the narcissist in your life said, “You never listen to me. You’re always too wrapped up in your own world.”

To practice emotional detachment, you might think to yourself, “What they are saying makes me feel guilty and upset, but I know that they are just trying to gaslight me. I need to stay emotionally detached here.”

Then you can use J.A.D.E to respond by saying, “I understand how you feel.” This is an excellent response because despite feeling upset, you’ve responded neutrally and didn’t provide them with the emotional reaction they sought.

If they continued to try to gaslight you by saying, “Just like last week when you completely ignored my advice about the project.”

You could think to yourself:

“This is another attempt at gaslighting. They’re trying to distort my perception of past events to bait me. I feel angry because I did appreciate their advice. But I must remember to respond without letting these emotions control me.”

Then you could respond with J.A.D.E. again, saying, “I see why you might think that.”

This is a fantastic response because you maintain emotional detachment by acknowledging their perspective without arguing or getting defensive. 


If you want to download our “Emotional Detachment Checklist” click here.

Insights from a Therapist: Emotional Detachment

In this video, Lucianne Gerrard, Registered Counselor & Narcissistic Abuse Specialist, walks you through 10 steps to emotionally detach yourself from a narcissist.

Step 3: Document Your Interactions

The third step to preventing the narcissist from gaslighting you is documenting your interactions with them. 

By doing this, you can validate your perception of reality. 

This can be a powerful tool to combat gaslighting because it helps you validate your reality and reassures you that you’re not “going crazy,”which is a common feeling among those being gaslighted by a narcissist.

Right now, you might be thinking, “What exactly should I try to document?” 

So here’s a better explanation of what I mean:

1.) What Was Said

This means writing down the exact words that the narcissist used. If you can’t recall exactly what was said, try to write as much as you can remember. 

Doing this will provide you with tangible proof that you can use to prevent yourself from questioning or doubting your memory.

2.) Context

This means writing down when and where the conversation occurred and who was present. Doing this can provide valuable context and help you recall the situation more accurately if/when needed.

3.) Your Feelings and Responses

This means writing down how you felt during the interaction and how you responded to the narcissist’s gaslighting attempts.

This can be an important part of understanding the emotional impact of the interaction on you and also allows you to reflect on your reactions.

4.) Discrepancies

If the narcissist distorts a fact or an event, note this. Record both their version and what you remember as the truth. 

Gaslighting is all about the narcissist trying to force their distorted version of reality onto you. So noting the discrepancies can be extremely helpful.

Insights from a Therapist: Managing Gaslighting

Watch our discussion with Heather Kent, Registered Psychotherapist & Trauma Recovery Specialist, about how to deal with gaslighting while in a narcissistic relationship.

Insights from a Therapist: Protect Yourself from Gaslighting by Setting Boundaries

Watch our discussion with Andre O’Donnell, Registered Psychotherapist, about how to protect yourself from emotional abuse and gaslighting by effectively setting boundaries.

Insights from a Therapist: Overcoming Confusion

Watch our discussion with Cynthia Eddings, Psychotherapist, about how to overcome the confusion that gaslighting and narcissistic abuse creates.


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