#GS-02 Health, Psychology

For Prelims:


  • Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which the abuser attempts to sow self-doubt and confusion in their victim’s mind.
  • The etymology of the term “gaslighting” dates back to a thriller play called the Gas Light written by Patrick Hamilton in 1938.
  • Psychologists R. Barton and J. A. Whitehead coined the term “gaslighting” in 1969 as they analysed involuntary hospitalisation as a form of abuse.
  • The term was popularised by psychotherapist Robin Stern in 2007.

For Mains:

Specifically for Psychology Optional Students.

How “gaslighting” works:

  • Gaslighting is a phenomenon wherein techniques of manipulation are used to control people in politics and interpersonal relationships.
  • Stern explained that in order for such abuse to exist the “mutual participation” between the “gaslighter” (perpetrator) and the “gaslightee” (victim) is imperative.
  • When a person is gaslighted they experience confusion, anxiety and loss of trust in themselves.
  • If successful in the act of gaslighting, the perpetrator can isolate the victim from society and even from their closest social circles to the extent that the gaslightee starts believing that the gaslighter is the only person they can trust.
  • In relationships, especially romantic or intimate ones, the process begins gradually, with the perpetrator gaining the partner’s trust by showering them with romantic gestures.
  • As time goes on, the abuser tends to suggest that their partner is unreliable, forgetful and endlessly dependent.
  • They go on to isolate them from any systems that may provide the victim support.
  • With the help of these techniques, the perpetrator pushes the victim to doubt their sense of rationality by suggesting that they are mentally unstable.

The methodology of Gaslighting:

  • The primary method is questioning the victim’s memory in order to create doubt in the mind of the victim about their reality.
  • The perpetrator acts like they don’t understand the conversation or refuses to listen convincing the victim that they must have misunderstood.
  • Another aspect is trivialising the victim’s experiences or feelings, whereby the perpetrator makes sure that the victim starts questioning their own character.
  • The perpetrator also tends to deny taking responsibility for their actions of hurting the victim by blaming the victim for causing the situation that resulted in abuse by the gaslighter.
  • Moreover, they divert the focus of a discussion, when the gaslightee starts questioning the gaslighter’s credibility.
  • Perpetrators can also use negative stereotypes, based on the victim’s gender, class, caste, race or ethnicity to lower their self-esteem.

Source “How the act of gaslighting isolates people from society and distorts their reality