What Is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting Definition

Gaslighting is the purposeful mental manipulation of vulnerable, weakened, and support/resource-deprived individuals by systematically altering their environment so that they identify with a fictitious narrative created by their sociopathic captor. Gaslighters develop these narratives to render their victim powerless over thoughts and feelings of incapacitation, powerlessness, and progressively worsening shame over incurable personal and mental health liabilities that, before the gaslighting, were only a moderate issue or had never existed. Gaslighting is the most profoundly imprisoning form of a purposely induced double bind.

The Gaslighter

Gaslighters are often pathological narcissists who fit the diagnostic profile of a covert narcissist or sociopath. Such mind-manipulators gain emotional, social, personal, and occupational control through a carefully choreographed supportive relationship in which their victim is blinded to the reality of their cold, calculating, and inhuman authentic self.

To succeed in their plan to control, dominate, and entrap, gaslighters target vulnerable and predictably weakened individuals who believe their false altruism, affection, and promises of protection. They are most successful when casting themselves as loyal, dutiful, and unconditionally invested in defending and caring for their victims. Then, they implant narratives or revised and distorted versions of reality to weaken their victim, neutralize their defenses, and turn their mind against them. 

The Victim

Because of many factors, most notably the Human Magnet Syndrome’s unconscious attraction and relationship patterns, pathologically narcissistic gaslighters, and codependents—or self-love deficients (SLDs)—predictably choose each other for romantic partners.

As a result of the codependent’s interpersonal and mental health-related deficits, they are vulnerable to both falling in love with and subsequently believing their gaslighter’s false altruism, affection, and promises of protection. Unlike the SLD, who begins the relationship with intense infatuation and OCD-like happiness, otherwise known as “limerence,” the sociopathic gaslighter feigns limerence while executing the earliest stage of the systematically devised gaslighting plan.

Once the gaslighter sets their sights on the victim, they carefully begin observing and identifying their insecurities and deficits. Then, while strategically creating the illusion of an intimate and safe environment, they encourage their willing victim to engage in personal and revealing self-disclosure. This is when the choreography of the victim’s environment begins.

The Process

The victim, often a codependent or SLD, is eager to establish connection and intimacy, and as a result, is easily manipulated and encouraged to feel guilty for their mistakes, deficits, and insecurities. Berated, ridiculed, and taunted, they become painfully ashamed of the chronically impaired and subjectively worthless person they have become. The gaslighter’s imposed false narratives and distorted versions of reality weaken and neutralize the codependent’s defenses and turn their mind against them. The gaslighting victim has now effectively been rendered powerless.

The gaslighter makes the codependent victim inaccessible to anyone who could protect or rescue them, but they also convince them these people don’t care, love, or want to be with them. Moreover, they are effectively persuaded that more harm than good would come if they should visit their friends and loved ones.

Gaslighters Implant Self-Narratives

As a result of the gaslighter’s methodically developed and executed plan to reshape their victim’s “self-narrative,” the SLD victim is invisibly coerced to identify with their core shame and consequently believe that they are inherently broken, unlovable, a burden to any person for whom they formerly felt a kinship and/or love. The following definitions of “Self and Gaslit Narratives” are based on material taken out of The Human Magnet Syndrome: The Codependent Narcissist Trap (2018).

Self-Narratives are subjectively understood and communicated “life stories” that portray a person’s assessment of their total self—strengths, limitations, and everything in between. It is comprised of autobiographical information that is factual and anchored in accurate memories. Self-narratives are metaphorical mirrors that, in real time, accurately reflect a person’s self-reality. It is also an ever-evolving “life painting,” which a person looks at when they want to either understand or explain where they came from, and who they are.

This unadulterated “self-story” is formed by the organic interaction of the person and the people and events in their lives. It comes from the competing forces of experience and memory, which by their very nature are in a constant state of development. When communicated, it relays a person’s subjective belief structure, thoughts, perceptions, and feelings. Because it is reflective of a person’s self-evaluation of their worth and significance to others, it is predictive of current or future emotional/mental and relational health.

Gaslit Self-Narratives are life stories that a gaslighter covertly manufactured and systematically implanted in their oblivious victim. Such a purposely reshaped and distorted self-narrative meticulously challenges, degrades, repackages, and ultimately replaces the victim’s organic and previously unsullied self-narrative. This is accomplished by a sustained gaslighting campaign that, by its very nature, introduces and eventually reinforces a person’s beliefs about being fundamentally defective, incompetent, and/or unlovable.

These narratives are implanted in a cunning and methodical manner so the victim doubts, forgets, and casts aside healthier and more self-promoting narrative versions. This covert form of mind-control and personal and relational manipulation is motivated by an over-arching plan of isolation, control, and domination.”

The Remedy

Gaslighting and the resulting gaslit self-narratives can be neutralized, treated, and healed by the use of various techniques, strategies, and processes that are most effective when helped by a licensed mental health practitioner with a deep understanding of pathological narcissism and codependency or self-love deficit disorder.

Through a lengthy process of personal and professional examination, Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, has formulated a practical solution for the negative impacts of gaslighting. This process is referred to as the “Gaslit Voices Disidentification Technique.

This technique is an element of Ross's 11-Stage Self-Love Recovery Treatment Programwhich is a treatment program specific to the problem of Self-Love Deficit Disorder™ (SLDD), otherwise known as codependency.