Gaslighting is simply impossible to comprehend, identify, and permanently eradicate without an accurate understanding of what it is and how it evades detection. Because of its complex nature and apparent invisibility, it secretly lurks in the shadows while perpetuating unfathomable harm upon its victims. It is difficult for the victims of it and the many clinicians attempting to help them comprehend, identify, and ultimately resolve.
To overcome what seems like a global gaslighting blight, we must develop, update, redefine, and broaden our understanding of it. To that end, the purpose of this article is to update and expand the definition of gaslighting while introducing relevant concepts, explanations, and illustrations of it. Let’s begin with an updated and broadened definition of gaslighting.
Gaslighting is an insidious mind-control method that sociopathic pathological narcissists covertly use to create an iron-clad prison from which their Self-Love Deficient/SLD (codependent) prey cannot escape. Because of many factors, notably “The Human Magnet Syndrome’s” unconscious attraction and relationship patterns, gaslighters and SLDs predictably choose each other for romantic partners.
Gaslighting occurs when the SLD is manipulated into doubting memory, perception, and sanity.
The gaslighting narcissist covertly coerced the victim to believe they have a debilitating problem that either did not previously exist or was only a mild troubling. To “prove” the implanted problem narrative, the gaslighter methodically choreographs the environment, so their victim predictably and repeatedly experiences the staged problem.
Gaslighters are Pathological Narcissists who fit the diagnostic criteria of either Narcissistic Personality Disorder with Sociopathic Features or Antisocial Personality Disorder. Because of their sociopathy, they are not only conscious of their Personality Disorder, but they also go to great lengths to hide any trace of it.
Such narcissistic gaslighters systematically manipulate an SLD’s environment so they are powerless to fight back and believe they are isolated from anyone who could help them. Such victims become convinced their gaslit impairment makes them inadequate and unlovable outside of their carefully choreographed false but realistic relationship with their captor.
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.
LIKE PEDOPHILES . . .
Like pedophiles who sexually abuse children, gaslighters have a “nose” for the type of victim who naturally cannot recognize their scheming and highly manipulative ways, as well as those who are defenseless to them. As with a pedophile at a playground, their laser-guided vision identifies and locks onto people who are the most oblivious to their nefarious intentions and most incapable of defending themselves.
They have an uncanny ability to discern whether potential victims are pathologically lonely or encumbered by core, perceived, or even accurate beliefs of powerlessness and weakness. They seize upon anyone in a crowd who appears isolated from others or whose loved ones are uninterested in them and absent despite their protective and loving pronouncements. The “perfect” victim was manipulatively taught that fighting back is futile, as doing so exacerbates their powerlessness and suffering.
SLDS ARE THE PRIME TARGETS
Gaslighters are Pathological Narcissists who meticulously study their victim’s emotional, social and relational deficits to achieve total domination and control. First, by strategically creating the illusion of an intimate and trustworthy relationship, they create a relationship in which SLD prey reveals personal details about their lifelong struggles. Then, with is and other manipulatively obtained information, they begin their meticulous choreography of the victim’s emotional, relational, and personal landscape.
Because of Self-Love Deficit Disorder’s/SLDD’s (codependency’s) interpersonal and mental health-related deficits, SLDs are vulnerable to falling in love with and subsequently believing their gaslighter’s false altruism, affection, and promises of protection. The SLDD addiction and its primary withdrawal symptom of pathological loneliness compel the SLD victim to reflexively and hungrily establish an immediate, intimate relationship with the gaslighting sociopathic narcissist.
At the beginning of this dysfunctionally doomed relationship, the SLD is easily manipulated and encouraged to feel guilty for their mistakes, deficits, and insecurities. Likewise, the SLD victim, who is eager to establish connection and intimacy with their narcissistic lover, is easily manipulated and encouraged to feel guilty about their mistakes, deficits, and insecurities. At this time, the gaslighter carefully begins observing, cataloging, and strategically reminding the SLD of their real, exaggerated, or untrue insecurities and shameful deficits. The gaslighter begins their covert and systematic choreography of the victim’s environment at about this time.
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 comprises 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 understand or explain where they came from and who they are.
The organic interaction of the person and the people and events in their lives forms this unadulterated “self-story.” The self-Narratives result from competing forces of experience and memory, which are constantly developing. It relays a person’s subjective belief structure, thoughts, perceptions, and feelings. Because it reflects a person’s self-evaluation of worth and significance, it predicts current and future emotional/mental and relational health.
Gaslit Self-Narratives are life stories that a sociopathic Pathological Narcissist covertly manufactured and systematically implanted to their oblivious SLDD victim. The purposely reshaped and distorted self-narrative meticulously challenges, degrades, repackages, and ultimately replaces the SLD victim’s organic and previously unsullied Self-Narrative. Creating the Gaslit Self-Narrative 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 unlovable.
Because of the gaslighter’s methodically developed and executed plan to reshape their victim’s “self-narrative,” they invisibly coerce the SLD victim to identify with their core shame and consequently believe that they are inherently unlovable. Moreover, they covertly create the SLD’s belief that they are fundamentally broken, unlovable, and a burden to any person for whom they formerly felt a kinship and love. The “gasoline” thrown into the “gaslighting fire” is indoctrinated or gaslit self-narratives, such as the distorted versions of reality that are covertly created and subsequently implanted.
These narratives are cunning and methodically implanted, so the victim doubt, forgets, and casts aside healthier and more self-promoting narrative versions. An over-arching plan of isolation, control, and domination motivates this covert form of mind-control and personal and relational manipulation.
An overarching plan of isolation, control, and domination is the primary motivation for the destructive and manipulative mind control. Love pretending narcissists systematically implant replacement Gaslit Self-Narratives so that the increasingly feeble SLD abandons any vestige of a self-respect, self-care and self-love. Worse, with a firmly implanted Gaslit Self-Narrative, the SLD is rendered powerless and increasingly fearful of any potential escape plan.
WEAKENED AND POWERLESS
The methodical barrage of false narratives about any given problem, their inability to control or stop it, and the impact it has on others purposely manifests as thoughts and feelings of hopelessness, powerlessness, and a deepening of the pre-existing core shame. Little do they know that the barrage of inculcated falsities cements their desire to isolate themselves into the safe world inhabited only by them and their captor.
Because of the gaslighter’s meticulously 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 love. Over time, the progressively weakened and isolated SLD accepts and subsequently acts out the implanted narratives.
The conquest of their natural psychological defenses eventually validates the implanted beliefs about being irreparably broken, weak, and, therefore, unlovable. Accepting and believing this meticulously revised self-story makes them prone to deep feelings of insecurity, hopelessness, and paranoia. Such a brainwashing-like campaign culminates in a self-reinforced state of despair and resignation.
LIKE STOCKHOLM SYNDROME
Because gaslighting victims are spoon-fed false proof that their former loved ones neither love them nor want to be with them, their fears of abandonment and complete isolation exponentially increase. Eventually, they are entirely convinced that any future attempts to communicate or visit their formerly unconditionally accepting support systems are dangerous. Hence, any plan to escape the gaslighting web becomes manifestly futile, primarily because of the indoctrinated belief that the gaslighter is both their protector and caretaker.
Gaslighters invisibly coerce the SLDs to identify with their core shame and consequently believe that they are inherently broken, unlovable, and a burden to any person for whom they formerly felt a kinship and love. All the while, the gaslighter feeds them false information about their pre-gaslit life for the sole purpose of further alienating or severing the relationships. Believing the unscrupulous gaslighter is the only one that will not abandon them over their ever-increasing list of inadequacies, they draw closer to what they believe is a loyal and protective caretaker.
The gaslighter has thus established themselves as the “only safe, accepting, and unconditionally loving” person in the SLD’s vastly shrinking world. However, any rescue attempt is effectively neutralized by being manipulated to dutifully and loyally protect their captor. Eventually, the SLD victim believes it is their responsibility to protect their captor loyally while believing their false promises of protection.
The embattled and weakened SLD relies on the gaslighter, the fake caretaker, to unconditionally “love” and “care” for them while isolating themselves from anyone who could break this gaslighting “spell” and potentially rescue them. The SLD has now effectively been rendered powerless.
Foundational Gaslighting is the gaslighting-infused childhood attachment trauma experience that predictably transmigrates into an adult Human Magnet Syndrome compelled relationship with a gaslighting Pathological Narcissist. This “original” gaslighting can be traced back to an SLD’s childhood, to a time when their emotional survival required them to be molded into their narcissistic parent’s “feel-good” or “trophy” object.
By becoming this parent’s crowning achievement, while proudly showing off their “painted on sparkly gold luster,” they found a way to be spared of crushing abuse and neglect. As a result of reflecting on what they want to see while concealing what they will despise, they received conditional attention, praise, and other intangible and tangible rewards.
A dysfunctional and harmful level of “safety” is reached when the trophy child is conned into believing the absolute necessity of maintaining forced and pretend gratitude to a person who has the capacity to harm them. The child who earnestly and effectively complied with this parent’s selfish one-way expectations created a safety net that, in most cases, only protected them.
For the trophy child, falling from grace was always unfathomably frightening. This false but necessary adaptation required the future adult SLD to never openly communicate deeper but secretly held feelings of fear of harm, abandonment, and periodic hatred. As a result, these children witnessed firsthand the punitive harm of intentionally or accidentally activating their parent’s hurricane-like narcissistic rage.
Although less harmed than other family members who were denied the coveted “gift child” status, they still endured terrible “trophy child”—specific psychological harm. Perhaps the most harmful was the nefarious swapping of their authentic values, beliefs, and thoughts—their inner voice—with one that dutifully echoed the narcissistic parent’s gaslit imbued judgments and conclusions.
By creating a “trophy hungry” child, the narcissistic parent could manifest their “Good Parent Fantasy,” which supported their delusion of creating a “perfect” child while playing the pretend role of a deeply loving, devoted, and sacrificing “perfect” parent. Unfortunately, such a fantasy could temporarily relieve them of unconsciously hidden or disassociated core shame while boosting their fragile self-esteem.
Inevitably, the wounded trophy child, a future SLD, mistakes the implanted self-hate inner dialogue with their own unforgiving, judging, and constantly shaming self-judgments. Ultimately, these children identify with, surrender to, and blindly accept their implanted “chronically flawed personality” and its inescapable manufactured thoughts and beliefs. These “gaslighting echoes” become the metaphorical straight jacket they may never remove. By repackaging their feelings and expressions of themselves, this safer but entrapped trophy child molds and contorts their developing personality according to the narrative being continually fed to them.
In time, this gaslit child will predictably morph into an SLD adult who is submissive, chronically apologetic, unquestionably open and responsive to perceived criticism, spontaneously accommodating, and unfairly submissive to others. Worse, the implanted gaslit narratives of their childhood will predictably morph into what they believe are their condemning and judgmental thoughts. I refer to such self-defeating and debilitating internal dialogue as the “gaslit voices” in one’s “head.”
In other words, the judgmental and condemning thoughts accompanied by anxiety, fear, and acutely uncomfortable body sensations are not caused by the adult SLD but, instead, are the product of their gaslighting parents. The current gaslighter, another Pathological Narcissist, not only “benefits” from the “foundational gaslighting” but methodically refines and implements it to meet their own needs.
In conclusion, thanks to the recent attention to Pathological Narcissism, Self-Love Deficit Disorder, and the Human Magnet Syndrome’s compelled pairing of the two, the horrific mind-control problem known as gaslighting is being taken out of the “shadows” and exposed to the “light” of understanding. However, we must never forget that this global scourge can only be remedied if we know what it is, who is vulnerable to it, and what it can do to save people who have fallen victim to it.
Ross Rosenberg M.Ed., CADC, is Self-Love Recovery Institute’s CEO and primary contributor. His internationally recognized expertise includes pathological narcissism, narcissistic abuse, and attachment trauma. Ross’s “Codependency Cure™ Treatment Program provides innovative and results-oriented treatment.
His expert educational and inspirational seminars have earned him international acclaim, including his 21 million YouTube video views and 230K subscribers. In addition to being featured on national TV and radio, his “Human Magnet Syndrome” books sold over 138K copies and are in 9 languages. Ross provides expert testimony/witness services.
For more information about Ross’s resources, seminars and workshops, write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.