Gaslighting is a strange-sounding term which refers to the way in which abusers such as
Narcissistic Mothers lie to you, by word or deed, intentionally or not intentionally, to convince you that your
version of reality is not right.
The phrase comes from the 1940's film Gaslight, in which an abusive husband deliberately
dims the gaslights in the house, but when his wife comments on it he tells her she's imagining it, that the lights
never dimmed at all.
Gaslighting is one of the most insiduous, viscious, nasty and effective forms of emotional and
It can make the victim feel as if she's going crazy. If your perceptions of reality are constantly denied, and
above all, denied by your mother, the person you look up to and who you think knows everything, it is very, very
head-wrecking and crazy-making. (This is why I called my book You're Not Crazy,
because that's so essential to know.)
This gaslighting can be done deliberately, as in the example from the film above, in order to make you go crazy.
Malignant Narcissists would be prone to doing
Or the crazy-making can just be a side-effect and the gaslighting is done in order to preserve the Narcissistic
Mother's vision of herself as perfect, without her actually having to do any of the hard stuff that would make
I wrote about my wedding and how my mother never gave me any
compliment, but swears blind, shouting it, that she did. This is gaslighting.
She didn't deliberately say to me on the day, "Pity you look so ugly," and then deny it - that
would be the act of a Malignant Narcissist.
But she was too self-absorbed and self-centred to say anything nice to me AND she was too convinced
of her own wonderful motherness to even entertain the possibility that she wouldn't have said anything
nice to me, so she re-wrote history to make that that she did.
It's impossible for non-narcissists to get into the mind of narcissists, so I have no idea if this
is right: But my best guess is that in her mind it's a case of: "A wonderful mother would have told her daughter
she looked lovely, and I am a wonderful mother, therefore I would have/must have said it, and if Danu says
differently she must be mistaken".
Gaslighting is also insiduous because so many of a Narcissistic Mother's cruelties are small ones. Any particular
example of them can be dismissed as just a thoughtless word, and we're all thoughtless sometimes.
But her cruelties add up to death by a thousand cuts, and if you're trying to reason with her
(which, don't bother doing. But until you realise this ...) and
you're using previous examples of the same cruelty in an attempt to show a pattern - well, it won't work because
she will simply deny that the previous examples happened.
Another form of gaslighting is the denial of your right to be upset. In this case the Narcissist
might accept that the situation happened, but will invalidate you by vehemently
denying that there was anything untoward about it, or any valid reason to get upset.
You might like to check out our Narcissistic
Mother-English Dictionary for (a sometimes funny) look at what Narcissistic Mothers actually mean when
they say things.
You might aso find the film/movie Gaslight to be interesting. It clearly (and chillingly)
shows exactly how gaslighting works.
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