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Gaslighting: The common tool of manipulation among those with an addiction

By Andrea Seydel author of Saving You Is Killing Me: Loving Someone With An Addiction

Gaslighting is the common tool of manipulation among those with an addiction.

" Don't set me on fire then pretend like you're the one burning." -R.H. Sin

When you love someone with an addiction, you may find their behaviour confusing and upsetting. Common to all addictions are lying and manipulation. When manipulation erases your reality, it is hard to stay calm and centred. Nothing seems to make sense, and reality is being challenged. There is confusion, chaos, and everything seems upside down. When the facts and truth of situations are being distorted, it becomes challenging to know what to believe and how to stay resilient in the face of manipulation. Gaslighting is one of the most common tools of manipulation. And How do you know you are being manipulated, and what can you do about it?

What is Gaslighting?

According to the Google dictionary, gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person plants seeds of doubt in the targeted individual, making them question their memory, perception, or judgment. Gaslighting is psychological manipulation to make you question your thinking and make you unsure of a situation's realities. When you love someone with an addiction, this form of manipulation can be pervasive, As the addict is often in denial about their addiction and easy to blame others for their struggles. In the book The Gaslight Effect, Robert Stern Ph.D. talks about the danger of letting go of your reality. Stern talks about how gaslighting starts as seemingly small offences. But the problem is even tiny instances of questioning your judgment or validity can have a damaging effect. An example of gaslighting might be where a drug addict manipulates his partner to make her think she's losing her sense of reality so that his addiction is no longer the focus. Some of the ways or techniques used by a gaslighter might be withholding information or pretends they don't understand. The gaslighter might also be countering or change certain memories or experiences. The gaslighter might also divert or change the subject or question your thinking. The gaslighter might also trivialize or make your needs and feelings seem unimportant. Another technique that the gaslighter might use is denial or forgetting, where the manipulator pretends to have forgotten what has happened or denies something they previously said or did.

How Do You Know When Gaslighting is Happening to You?

Whether it's happening with small or big instances, it's essential to be aware of the red flags that you might be a victim of gaslighting. Stern also talks about how the manipulator holds enough power that the gaslighting target is terrified to change the relationship because of the threat of losing that relationship. The bottom line is when someone you love is gaslighting; you want to believe the other person, and the gaslighter might use this against you. It is common even to change your perception to avoid having a conflict. You want to become cautious of gaslighting if you start to question yourself a lot. Gaslighting can also be more subtle, in the form of a simple question like, why are you so sensitive? It's not a big deal.

Some examples of gaslighting are:

You're overly sensitive.

You're crazy

Why do you make such a big deal out of things?

You are nuts. Why do you think I leave?

Some Signs That Someone is Gaslighting You:

According to Stern, look for these common signs or red flags that will demonstrate that this type of manipulation might be happening to you:

● second-guessing yourself

● trouble making decisions

● questioning your character

● confusion about your relationship

● feeling like you're going crazy

● feeling like your buttons are being pushed

● suddenly finding yourself in an argument

● feeling unclear about your thoughts

● feeling vague about your feelings or beliefs

● notice yourself apologizing

● making excuses for your partner's behaviour

● knowing something is wrong, but not sure what

How to avoid the gaslight effect and stay strong emotionally:

Step 1: Noticing: the first step to avoiding the gaslit effect is to notice when it is happening. Take notes about conversations and start journaling so you can sort out potential distortions.

Step 2: Feel: pay attention to how you are feeling. And notice if you're questioning your thoughts, perceptions or feelings. You have a right to have all the emotions that you have.

Step 3: Disengage: You have the right not to participate in the gaslight effect. To regain your sense, you might need to disengage. Say things like, how fascinating. Interestingly, you say that. That's not my perception.

Step 4: Talk to someone: Sometimes, it's beneficial to hear yourself talking and to share with other people to get another opinion.

Step 5: Responsibility: although the behaviour of other people does affect us, it is essential to take responsibility for what you are feeling in the moment and, as you do that, practice self-compassion.

When you love someone with an addiction, this form of manipulation can be strong. Use these tools to help you become more resilient in the face of manipulation.

For further support: Do not hesitate to listen to the SYKM podcast or purchase the book Saving You Is Killing Me: Loving Someone With An Addiction,

You can also reach out to Andrea Seydel herself at

Here is the SYKM Podcast link:


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