now we’re cooking with gas(lighting)

Francesco Pirrone

Anyone aware of the psychological term, “gas-lighting?” This is a common practice used by deceptive partners to control—actively or passive aggressively—a “situation,” which usually means the actual person, in order to cover their tracks so they don’t get caught at some hidden behavior or stealthy agenda and/or to get their partner to doubt her-Self and question what she sees or knows.

He can dismiss or discount what she feels by flat-out lying to her, say one thing then do another, discharge violent or semi-violent episodes around her, deny definite words spoken or behavior she saw him do and much more until the tortured partner can’t relax in herself or in the relationship. If the woman protests she’s often criticized as “too sensitive” “hostile” “crazy” “ranting” etc. The problem is that the ‘victim’ begins to believe him. I say ‘him’ as this behavior is profoundly lopsided when it comes to gender.

The difficulty with lies, especially multi-layered long term secrets, is that all her perceptions and feelings are dubious to her, not just the ones related to the lies. She ceases to trust herself in most interactions of life—until the miserable truth is discovered. By then it’s a long road back.

A second pitfall is the ‘victim’ might begin minor acting out due to the ‘weight’ of the unknown burden she’s unconsciously carrying. Even some couples-counselors won’t see this as his deep acting poison within her surfacing but will believe much of the responsibility for the rupture is the woman’s because his actions are hidden.

Another grave issue is that secrets can cause illness on a cellular level manifesting in chronic illness. Both for the one in control as well as the duped. Recently, there’s more research being done on the bodily harm of secrets & lies, something 12-steppers have known for years: You’re only as sick as your secrets. Carl Jung wrote:The possession of secrets acts like a psychic poison…”

There’s a big difference between privacy and secrets. Secrets are based in fear and have a foundation of shame. Privacy is more an act of choosing personal boundaries, and those are rarely hurtful to another. We all need privacy for our mental health but secrets are poisonous from the biological to the psychological. Addicts traffic in the realm of secrets as well as philanderers, abusive families, child molesters and lots more.

One major tool of the trade is gas-lighting. If you can get a person to doubt their Self, their spirit, you can manipulate and exploit them as needed. This is particularly horrible when used on children since they’re hardwired to trust.

And isn’t addiction about filling an emotional crater of emptiness, about feeling devoid in one’s true power coupled with the deluded belief that this perverted control they gain through con games and secrets is their power? I guess they get to feel “full”—for a minute.

See the polarity between power and control: more power!!!*

*photo credit: Francesco Pirrone

7 thoughts on “now we’re cooking with gas(lighting)

  1. Yep. My niece did that to one of her grandmothers, then tried it on my mom. She’d forge checks then when caught say, “Oh, grandma, you KNOW you wrote that, remember?” And that’s the thing that has really pissed us all off.


  2. I was married to a gaslighter for over twenty years. His active but usually subtle erosion of my confidence was coupled with compulsive lying. I was ultimately in his power so thoroughly that I found it impossible to leave him. He was such a successful manipulator he ended up on top of a Fortune 500 company. I knew his behavior was covering something awful but I didn’t know what until we had children. Turns out he was a pedophile. No one believed me when I finally spoke up to protect the kids. No one in our state ir court believed me because he was so great at presnting himself and because I had acted out ( ad the article describes) during the marriage. He was able to con them on his side. Despite numerous times he has hurt and put the kids’ lives in danger after our separation no one will stop him because I’m perceived as that mean lady who’s only trying to keep the kids from the nice guy. Our kids suffer. They know the truth. I wish everyone who doubts their partner’s honesty early in the relationship would read your article, It would have saved me so much grief. Thank you


  3. I so feel for you and your kids. There are more sociopaths in the U.S. than most of us realize, and we certainly know how to breed a nation of addicts, too. I wish we could realize someone’s that dishonest/cruel earlier on but you cannot blame yourself for not knowing. These people are experts at conning others, some don’t have feelings they can access for anyone but themselves, some are so deluded they believe their own lies and if they do, why wouldn’t you? An upcoming post will be on the difference between control and power that is somewhat of a continuation of this post. Feel free to subscribe to my blog at the top. I wish you and your kids the best. Glad you are away from this man.


    • My acting out wasn’t in an addiction: I fell in love with a woman.

      He saved my emails to her; I was unaware he had them or knew. Nearly two years later (I had not spoken to her or seen her in that time), our daughters spoke up about his sexual abuse. I called child protective services after 3 months of their statements.

      (I didn’t jump to conclusions, nor did I know what to do. As weird as it seems, the best thing in retrospect is to call the police, which I didn’t do.)

      He showed CPS the emails he’d saved. (I suppose he saved them for this reason.) Instead of believing me and the kids, they believed his story that I made it all up in order to be a lesbian. (He knew when we were dating that I had had female lovers. I am bisexual, or was, now I’m celibate.)

      They exonerated him without noticing the significance of the date-stamps. The CPS “validator” did not confront me or I could have explained. She said simply ( apropos of nothing) “Some of my best friends are lesbians.” Later he used the same trick on the custody evaluator, with a little less success because the evaluator tipped his hand.

      When my ex continued being abusive (mentally and physically, not sexually) to the kids after we separated, no one believed the children and I because CPS had unfounded the sexual abuse case.

      So you see his dishonesty and cleverness is parts of his sociopathic success.

      Our last few months together he knew I knew about the sex abuse (too detailed for here), but he simply plotted rather than confronting me. I thought at the time my life might be in danger as he was slyly threatening me (the gaslighting movie eerily is similar.)

      The gaslighter avoids direct confrontation. He is playing everyone all the time.

      Just wanted to clarify that I am not an addict so that your readers know that Even if you aren’t disabled by an addiction you can still fall prey to a gaslighter.


  4. I did not know the term for this type, but have experienced it. Crazy-making, Soul-Taking, Mind-blowing, Heart-Breaking.

    I look back and realize that that my Inner Guard had indeed sounded the alarm – early on. We do want to believe what we want to believe about folks though don’t we? Looking back on it, there was a warning each time. I knew something was off. Each time I had to test the ground. Nothing wrong with testing the ground right? But sometimes the ground you test is quicksand and you get sucked in. Once in it, you can’t get out of quicksand by fighting with it. You need to know the signs of such ground and steer clear. If you are in it, stop struggling and (get)wait for help. I lost my footing and got sucked in, and as time went on I lost sight of so much that had once been Me that I didn’t even recognize that I was no longer myself. “I assume as much for other people…” that find themselves victim of this con.

    About once a month, I would Loose It. Once a month it came to a head, and I would not stand for it – the table turning and pea and shell game. Once a month I became a raving bitch. Hormone therapy was suggested to help get me through [to continue to hide the truth] those few days, so I would not estrange my not so long suffering partner. Slowly I realized that my “PMSing” was not my enemy, and that my loosing control was not a symptom of hormone imbalance, but rather, that for a few days I was open to some pretty unsightly truths which I kept neatly encapsulated for the other 25 days per month. I called Bullshit on the hormone Idea. I got help from a counselor. I made friends with my Own Guard and lost my fear of that bell that sounded her alarm. Now when I first hear the bell I really try to take notice. I trust me better now. I have stopped being as cautious about the Warnings, because too often my hesitation has caused grief. Too often I have needed to heed the Warning and ask questions later and from a safe distance. I have even gotten so I don’t need to Understand the Why or What before I move. If I move fast enough I may never know the Why or What. I don’t have to because I’m out of harms way. I am without the my moon courses to act as my alert system now, telling me that something is off and perhaps I should listen. During that time though I began to listen to my Own deep voice, I love that bitch!


  5. Gaslighters are usually the addicts, not the duped (and not the mildly acting out persons either). They’re the true acting out, not working it out people; they just keep their actions all hidden. No clarification needed in your story IMHO as he was the pedophile, hence the addict.


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