Don’t let Gaslighting and other forms of emotional abuse make you forget your true self

Ever felt low and less confident after meeting someone? 

Ever felt worried that you are losing your memory and your sanity because someone you trust keeps telling you that you are? 

Ever been told… 

‘Calm down! You have gone totally mad! Give your imagination some rest woman!’ 

Or ‘Hey, come on! Don’t be so sensitive! Stop all this crazy talk! You know I care for you so much.’ 

Chances are you are being gaslighted. 

Ever received a backhanded compliment? ‘You don’t look like a Malayalee at all!’ 

Ever received a compliment followed by a critique? ‘That dress is amazing but you should lose a little more weight to look amazing in it.’ 

Were you ever compared to someone you didn’t know? ‘You remind me so much of my best friend’s girl-friend!’ Did it make you want to do everything you could to become better than this person you have never met? 

These are cases of Negging.

Misogynists typically resort to negging to put ‘over-confident women’ in their place. 

I didn’t know what gaslighting or negging was until recently. But when I did, I realized that owing to my own naivety I’ve been a victim of these extremely dangerous forms of emotional abuse many times over. 

Let us now get to know more about these dangerous forms of emotional abuse and learn how to protect ourselves from them. 

What is Gaslighting? 

'Gaslighting' means to ‘manipulate (someone) by psychological means into doubting their own memory, perceptions and sanity.’ 

The term ‘gaslighting’ owes its origin to a 1938 play ‘Gas Light’ where the husband dims the lights in the house while searching for some jewels. When the wife noticed it and brought it up, he called it a figment of her imagination. The husband then continued to manipulate her and successfully convinced her into thinking that she had indeed lost her sanity through a series of seemingly unexplained incidents. 

What is the modus operandi of Gaslighting?

Those who resort to gaslighting will first charm you and win your trust. All is well till the time the target / victim falls in line with the gaslighter's wishes. Then when they are caught lying or the target doubts his/ her intentions, thy resort to gaslighting.

Here begins the journey of breaking your confidence by discrediting your memories and feelings. And when you bring it up, they will make you seem silly and immature for doing so. They will dismiss you as well as the situation and convince you to nip it in the bud. In case you persist, they will either change the topic or pretend to have been hurt by your actions making themselves appear as the victim. Now the latter is a very cunning move…because you will end up feeling miserable and will apologize for the wrong being done to you. They will never apologize to you. This is a big tell-tale sign.

Gaslighters are usually very intelligent people and craft their arguments very well. They have a strong need to be right always and hence you will feel never win arguments with them. They will alternate between being nice and mean. All this is a part of their agenda and it will upset you, confuse you and make you feel less confident.

Read more about the tactics of gaslighting in this book. Here is another great article on gaslighting. 

What is negging? 

According to Urban Dictionary this flirting technique is defined as "low-grade insults meant to undermine the self-confidence of a woman so she might be more vulnerable to your advances." As unbelievable as it may sound, the men who resort to negging wish to make the woman fall for him! Of course he is so insecure that he feels he has a chance only if she is made to feel less confident. One needs to be confident and secure about oneself to realize that a politely worded insult is an insult at the end of the day. Do go through these negging scenarios to protect yourself. 

What is the aim of Gaslighting, Negging and other forms of emotional abuse/ manipulation? 
  • To undermine your confidence 
  • To make you always feel confused, frustrated and overwhelmed
  • To brainwash you so that you forget your true identity 
  • To make you vulnerable and ultimately accepting of the manipulator’s wishes 

Why do you need to protect yourself against emotional abuse / manipulation? 

It is important to not let someone else control your emotions and ultimately your actions. A victim of emotional abuse often goes through different stages in the relationship: disbelief, aggression and finally depression. Feeling under-confident and confused all the time can make you feel that you are mentally unstable. It could happen that the victim turns to the manipulator himself for help and this leads to a very vicious circle. 

Who are the potential targets? 

Manipulators usually reach out to targets that come across as under-confident. The sad part is that the more I research on this I realize, that women are easy targets for manipulators. They tend to self-doubt easily – again owing to the years of conditioning and the pressure of being considered perfect. They also usually give the benefit of doubt to the manipulators, elongating the period of manipulation. 

But even confident assertive women need to keep their defenses up. The manipulators will appeal to your kindness, compassion and empathy. They may come across as vulnerable initially just to win you over and then proceed to play with your head. 

They also tend to target introverts who usually don’t have many friends or a great support system. This makes you defenseless and they know it! 

Who are the people who usually turn into manipulators? 

People who are narcissists i.e. those who have “buried their true self-expression in response to early injuries and replaced it with a highly developed, compensatory false self” usually end up manipulating others.

Here are some characteristics of manipulators: 

a) They are charmers 

b) They love bragging and often lie 

c) They will never admit to their faults and get angry when someone points them out 

d) They love doing things that are not considered ‘normal’ 

e) They get a huge high from being in control 

In a lot of cases, the manipulators are found to have been really insecure and emotionally abusing others is what gives them a sense of superiority. 

How to put an end to an abusive relationship 

1) Back off 

Don’t think that you need to step away only when physical abuse is involved. Emotional abuse can also have damaging repercussions. No matter what the situation, trust your instinct. If you don’t feel good – it’s time to back off. 

Also, there appears to be no positive outcome from confronting your abuser and telling him you know he emotionally abused you. He may get angry or try and charm you in order to continue his tactics. 

2) Reach out to friends and family 

This is especially important since manipulators will try to keep you away from your support system. 

3) Get professional help 

Talking to a professional will help you to sort your insecurities and build your confidence. 

Here are some final lessons that I have learnt the hard way: 

1) Those who truly love you will NEVER humiliate you or make you feel horrible about yourself. Sure people make mistakes. But if you realize that someone refuses to ever apologise for having hurt your feelings, please have the courage to end the septic relationship. 

2) Never let the confidence in yourself waver because of what someone says. Always give yourself time to assess things objectively. But don’t ever second-guess yourself. Learn to become assertive. You are unique. Don’t try to change for anyone. 

3) Never let anyone tell you how to feel or what to feel. If you are ‘too sensitive’ it is ok…embrace it. Spend time with yourself to find out more about yourself and figure out what works and doesn’t work for you. 

People resort to manipulation every day- with their partners, at work or with friends. It could be serious or unfortunately even flippant. In rare cases, the manipulators are not exactly aware of what they are doing. 

If you or anyone you know is experiencing any of the above forms of manipulation, please please reach out for help. I really wish I knew what gaslighting was much earlier in my life so that I could protect myself. But knowing how I can and have been manipulated, I feel empowered. I know I can prevent it from happening in the future. And I want all my fellow readers to also protect themselves. 

Please do share this post with your loved ones. You could also read up more on the subject through books or via several online resources and speak about emotional abuse to your teenage children. 

Important Note: Women also resort to Emotional Abuse. Any form of abuse is inexcusable, irrespective of the gender resorting to it. Men can also refer to this post to protect themselves.  


  1. This was one of the best articles that I have come across pertaining to gaslighting and abuse. It is well researched and I believe should be read by everyone. I am sure we all have fallen prey to gaslighting and negging at some point unknowingly. Great post Ashwini.

  2. Again, you hit to the point. I don't know how you do this every time, but collectively present all the points together in a very apt manner. You have an amazing way of doing this.
    Great post on gaslighting.

  3. Hi Meha. Thank you for reading this post. I have once again written from experience. I do not want people to go through I have. If I could have written just one post...this would have been it. It was like catharsis for me when I read about it the first time and I just decided I wnated to spread the message.

  4. Thanks Rashmi for reading through my posts. I guess I am enjoying writing for myself. I never thought I would get such an opportunity or have so much to talk about. I am surprising myself as much as you! :)

  5. This is a beautiful post. Something that I can relate to. I have been subjected to both gaslighting and negging, the only thing I didn't know the name. I am going to share this so that others also become aware. Emotional abuse is the worst form of abuse, where you break the person from within. Loved this post.

  6. Hi Balaka. My soul is filled with peace right now. Through this post I could at least reach out to one person who has been manipulated. I remember I took some time to accept that I had been manipulated. And knowing these terms made me feel empowered. That's why I wrote this post. To pass on the empowerment to other vulnerable people. Please send it out to your teenage nieces and nephews. The teenage years are when we are most prone to manipulation.

  7. This is a very informative and empowering post. I have been a victim of gaslighting and therefore, could relate to it. Great work, dear :)

  8. Hi Purba. Sorry to hear. Hope it didnt affect you too badly. Hope you do share the information you have gained with friends and family to protect them from what you went through.

    Thanks for your support by visiting my blog regularly.

  9. Great post, Ashwini, once again. Got me thinking and brought up some old repressed memories :-/

  10. I know exactly what you are going through Neha. When I first became aware of these terms, I was shocked. I broke down and then spoke to my husband at length about it. I also read as much as I could. And then after a few days I felt at peace. That's when I decided to write about it. Please deal with those repressed memories once ans fpr all.

  11. Anonymous11:25 pm

    Wow! didn't know about gaslighting and negging. Informative and very well explanation, now I do understand. Bizzare!
    Priya from priyreflects

  12. What a post. Didn't know about these terms, thanks for explaining them so well. I do feel as if I have seen Hollywood movies that concerns gaslighting during the wars. Do you know of them?

  13. Thanks Priya for your comment. I don't think people understand when they are getting manipulated. You need to be forewarned. People who doubt themselves a lot will be very vulnerable and hence perfect targets. We need to make young girls feel good and confident about themselves. And talk to them about emotional abuse. Lesser scars when you are young means lesser issues to deal with when you are older.

  14. Anshu I did come across some links.
    Not seen any of these English movies that claim to be on gaslighting so not sure. But the 3rd link speaks of the Hindi movie - English Vinglish. Now when I look at it from the lenses of gaslighting do I realise what was happening.


    Requesting readers to share their experiences and movies they think depicted gaslighting.

  15. Another wonderful article Ashwini. I have seen more men and women be emotionally abusive. Mayne I am used to giving people the benefit og doubt but do the abusers truly know what they are doing or are they doing it just for the power?

  16. Hi Namrata. Thank you for reading the post. And thanks for your wonderful comment. :)

    I know I do tend to give people a lot of benefit of doubt instead of letting people earn my trust.

    From whatever I have read and experienced, the manipulators have an agenda - could be sub-conscious but they want to ensure control over the victim and play with their head.

    In the play and the movie from where the term originated, the gaslighter wanted to ensure that the lady he was victimizing stopped suspecting that he was stealing from her. In order to cover his tracks, he resorted to lying and playing with the victim's mind with an intent to confuse her and dismiss her allegations.

    Then when I see such videos - , I wonder if men go around coaching one another to carry out such heinous acts! I don't know what part of the short film is 'comedy'. Also I think the main character in the video is resorting to and coaching negging and not gaslighting.


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