5 Elements of Gaslighting

Grant H Brenner
6 min readMay 23, 2023

New research on relationship dynamics, gaslighter behaviors, gaslighter motivations, survivor consequences, and recovery & post-traumatic growth

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Gaslighting is a form of manipulation in which one person induces another to doubt their own sense of reality, starting with being pressed to see an unhealthy relationship as coming from love and good intention[1]. There is surprisingly scant research on gaslighting, considering the attention it has received.

Researchers Klein, Li and Wood (2023) report in the journal Personal Relationships the results of a study based on in-depth interviews of gaslighting survivors. Once the survivor has accepted their “epistemic incompetence”-insecurity regarding one’s grasp on reality:

”[T]he perpetrator is able to use this to their advantage, mainly by avoiding accountability for their own behavior and controlling their survivor’s behavior”.

The authors conducted a qualitative study of 65 gaslighting survivors, predominantly women, asking them 15 open-ended questions about their experience in prior abusive relationship and analyzing the narratives for common themes on gaslighting-related 1) relationship dynamics, 2) behaviors, 3) motivations, and 4) consequences for survivors, including 5) recovery and post-trauamatic growth.

1. Relationship Dynamics

Love-bombing. Most respondents reported that the relationship kicked off with love-bombing. While there is a normal honeymoon phase in all new relationships, in retrospect the romantic engagement in relationships that end up in gaslighting is intensely exaggerated and ultimately hollow. Love-bombing is characterized by early intimacy, premature sharing, and the formation of a premature strong bond. It often involves sharing of traumatic experiences, short-circuiting caution, and creating instant intimacy. Love-bombing makes it hard to separate later, due to feelings of indebtedness and confusion about the perpetrator’s goodwill.

Survivor isolation. Gaslighters bad-mouthed their partner’s friends and family [and in my experience, often…

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Grant H Brenner

Psychiatrist, Psychoanalyst, Entrepreneur, Writer, Speaker, Disaster Responder, Advocate, Photographer