According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, "gaslighting [is] an elaborate and insidious technique of deception and psychological manipulation, usually practiced by a single deceiver, or “gaslighter,” on a single victim over an extended period. Its effect is to gradually undermine the victim’s confidence in his own ability to distinguish truth from falsehood, right from wrong, or reality from appearance, thereby rendering him pathologically dependent on the gaslighter in his thinking or feelings."
What do we do when true reality is denied? How many people are driven into madness because they've been deceived by a gaslighter? In some cases, people abuse alcohol and drugs to anesthetize their pain. For many others, the consequences of such behavior continue to impact succeeding generations, so that the effects of gaslighting survive the death of the victim. Gaslighting pushes people to the edge of mental health and sometimes it pushes them over the brink.
There are countless studies available online that detail the effects of what gaslighting can do to people. It can drive them to self-harm and suicide. Often, the damage to a person's mental health when they've been gaslit far outweighs what happens to them in physical reality.
When a gaslighter practices his or her technique on us, whether it's a family member, friend, spouse, co-worker, boss, or clergy, they're attempting to incite fear in us. When people are scared and worn down by the constant attempts to undermine their confidence in what's real and what's false, they latch onto the gaslighter and detach from reality in a fear-based response.
That's how gaslighters get their hooks into us. Fear, fear, and more fear. And if we question their methods, if we push back, or try to break away from their version of reality we will be called "vile," "evil," "extremist," or "unholy." Gaslighters do this in order to convince us that we are a threat to ourselves and everyone around us.
It happens one conversation, one interaction at a time. It's sometimes referred to as drip conditioning. We're deceived so that we ignore reality. That way, the only way we can be safe is if we turn away from what we believe is true to the one who can tell us the truth about ourselves and reality. Gaslighters manipulate people into denying reality and choosing a delusion in order to stay alive. By doing this, the door is open for victims of gaslighting to descend into psychosis and suicidality.
This is a satanic violation of every protection God provides for us in his commands. Instead of regarding us as a creature of God, someone for whom Jesus died to redeem from sin and death, we are seen as potential prisoners who can be taken hostage through psychological torture by the people and authorities we often trust most to tell us the truth.
Sadly, most people don't know they're being gaslighted so they turn on themselves instead of recognizing the source of their abuse. They think they are insane, never realizing they are being lied to.
Ultimately, no matter how much we fight to free ourselves from this deception and psychological manipulation, the only way out of this insanity is the One who comes to us in our fear and madness to reveal to us that he is truth. Even in the midst of a deep cycle of abuse, Jesus is the truth. He comes to set the prisoners free. He leads us away from our abusers. When we don't think there's any way to get out of our dependence on the gaslighter, Jesus comes and in the power of his resurrection, he reveals the truth to us. We are victims of mind control that's been perpetrated against us by a deformed, narcissistic personality.
Jesus clears away the fear and self-doubt. He enlightens and guides us through his words and gifts to a complete change of life. He cuts the chains of our enslavement, announces an end to psychological torture, and unmasks the satanic agency behind the one who's gaslighting us. In short, Jesus comes to give us freedom.
As Isaiah writes about Jesus:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the suffering and afflicted. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted, to announce liberty to captives, and to open the eyes of the blind. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of God’s favor to them has come, and the day of his wrath to their enemies. To all who mourn in Israel, he will give beauty for ashes; joy instead of mourning; praise instead of heaviness (Is 61:1-3).
Jesus reveals himself to us through the words of the prophet, and every word of Scripture, so that, as John writes, "in me, you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Jesus is our confidence because he reveals truth from falsehood, right from wrong, and reality from appearance, so that we may rely on him for our every need of body, soul, and mind.