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The Gaslight Effect: How to Spot and Survive the Hidden Manipulation Others Use to Control Your Life [Hardcover]

Dr. Robin Stern
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 1 2007

Are You Being Gaslighted?
Check for these telltale signs:
You constantly second-guess yourself.
2. You wonder, “Am I being too sensitive?” a dozen times a day.
3. You wonder frequently if you are a “good enough” girlfriend/wife/employee/friend/daughter.
4. You have trouble making simple decisions.
5. You think twice before bringing up innocent topics of conversation.
6. You frequently make excuses for your partner’s behavior to friends and family.
7. Before your partner comes home from work, you run through a checklist in your head to anticipate anything you might have done wrong that day.
8. You buy clothes for yourself, furnishings for your apartment, or other personal purchases thinking about what your partner would like instead of what would make you feel great.
9. You actually start to enjoy the constant criticism, because you think, “What doesn’t kill me will make me stronger.”
10. You start speaking to your husband through his secretary so you don’t have to tell him things you’re afraid might upset him.
11. You start lying to avoid the put-downs and reality twists.
12. You feel as though you can’t do anything right.
13. You frequently wonder if you’re good enough for your lover.
14. Your kids start trying to protect you from being humiliated by your partner.
15. You feel hopeless and joyless.

Your husband crosses the line in his flirtations with another woman at a dinner party. When you confront him, he asks you to stop being insecure and controlling. After a long argument, you apologize for giving him a hard time.

Your boss backed you on a project when you met privately in his office, and you went full steam ahead. But at a large gathering of staff—including yours—he suddenly changes his tune and publicly criticizes your poor judgment. When you tell him your concerns for how this will affect your authority, he tells you that the project was ill-conceived and you’ll have to be more careful in the future. You begin to question your competence.

Your mother belittles your clothes, your job, your friends, and your boyfriend. But instead of fighting back as your friends encourage you to do, you tell them that your mother is often right and that a mature person should be able to take a little criticism.

If you think things like this can’t happen to you, think again. Gaslighting is when someone wants you to do what you know you shouldn’t and to believe the unbelieveable. It can happen to you and it probably already has.

How do we know? If you consider answering “yes” to even one of the following questions, you’ve probably been gaslighted:

Does your opinion of yourself change according to approval or disapproval from your spouse?

When your boss praises you, do you feel as if you could conquer the world?

Do you dread having small things go wrong at home—buying the wrong brand of toothpaste, not having dinner ready on time, a mistaken appointment written on the calendar?

Gaslighting is an insidious form of emotional abuse and manipulation that is difficult to recognize and even harder to break free from. That’s because it plays into one of our worst fears—of being abandoned—and many of our deepest needs: to be understood, appreciated, and loved. In this groundbreaking guide, the prominent therapist Dr. Robin Stern shows how the Gaslight Effect works and tells you how to:
Turn up your Gaslight Radar, so you know when a relationship is headed for trouble

Determine whether you are enabling a gaslighter

Recognize the Three Stages of Gaslighting: Disbelief, Defense, and Depression

Refuse to be gaslighted by using the Five Rules for Turning Off the Gas

Develop your own “Gaslight Barometer” so you can decide which relationships can be saved—and which you have to walk away from

Learn how to Gasproof Your Life so that you’ll never again choose another gaslighting relationship

Product Details

Product Description


“…Offers a socially intelligent method to spot and counter emotional abuse. … lights a way out of a dark side of relationships.”
–Daniel Goleman, author of Social Intelligence

“…like a sturdy, truth-telling friend in difficult times. Stern will show you you’re not alone in your toxic relationship...”
–Rachel Simmons, author of Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls

a powerful guide and manual that fully articulates and explains the repercussions of underhanded manipulation in personal and professional relationships.”
–Sylvia Ann Hewlett, economist, author, and president of the Center for Work-Life Policy

“…eloquently shine[s] a light on an often missed … emotional abuse… I have no doubt this book will positively change lives.”
–Linda Lantieri, Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL)

“Dr. Robin Stern is one of the world’s wisest women. There’s much to learn from her.”
–Erica Jong

“…therapist Robin Stern takes her readers on a journey that will help them take control of their lives and destinies.”
–Phyllis Chesler, Ph.D., author of Women and Madness and Woman’s Inhumanity to Woman

“Her strategies for “turning off the gas,” … are practical and sound, emphasizing improving self-esteem and visualizing out-comes. … strongly recommended.”
Library Journal, 4/1/07

About the Author

, has been a therapist for more than twenty years, specializing in issues of emotional abuse and psychological manipulation. She has been a keynote speaker at universities, and consults to schools, corporations, and nonprofit organizations. She teaches at Hunter College, Teachers College, and Columbia University and is also a leadership coach for faculty. She is a founding member of the Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership. She currently maintains a psychotherapy practice in New York City, where she lives with her husband and two children.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting read. June 16 2014
By Lulu
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This was an incredibly enlightening book. I was quite disturbed but the accuracy of the descriptions and I was very pleased with the solutions presented within this book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars excellent life advice April 22 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Fantastic book that transcends only gas-lighting to simple life advice. Once I started noticing the gaslight effect around me it is difficult to go back to the old way of being. Very helpful advice and exercises.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.1 out of 5 stars  76 reviews
103 of 104 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gaslighting:invalidation and manipulation Dec 21 2007
By J.F.L.-Fairfax VA - Published on
Dr. Stern clearly illustrates how over time, a person's sense of self-worth can be invalidated and the person's perspective and sense of bearings nulled. It is difficult enough to respond when one is caught off-balance by a loud-mouth bully, a cut-you-downer invalidator or a sweet-talking used car salesman. Responding appropriately and eluding danger becomes a lot harder when the corrosive attack is masked. This is when the invalidation and destabilization happen at the same time that a number of the victim's needs are being fulfilled (e.g. praises, romance, a sense of belonging) . The victim may mistake the invalidation/ destabilization by the other person as mere bad habits that the attacker will eventually grow out of. There is also the hopeful wish that love and goodness will prevail over the attacker's bad behavior. When the imbalance is sustained long enough, when the victim's feelings or reasoning are continually belittled and ignored and the victim's resistance always presented as a statement of her deficiencies, then destabilization follows. The victim falls into a malaise from the loss of joy of life. She becomes drained of energy to fight and resist the sniping and bullying. The common-sense action to seek out truth from distortion (or even to tease and be playful) is overwhelmed by walking on eggshells and trying extremely hard not to upset someone.

This book does a good job in identifying the nuances of the problem, describing the stages of seduction/invalidation, and providing ways for one to re-orient, rejuvenate and find solutions out of the problem.
339 of 363 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Long way to go July 19 2008
By somebody's mom - Published on
Sometimes when I read these books that do such a marvelous job of describing the interactions with abusive people and then try to give readers a 'clue' about how to continue contact with them, I get concerned.

I think the biggest destructive message you get when you are gaslighted is that somehow the victim can change the behavior of the abuser by changing the victim's behavior.

In other words - the victim, by her behavior is causing herself to be gaslighted.

This is dangerous thinking. It is the typical blame the victim thinking that is espoused by mental health professionals again and again and again.

Why? Because the mental health professionals are making money off the victims - not the abusers. How many abusers do you think bought this book? But how many victims. Follow the money.

I commend this author for attempting to address this psychological abuse in her book, because there is little written about it anywhere. Yet, it can drive victims to suicide.

But the author fails by not addressing the severity of this abuse - in fact she fails to even call it abuse, nor does she talk about the effect on the victim. The book is too cutsey for me. There is nothing cute about being gaslighted. It is deadly serious.

Someday I hope that mental health professionals understand that they are making money off suffering and it is irresponsible to publish a cutsey book about psychological abuse that can drive someone to kill themselves.

The only place I saw the word 'abuse' was on the cover of the book, from a reviewer. This is serious business folks. I would rather have my ribs broken than my mind.

Unfortunately the author skips around issues that she should have hit head on.

With physical abuse, someone kills you. With psychological abuse you kill yourself. How much cleaner is that? Your abuser then gets away with psychological abuse and is vindicated - YOU ARE CRAZY - crazy enough to slit your wrists!

Be very careful folks. This book is just the tip of the iceberg. You cannot change someone who is setting out to use psychological abuse (gaslighting) to control you. You need to get away or you could die.

You do not play a part in any way whatsoever. By trying to explain yourself, you are being a NORMAL human being in an abnormal situation. You are not engaging in a tango. You are being NORMAL, believing that you are interacting with a human being - not a predator.

But you are dealing with a predator, who preys on his own kind. The normal rules of engagement do not apply here. You cannot change a predator by ignoring what he is trying to do - drive you insane.

That is not cutsey. There is no tango involved. It doesn't take two. It takes one predator who preys on your goodness and willingness to change behaviors that you think are hurting him because you care. There is nothing wrong with caring. Empathy. Keep those qualities for someone who isn't preying on you. Changing the way you react to the predator will not change a thing. It is exactly what he wants you to do.

Your anger and protests are your demonstrations of your self-worth. Keep them. Don't silence yourself as this author suggests. But do get away.

61 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gaslighters are abusers! Jan. 6 2008
By Julie Patrick Clark - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If you have a boss, friend, or relative that always seems to make you feel "bad," even though you try and try and bend over backwards to understand them and their viewpoint but they treat you even worse, read this book! If you cannot say anything right, if you don't apologize enough, if you aren't perfect enough, read this book!

If you are "in denial" because you don't agree with how someone else (the gaslighter) sees you, read this book. If you are constantly trying to figure out the "why" of their behavior, read this book. It answers so many questions. It helps you to see that you are a person of value. It also explains how this relationship occurs, and how to end it, or, if you choose, to live with it.

I wish that this book had been available a few years ago, it would have saved me a lot of tears and heartache. It has helped me to come to peace with myself and to not blame myself for something that wasn't my fault. Reading this book for the third time, I believe that I won't be caught up in a relationship like that again. Gaslighters are abusers (see also the work of Patricia Evans), and you don't have to take it anymore!

I highly recommend this could save you years of therapy and save you thousands of dollars!
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A work of wisdom May 14 2007
By Frank - Published on
The book teaches one how to explicate what seems like the commonplace. If you have that uneasy feeling in the presence of those to whom you are connected but don't entirely trust, The Gaslight Effect can provide you with insight into many hidden dynamics that can create that unsettling experience. This book is for anyone who lives and thrives in the company of others but has trouble keeping their bearings in the presence of strong and manipulative people.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Innovative and original May 7 2007
By Helaine Olen - Published on
Robin Stern takes on the relationships we have with people who do us wrong over and over again yet manage to leave us thinking we are to blame for their actions. She is smart and eerily accurate in her descriptions of these troubled and frequently abusive friendships, romances and business partnerships. I only wish she had written this book sooner.
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