Wholeness Healing Today

The Gaslight Effect – A Book Review

I recently wrote an article about gaslighting, referring to The Gaslight Effect: How to Spot and Survive the Hidden Manipulation Others Use to Control Your Life, by Dr. Robin Stern. I was so impressed by the information in the book that I have decided to review the book for readers who may want to delve more deeply into this.

The book features eight chapters, from describing gaslighting, to discussing the “Gaslight Tango”, the relationship between the people involved and how people gradually are sucked into the unhealthy treatment. Chapters 3-5 describe the three stages, moving from “What Are You Talking About” to “Maybe You Have a Point” to “It’s All My Fault”, the gradual but insidious psychological manipulation that happens. Chapters 6, 7, and 8 then describe exiting the relationship and getting healthy (Turning Off the Gas, Should I Stay or Should I go?, and Keeping Your Life Gaslight-Free). The last chapter is extremely important, as we are so inclined to living out our patterns, attracting the same or similar people into our lives, and for true healing and growth to happen, the patterns must be recognized and then altered.

The final chapter actually features suggestions on changing a gaslighting relationship from within, trying to limit a gaslighting relationship, to leaving a gaslighting relationship, all relying on different versions of the following: Be committed. Be aware. Be honest. Be disciplined. Be responsible. Be compassionate. Those change to Be analytic. Be specific. Be creative. Be kind and firm. Be committed. Be disciplined. Be compassionate. Leaving involves Be in the present. Be receptive to help. Be patient. Be compassionate. Stern’s words about the compassion piece being a part of all three: “I know I’ve ended every list with this suggestion, but that’s because I feel it’s crucial, no matter what course of action you choose. It can be very healing to show compassion toward your gaslighter – and even more so to express it toward yourself. Don’t allow yourself to say mean things about yourself, or to be cruel, unforgiving, or contemptuous. Accept that you’ve done the best you can, and offer yourself the compassion you deserve.” (Stern, p. 224) Self-acceptance and self-forgiveness are keys to moving forward.

There are also several additional helps in the book, with Appendix A being a “Feelings Vocabulary” as well as statements to help regain one’s voice. Appendix B uses visualization exercises, while Appendix C covers self-care. Appendix D is a great listing of other resources.

In my work in therapy, I often teach the Victim Triangle, and people are amazed at how easily they have been drawn into unhealthy relationships. When we are trying to have healthy relationships with unhealthy people (narcissists, gaslighters, or other manipulators), we often question first our thoughts and actions and then even our sanity. When we can back up and look more objectively at our relationships, it often is revealing of how skewed the relationship has become, often over years. This may take the help of professionals, both to identify and then to guide the process of extricating, setting boundaries, implementing self-care, and healing any trauma. If you question the relationship you are in, look through this book and see if you can identify with any of the stories or characteristics. If so, you may want to do more research about gaslighting. Awareness begins the healing.

Works Cited:
Stern, Dr. Robin. The gaslight effect: how to spot and survive the hidden manipulation others use to control your life. 2007, 2018. Harmony Books. NY, NY.

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  • Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner
    Licensed Professional Counselor
    Advanced Clinical HypnoTherapist

  • Deb England began working part-time for Wholeness Healing Center in September 2004 and began full-time in May 2005. Deb practices primarily in the Broken Bow office and one day a week in the Grand Island office. Previously she had completed her practicum and internship at Morning Star Alliance, working in the Broken Bow and Grand Island offices.


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