6 Ways Bullies Gaslight Their Targets

blame accuse pointing finger

Gaslight- to manipulate someone by psychological means into doubting their sanity.

Remember that bullying is all about domination and control. Once the bully selects a target and begins their reign of terror over the chosen victim, they will do everything possible to maintain that dominance. Also, understand that bullies get a huge psychological payoff at the victim’s expense. Abusing their targets gives bullies a rush of power and a sense of authority and control.

If there is a culture of bullying at a school, workplace, or community, bullies are also rewarded with attention, high social status and promotions from others while the target suffers the opposite. And a bully will fight like crazy to keep those benefits should the target speak out and shed light on the behavior.

Once the target sees the behavior for what it is and begins to assert their right to be treated fairly, bullies will become angry and afraid. They will see the target as a threat to their power and increase the harassment to subdue, silence and punish the person.

Seasoned bullies maintain power by emotionally abusing, brainwashing, and psychological abuse to disempower the target and make themselves seem bigger and better than what they are. They use these methods because psycho/emotional bullying leaves no physical evidence and is much easier to deny.

They do this by convincing their target (and everyone else) that he/she is defective or no good, thereby stripping the target’s confidence and self-esteem.

Here are ways bullies gaslight their targets:

1. Persistent lying
Bullies tell vague lies and trying to convince you that you are mentally unstable, less than, deserving of the mistreatment, or that you’re somehow defective. Bullies will make statements to others such as,

toxic brainwashing

“He’s a waste of space, and he needs to realize it already!”

“She’s such an embarrassment! How does she even show her face in public every day?”

“Who gives a #$% about his feelings! He doesn’t matter!”

“She brought it all on herself!”

Bullies will also tell their targets things like:

“What are you smiling about? Nobody likes you! Remember?”

“I’m not bullying you! You’re just over-reacting!”

Displeased woman looking at her growing nose and trying to stop it with her finger isolated on white background

“You’re just being (paranoid, overly sensitive, a crybaby, etc.)! You need help!”

“Nobody’s mistreating you! You’re just playing the victim to look innocent to everyone else!

“You think you’re (smart, pretty, cute, tough, cool, etc.), don’t’ you! You’re nothing!”

“You’re so (arrogant, retarded, crazy, ugly, fat, skinny, etc.) nobody believes a word you say!”

I could go on and on.

Bullies deliberately repeat these lies over and over again and for a long time to convince the target that they are right. Understand that this constant repetition has a purpose! To instill insecurity in the victim, wear them down and force him/her to resign themselves and acquiesce.

It serves to brainwash the target and force him/her to believe the bully’s lies. As a result, the target becomes riddled with confusion, social anxiety and shame. Eventually, the person loses the ability to counter the attacks

You must realize that this is the bully’s strategy to render control and keep the target under their control and from rebelling against the abuse.

2. Wearing the Target Down and forcing him/her to agree with them.
Bullies continue to put the target down and marginalize them until he/she is so tired or afraid of defending against them that the person shuts down, grows numb to the abuse and surrenders to the bullies.

Bullying, friendship and people concept. Girl patronizing screaming pointing finger at shy timid nerdy woman who is looking down

3. Become Highly Aggressive When the Target Calls Out the Abuse
Bullies may try to maintain their power by intensifying and escalating the attacks in addition to blaming and shaming the target. Understand that this is designed to subdue and further subjugate the person by intimidation and to force him/her into silence and submission. It also allows the bully to escape accountability and to have a green light for continued and future attacks.

(More to come in Part 2…)

69 thoughts on “6 Ways Bullies Gaslight Their Targets

  1. my father did all of these things to me, as well as kids in school…very sad…this could be a nice world if we wanted it 😢

    • My heart goes out to you, Jim! It sounds like you got no reprieve from the abuse and I’m so sorry for that. Know that you never asked for any of it and that your father’s terrible behavior was a reflection on HIM, not you! Please keep that in the back of your mind. You were not responsible for your Dad’s behavior.

      • I had to walk away from him in order to just get a little better. He was a genius at filling people up with his garbage until they thought they were garbage too…which is what you were talking about, I think. Thank you Cherie ❤️❤️

          • You’re most welcome. The thing is that, many times, when we’re abused, we can’t find a name to put on some of the manipulations our abusers do to us. I can tell you that when I was being severely bullied in school all those years ago, there wasn’t a name for what they were doing and if you can’t put a name on it, it’s much harder to explain. And because it’s harder to explain, people are less likely to believe you. But once there’s a name you can put on it, it’s much easier to communicate and therefore, your credibility rises much higher.

          • Yes, very true, thanks. I haven’t read much about bullying and abuse. I may try one of your books…you have a good writing voice 🌞🌞 I am also a child of an alcoholic, my mother, but I’ve never done therapy that centred on these things…you would like Oliver James (psychologist) if you don’t know him..have the best day ever 🌹🌹

          • You have a great day too, Jim! And I’m sorry about your mother. I can imagine that, living with your father drove her to drink. Living with an abuser is the most soul-crushing thing there is. And I would love for you to read one of my books, that would be an honor, Jim! <3 Thank you so much! Again, have a wonderful day! <3

    • Hey that what’s been happening with me today for 2 years this crazy town and my family I can’t wait to move out of town and take my daughter with me Ketchikan Ak is a bad place they have bad stigma

      • My heart goes out to you, Macy! 💔 Never stop believing in yourself and that one day soon, a door will open for you and you’ll have the opportunity to move to a better place with better people. Sending you lots of love and light! 💖🌺🌷🌞

  2. Love this article and all it has highlighted. Would you be interested in writing a guest post about bullying in a workplace on my website? I’d love to feature you!

  3. I think bullying can also occur in relationships when the other person is unhappy and wants out. They use these physiological tactics to shift the blame onto you and leave you in a state of great distress and feeling powerless. Good explanation Cherie.

  4. Yeah, Gaslighting sucks.

    Guess what? I just got a comment where someone asked me “why am I receiving emails of your published posts?” And I was like, “How should I know? I don’t control your WordPress or email settings.” Weird.

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