BOOK REVIEW: The Gaslight Effect

By Ox Drover

I recently read The Gaslight Effect—How to spot and survive the hidden manipulations other people use to control your life, by Dr. Robin Stern. I highly recommend this book to Lovefraud readers.

Robin Stern, Ph.D., is a therapist specializing in emotional abuse and psychological manipulation. She teaches at Hunter College, Teachers College and Columbia University, and is a leadership coach for faculty.

This well-written book is quite reader friendly. Dr. Stern starts off by defining the term “gaslighting” as being “pressured by someone else to believe the unbelievable.” She goes on to show that gaslighting is “an insidious form of emotional abuse and manipulation that can be difficult to recognize and difficult to break free from.”

In the first chapter, Dr. Stern says:

I constantly encounter women who are smart, strong, successful. Yet, I keep hearing the same story: Somehow, many of these confident, high-achieving women were being caught in demoralizing, destructive and bewildering relationships. Although the woman’s friends and colleagues might have seen her as empowered and capable, she had come to view herself as incompetent—a person who could trust neither her own abilities nor her own perception of the world.

”¦ In every case, a seemingly powerful woman was involved in a relationship with a lover, spouse, friend, colleague, boss or family member who caused her to question her own sense of reality and left her feeling anxious, confused and deeply depressed ”¦ (and) whose approval she kept trying to win, even as his treatment of her went from bad to worse. Finally I was able to give this painful condition a name: The Gaslight Effect, after the old movie Gaslight.

In the 1944 classic film, Ingrid Bergman marries a charismatic and mysterious man played by Charles Boyer. It is the story of a young and vulnerable singer who marries an older man who, unbeknownst to her, tries to drive her insane in order to get her inheritance. He continually tells her that she is ill and fragile. He rearranges household items and accuses her of doing so, and manipulates the level of lights, which dim for no apparent reason. Eventually the heroine starts to believe she is going insane and begins to act “crazy.” She is desperate for her husband’s approval. She is only able to finally realize she is not insane when a policeman sees the lights dim and validates her reality.

Though Dr. Stern makes clear that not all gaslighters are deliberately trying to drive their partners insane, nevertheless, they invalidate the views and realities of their partners. In trying to please them, the partners let go of themselves and their view of reality.

Dr. Stern never uses the words “psychopath” or “sociopath,” but instead refers to emotional abusers as “gaslighters” and the abused as “gaslightees.” She does make it clear that there are patterns here that most of Lovefraud readers would equate with sociopaths and psychopaths.

Dr. Stern divides types of gaslighters into three categories of emotional abusers and three stages of gaslighting. She points out the internal signals, feelings that would tell a person being gaslighted that they are indeed experiencing some form of emotional abuse and invalidation of their reality by someone they want to please.

I am one of those people who, when reading a book, am apt to highlight passages in the book for later reference. With this book, I gave up highlighting because I tended to highlight entire chapters instead of a few phrases. In my opinion this book is a must have for every Lovefraud reader. It validates the very subtle feelings we get when we know something is wrong and can’t quite put our fingers on what is wrong with a relationship.

Not only does Dr. Stern point out how to recognize these feelings as warning signs, but she coaches readers in how to handle these in a way that is healthy and easily understood. She gives the tools to her readers to recognize even subtle signs of emotional abuse, and to confront this in such a way that if the victim is not dealing with a psychopath/sociopath, the relationship can be improved markedly. She also points out that there are some gaslighters that are so invested in being right that there is no hope for the relationship, and the only hope for the victim to be happy is to let go of that toxic relationship.

The Gaslight Effect is available on

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202 Comments on "BOOK REVIEW: The Gaslight Effect"

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Hi, Oxy! And Thanks!Yea, I did it to MYSELF, but at least I now know what these GKDS look like, very bittersweet. I couldnt believe how RADDLED my spath D looks–she has more lines on her face than I do!Gave me one helluva shock, as the last time I saw her was in Feb.,1993, when I took her out for her birthday,{smoked salmon, salad,champagne, lovely gifts, flowers, a gold bracelet and matching earrings, plusa lovely card, and French perfume!] Does this sound like the actions of a cruel, unfit Mother, as she has said I am? What is it with these people?Anyway, Im GLAD I left that message for the GD, maybe one day shell question her Mothers lies about me, and maybe come look for me, who knows?
Our darling new kids are coming over for the weekend ,10th and 11th july, to celebrate their 2nd Wedding anniversary with us.Roya passed all her hairdressing exams with distinction, and is now looking fora job in a salon near to their flat. So were looking forward to seeing them. Thanks darlin Oxy, for not boinking me a good one!Love, Gem.XXX

Dear Gem,

Well, just got back from town and the old air card is working for a change. This coming weekend is our independence day and so I am stocking up on fruits and veggies and planning on staying home off the highways and dodging drunks that drive for the holidays!

I’m glad your Roya passed her classes, that is wonderful! I know she is glad too.

As far as your grandkids, what happens happens and that’s just the way it is. We can’t control it. Personally, as much as I looked forward to having grandkids, I’m actually glad I don’t have any biological ones at all and looks like not likely to have any biological ones, and frankly, that’s a good thing I think–let this branch of Satan’s family tree genetics die out.

In fact, uncle Monster’s 3 kids, only 1 of them has 1 biological child. He’s smart and not a criminal, just got his MBA and CPA and is getting married in October, but I really don’t know him. He is the only great grandchild from that entire family (My egg donor & Monstor’s kids) that might have biological children, which I again say, is probably a good thing.

There are just some groups of people who shouldn’t procreate and I think I’m related to most of them. LOL

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