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Why Gaslighters Accuse You of Gaslighting

Accusing you of their own behavior is a classic gaslighter's tactic.

Key points

  • Gaslighters often accuse others of harmful actions even when there is direct evidence that they are engaging in the same behaviors.
  • A gaslighter who is cheating may accuse their partner of cheating as way to distract them.
  • Someone who is gaslighting may accuse another of something they cannot own up to doing themselves. License
Source: License

Gaslighters — people who try to control others through manipulation — will often accuse you of behaviors that they are engaged in themselves. This is a classic manipulation tactic.

In my post, "Gaslighting: Know It and Identify It to Protect Yourself," and in my book Gaslighting: Recognize Manipulative and Emotionally Abusive People — and Break Free, I describe gaslighting as a series of manipulation tactics used to discredit you, keep you off balance, and have you question your reality. The gaslighter uses these tactics in order to get “revenge” or gain control over you.

Gaslighting tactics include:

  • Blatantly lying
  • Splitting — pitting you against a friend or family member
  • Working to align others against you
  • Telling others that you are crazy, unstable, or manipulative
  • Lying about things they said and did, even though you swear those things happened
  • Telling you they don’t like your family and friends — but for vague reasons

Many gaslighters:

  • Cheat in relationships, yet accuse their victims of cheating
  • Accuse their victims of being addicts, when they are the true addicts
  • Accuse their victims of manipulation, when they are the ones who manipulate

Gaslighters will accuse others of these actions even when there is direct evidence that they are engaging in the same behaviors. Why do gaslighters do this? They are making pre-emptive strikes and/or projecting.

Pre-Emptive Strike

First, the pre-emptive strike tactic. The gaslighter is cheating: They are planning secret meetings with their lovers, and getting a rush from it. They are invested in keeping up the charade. To keep you off kilter, they start accusing you of cheating. The goal is to keep you so busy defending yourself and being emotionally distraught that you don’t have enough time to pay attention to the gaslighter’s own behavior. By accusing you, the gaslighter has bought themselves time. The gaslighter can go as far as claiming they saw you out with someone — when in fact you were at home waiting for the gaslighter to show up late from work again.

The gaslighter has you in a bind — you can’t prove that something never happened. But you try and try to prove to them that you did nothing wrong — though whatever evidence you produce is not good enough for the gaslighter. You become more concerned about being falsely accused than paying attention to the gaslighter’s own behavior.

The gaslighter may even present “evidence” to others of being manipulated by his or her victim. This evidence may be completely fabricated by the gaslighter, or the gaslighter takes facts and manipulates them, or “forgets” to share them. For example, the gaslighter tells your friends that they are sure you are cheating because you “claimed” you were working late a few nights this week. You actually were working late a few nights this week — to earn extra money in overtime. But the gaslighter conveniently leaves this fact out when badmouthing you to your friends. When you remind the gaslighter that you told them you were working late, they deny you ever told them — and then bring up another reason why they are “convinced” you are cheating.

Let’s say the gaslighter in your life is addicted to heroin. You suspect they have stolen money from you to feed their addiction. Before even getting a chance to confront them, the gaslighter calmly tells you that they are concerned you are an alcoholic. You immediately go into defense mode — no one has ever accused you of this before, and it is a shock. It throws you into a tailspin. The gaslighter brings up times where they knew you were drunk — but you don’t recall any of these times. The gaslighter may even accuse you of blacking out, and claims that’s why you can’t remember. You start questioning your sanity — and this is exactly the goal of the gaslighter. Meanwhile, the gaslighter keeps using, and stealing.

Besides direct contact with the victim and their family and friends, the gaslighter also uses social media as a way to accuse and deflect from their own behavior. The gaslighter knows that once something is posted on social media, the information travels quickly. The gaslighter is also in a position of power on social media by never having to answer questions about the truth of their claims, thus perpetuating the gaslighter's lie.


The gaslighter may accuse you of being manipulative because they are projecting — one of the most commonly-used defense mechanisms: I can’t own up to my behavior, so I’m going to put it on you. While a pre-emptive strike is a gaslighter’s conscious choice to manipulate you for their gain, projection can take place on a conscious or unconscious level. While some gaslighters are very aware that they are putting their behavior on someone else to get what they want, some who are projecting are not aware that they are doing it. In either case, projection is an unhealthy behavior and should not be tolerated.

Some gaslighters unconsciously project out of guilt or shame. In the case of narcissistic personality disorder, narcissists feel they are totally okay, and think that everyone else has a problem. This is called ego-syntonic behavior. It is very difficult to get a narcissistic gaslighter to get help through counseling, because they think you have the problem, not them. Projecting behavior can get to the point where a gaslighter delusionally believes that they are being persecuted by the victim, when in fact the opposite is true.

Whatever the origin of the gaslighter’s accusatory behavior, they are still 100 percent responsible for it. Treat all cases of accusations toward you as what they are — accusations, not facts. There is no need to spend extra energy trying to defend yourself; it will never be good enough. Instead, take a hard look at whether the behavior the gaslighter accuses you of is actually something they are doing. Don’t let smoke and mirrors get in the way of uncovering the gaslighter’s behavior for what it is — manipulation of you and others by way of accusation and distraction.

Copyright 2017 Sarkis Media.

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