Gaslighting — any sort of statement that makes someone doubt their own feelings or perceptions — is a common tactic used in abusive relationships. But it's also present in many kinds of relationships; not limited to romantic relationships, it may occur in parent-child ones, as well. Once you can spot the signs your parents are gaslighting you, you may come to realize that this type of behavior is practically normalized — although it definitely shouldn't be.
People who gaslight other people in their lives may have a psychological disorder called narcissistic personality disorder. A person with this type of mental disorder has an inflated sense of self and needs and craves attention but may secretly feel vulnerable and ashamed of themselves — she or he also feels intense hurt when someone criticizes them, which explains why it’s often so difficult for narcissist parents to even realize they are gaslighting their kids. If left unchecked, long-term effects of gaslighting can leave the child feeling highly insecure, bitter, inflexible, anxious and aggressive. They grow up to be unsure of their place in the world, develop inferiority issues or seem highly paranoid and mistrusting of others.
During the first stage of development from birth to eighteen months, a child learns to trust their parent to meet their basic needs of food, shelter, clothing, support and nurturing. When a parent meets these needs, the child learns to trust; when it is not met, the child develops mistrust. Once the trust has been established, the child will naturally believe the parent over their own intuition.
A parent who gaslights their child is manipulatively deceptive. They take advantage of their position of trust and authority over the child to meet their own dysfunctional needs. The child, whose brain and emotions are still in the developmental stages, doesn’t have the ability to see their parent’s behavior as abusive. Rather, the child trusts the parent even more and begins to believe that they are in fact crazy. Sometimes this process is done in ignorance, as their parents did the same behavior to them as children. Other times, it is done intentionally to keep the child emotionally stunted so the parent can remain in control.