How Does Dark Psychology and Gaslighting Manipulation Work?



Last Updated on December 20, 2023

Manipulation is defined as the act of managing or influencing deviously or shrewdly or falsifying for the main purpose of personal gain. While no one wants to become a manipulator by intention, now and then, many people actually engage in different manipulative strategies in an attempt to fulfill some expectations or desires they have of others.

Dark psychology and gaslighting are two common forms of manipulation. But how do these two concepts work? How will you know if you are already being manipulated?

Dark Psychology Manipulation

Dark psychology refers to the art and science of mind manipulation and control. If psychology is the study of human behavior focusing on thoughts, interactions, and actions, dark psychology is more of a phenomenon where people use different tactics of motivation, persuasion, coercion, and manipulation just to get everything they want.

The Dark Triad is something that refers to what criminologists and psychologists identify as an easy and simple way to predict not just criminal behavior but even problematic and broken relationships.

The following are the Dark Triad’s traits:

  • Psychopathy

It is often charming and friendly, but this is characterized by selfishness, impulsivity, lack of empathy, and remorselessness.

  • Narcissism

This involves egotism, grandiosity, and lack of empathy.

  • Machiavellianism

This is the use of manipulation to deceive and exploit people without any sense of morality.

Again, once no person likes being manipulated, the sad news is that it happens pretty often. While you might not be subject to someone who is categorized under the Dark Triad, average people deal with dark psychology tactics almost daily.

These strategies are often seen in sales methods, commercials, online ads, and even the behaviors of workplace superiors. Parents of children, particularly teens, will surely encounter these tactics as their kids experiment with behaviors to get things they want and seek autonomy.

Mind control and manipulation are the concerns that young learners today find the most interesting. In reality, covert manipulation, as well as dark persuasion, are frequently used by those you trust and love.

The following are some of the most common tactics normal everyday people often use:

  • Choice restricting

This involves providing specific options that will distract from the choice that you wouldn’t like the other person to make.

  • Love denial

This is about withholding attention and affection.

  • Love flooding

It is about affection, compliments, and buttering a person to make a request.

  • Lying

It involves exaggeration, partial truths, untruths, and untrue stories.

  • Reverse psychology

It is telling someone to do something or another with an intent to motivate them to do exactly the opposite of what you want.

  • Semantic manipulation

It involves using words perceived to have a common or mutual definition, with the manipulator telling you later that they have a different definition or understanding of the conversation.

  • Withdrawal

This is avoiding a person or giving them a silent treatment.

While it is true that some people use tactics of dark psychology knowing what they are doing to manipulate others just to get what they want, some may also unknowingly use dark and unethical tactics.

Most of the time, these people learned such tactics during childhood while watching their parents. Some have also mastered these tactics in their teenage or adult years. They tried a certain tactic accidentally and discovered that it worked. This made them continue to use the tactic to always get their way.

It is safe to say that dark psychology is part of the daily lives of most people. Based on how it works as described above, you can determine whether you are a victim of dark psychology or a perpetrator.

Gaslighting Manipulation

Did you ever experienced being called too sensitive or even crazy? Did others ever question your recollection of events even when you are sure that you are right? If you have ever experienced these or something similar, chances are you are a gaslighting victim.

It is common to hear the term gaslighting when discussing intimate relationships. But the truth is that the workplace is where most people often experience gaslighting.

Gaslighting takes place at work when a boss or fellow employee, known as the gaslighter, in this case, manipulates you to the point that you even start questioning your own memory, perceptions, and sanity. In order to do this, the gaslighter can downplay your emotions, re-tell events to blame you, and even deny past events. 

A good example of gaslighting may include a supervisor who calls you hypersensitive after you reported a colleague who made some inappropriate remarks. The other person may even question your memory of the events which can then make you question yourself or feel like an imposter.

Gaslighters have personality traits that can cross barriers into all types of social relationships. The dangers of workplace gaslighting are just the same as those in friendships or intimate relationships.

How does gaslighting work, then?

Gaslighting is the method where you gain control over another person. This works by breaking down or ruining the truth of a person in his or himself while increasing how much they depend or trust on the gaslighter or abusive person.

Gaslighting in relationships often starts little by little. The abusive person will gain the trust of their partner, often with the initial honeymoon period where abusive behavior doesn’t exist yet. The person will then start to suggest that their partner is lacking in terms of reliability, is already scatterbrained, or that their mind is no longer as stable as it used to be.

After some time, it can make the victim question if their partner is really right. When this happens more, the abusive person will also gain more influence and power.

Since they can no longer trust themselves, the victim may begin to rely more on their partner to make decisions or recall memories. It may also make them feel as if they can no longer leave.

Dark psychology and gaslighting manipulation can both be destructive when done excessively and with the intent to hurt or harm others. Be vigilant and watch out if you are already becoming a victim, or you are the manipulator yourself.