Let's Talk About Gaslighting

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Varja

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Let's Talk About Gaslighting
« on: May 15, 2013, 06:17:39 PM »
Note: This topic will be covered over the span of two separate posts to the thread. The first is focused upon gaslighting methods, tactics and techniques. The follow up attempts to explain how this despicable behavior typically unfolds in abusive relationships and the devastating impact it usually has upon it's victims. If we can do nothing else here - we can help our members learn to become "poor victims." Some sources are listed in context, and all sources are provided at the end of the second iteration for easy reference.



I want to discuss the topic of gaslighting for a few reasons. Recently had an experience wherein this pathological behavior was used in an attempt to change reality. Fortunately, it didn't happen in the context of an important relationship and interestingly enough, since I somewhat expected it to happen, it was very easy to identify when it occurred. I've also experienced this same abuse technique in the context of a professional work-related environment where the stakes were significantly higher, as well as being subjected to it off and on from my disordered FOO.

In this regard, I believe if we educate our members here about different gaslighting techniques and strategies - should they become the intended victim of a malicious, abusive disordered person, then at least they'll understand what it looks like themselves. Once we understand these behaviors, then they lose their power to make us doubt ourselves.

I've drawn on several different sources for this information, and they're listed at the end for future reference. OOTF's gaslighting definition is found here, and I'd like to expand the information it presents.

Gaslighting is emotional abuse that "aims" to make victims doubt their own perceptions and memories. Gaslighting is an insidious form of abuse. It can make victims question the very instincts they've relied upon their entire lives, making them unsure of anything.

The techniques used in gaslighting are similar to those used in brainwashing, interrogation, and torture. These same techniques have been used in psychological warfare by intelligence operatives, law enforcement and other agencies for decades.

The intention is to, in a systematic way, target the victim's mental equilibrium, self confidence, and self esteem so that they are no longer able to function in an independent way.

Gaslighting, as a harassment technique, starts with a series of subtle mind games that intentionally preys upon the victim's limited ability to tolerate ambiguity or uncertainty. This is done in order to undercut the victim’s trust in their own sense of reality and sense of self, thus resulting in confusion and mental anguish for the victim.

Gaslighting makes it very likely that victims will believe whatever their abusers tell them regardless of their own experience of the same situation. Gaslighting often precedes other types of emotional and physical abuse because some victims of gaslighting are likely to remain in subsequent abusive situations afterwards.

While many of us may have experienced gaslighting in one on one relationships with abusive people with PD's, it's certainly not uncommon for "advanced" level abusers (sociopaths, psychopaths & malignant narcissists) to conscript others and use them in a deliberate and coordinated gaslighting "campaign" against their intended victims.

These "conscripts" or co-gaslighters may, or may not always know nor understand that they're being used to inflict emotional abuse on others. It all depends upon the specific situation and environment in which the abuse takes place. Personally, I've seen this happen in a professional working environment wherein the co-abusers were willing participants and had full knowledge of the malicious intent. In many of these group type situations, gaslighting techniques are often used to hide truths that the abuser doesn't want the victim to realize.

Techniques


• Withholding

Is one gaslighting technique where the abuser feigns a lack of understanding, refuses to listen and declines sharing their emotions. Examples could be statements such as:

- "I'm not listening to that crap again tonight."
- "You're just trying to confuse me."
- "I don't know what you're talking about."

• Countering

Where an abuser vehemently calls into question a victim's memory in spite of the victim having remembered things correctly. Examples could be statements like:

- "Remember when you didn't remember things correctly last time."
- "I saw the same thing, and it didn't happen like you said it did."
- "You thought the same thing last time, and you were wrong."

These techniques can often throw the victim off the intended subject matter, and make them question their own motivations and perceptions rather than the issue at hand.

Then, the abuser will sometimes begin to question the victim's experiences, thoughts and opinions more globally using statements said in an (angry, accusatory, condescending or patronizing tone) like:

- "You see everything in the most negative way."
- "Well you obviously never believed in me then."
- "You have an overactive imagination."

• Blocking and Diverting

Are gaslighting techniques whereby the abuser again changes the conversation from the subject matter to questioning the victim's thoughts and controlling the conversation. Examples of this include:

- "I'm not going through that again."
- "Where did you get a crazy idea like that?"
- "Quit bitching."
- "You're hurting me on purpose."

• Trivializing

Is another way of gaslighting. It involves making the victim believe his or her thoughts or needs aren't important, making statements such as:

- "You're going to let something like that come between us?"
- "Five years from now, none of this will even matter."
- "Compared to (something else) - this (the victim's needs/perception) is nothing."

• Abusive Forgetting and Denial

Can also be forms of gaslighting. In this technique, the abuser pretends to forget things that have really occurred; the abuser may also deny things like promises that have been made that are important to the victim. An abuser might say:

- "What are you talking about?"
- "I don't have to take this."
- "You're making that up."
- "Prove what you're saying, because it didn't happen that way."

Some gaslighters will then mock the victim for their alleged "wrongdoings" and "misperceptions," using patronizing, smarmy, insincere, and sarcastic statements.

• Combined Approach

These gaslighting techniques are often used together - in an ongoing campaign of aggression attempting to make the targeted victim doubt their own thoughts, memories and actions. This often causes the victim to be scared to bring up any topic at all, for fear they are "wrong" about it, or don't remember the situation correctly.

Some of the worst gaslighters will even create situations that allow for the use of gaslighting techniques! An example of this is taking the victim's keys from the place where they are always left, making the victim think they've misplaced them. Then the abuser is quick to help the victim having a "bad memory" find the keys.
“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

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Varja

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Re: Let's Talk About Gaslighting
« Reply #1 on: May 15, 2013, 06:32:58 PM »
Gaslighting In the Context of Relationships


In order to understand how a person can become a gaslighting victim in the first place, it's important to know that the disordered abuser usually has many faces. These "different faces" are used by the abuser while leading the relationship through different stages:

- Idealization
- Devaluation
- Discard

Often the disordered, malicious abusers who use gaslighting techniques are puppet masters manipulating their victims for personal gain. Sometimes they're able to “pull the strings” of their victims without detection, thereby rendering them helpless.

The gaslighting does not happen all at once - it happens in stages, so if one suspects (in the early stages) that gaslighting is happening, they can protect themselves by establishing effective personal boundaries or even walking away (physically or detaching emotionally.)

Let's identify these stages, so members will be better equipped to understand and identify what's happening as they unfold. This is applicable in any relationship, be it personal, professional, or casual.

The Idealization Stage

During the initial “idealization stage”, the abuser puts on their “best face” in order to mould their victim into a symbiotic relationship with them and use them for narcissistic supply. In the beginning they shower the victim with attention. They seem loving, charming, flirtatious, energetic, exciting, and great fun to be with. They appear to be very happy and interested in the relationship, while the unsuspecting victim enjoys every moment with their new charismatic partner.

Intense bonding begins for the victim, and innocently, they also believe that the partner feels the same way about them, that the relationship is reciprocal, but this is their biggest deception. Caught up in this alluring state of euphoria, the victim becomes “hooked” by the gaslighter’s exuberance and grandiose exaggerations.

In this kind of relationship, victims are known to experience biochemical changes in the body and structural changes in the brain. These exciting hooks create a release of chemicals (endorphins) in the brain, and it is these endorphins (or pleasure substances) that make the victim feel the euphoria in the first phase of the relationship.

Like any addict, they become addicted to that high, and soon find themselves hooked emotionally to their abuser. Of course, this honeymoon phase is only an illusion - all smoke and mirrors. Having expertly determined the victim’s strengths and weaknesses, the idealization phase is complete, and it's time for transition to the devaluation stage of the gaslighting campaign. From this point forward, the abuser seems to turn cold, unfeeling, and often bitingly cruel.

The Devaluation Stage

Suddenly, the abuser becomes decisively cold and uncaring. The victim’s fall from grace is a hard one, they can't seem to do anything right; the abuser's loving words turn to criticism; everything the victim tries ends in a negative effect, and they find themselves devalued at every turn.

Confused and perplexed, the victim has no idea what's happening, and they usually become increasingly stressed, unhappy and depressed with their situation. The roller-coaster relationship leaves the victim in a state of constant chaos, as if always “walking on eggshells.”

This is likely to be the time when the abusive gaslighter begins to look for a fresh provider of adulation and adoration, and "cheats" on the victim. The gaslighting reaches its peak, and the victim can no longer reason with their abuser.

Confused by the abuser's bizarre behaviour, the victim works harder and harder to please their abuser in the hopes of getting the relationship back to where it was in the start, when it felt safe.

The victim is suddenly thrown into strong "withdrawal" and often endures painful physical symptoms. To cope with the pain of abandonment and rejection, they sometimes escape into a range of unconscious defense mechanisms (denial, rationalization, regressive behavior patterns, trauma bonding, etc.)

Engaging in these survival behaviors, the victim sometimes becomes a hostage who is overly dependent upon their captive (Stockholm Syndrome.) At this stage they are most likely suffering the effects of Narcissistic Victim Syndrome (NVS) wherein they're reduced to a shadow of their former self. Finally they are at the mercy of the whims and pleasures of their “puppet master.”

The abuser despises the person their victim has become, while regarding them as powerless, inferior and worthless. At the same time, their worthless prey is providing them with a bountiful amount of narcissistic supply. Therein lies the contradiction - as the victim shows their distress, they provide more supply for the abuser, so the abuser feels even more important and powerful.

The more important and powerful the abuser feels, the more overt their verbal and physical abuse becomes. Typically, they'll react to any perceived movement away from them as a threat to their narcissistic supply, so any demonstration of self-determination by the victim will be devalued.

Pathological abusers are often merciless in their methods of devaluing their victims. They can range from exploiting the victim's attachment needs, questioning the victim's intellectual capabilities, degrading and criticizing their bodies, sexuality and creativity, etc. etc. etc.. Once the victim's "conditioning" is completed, they often appear to the outside world as if they're willing partners in the abuse.

These victims - even if they do escape from this type of relationship, are at greater risk of future re-victimization and entrapment with other pathologically abusive gaslighters, because they've been "primed" in a way that other abusers can easily detect.

The Discarding Phase

In this phase, the abuse comes to it's conclusion. The abuser believes they've won the contest, and the fun is over. By this time, the abuser is usually totally indifferent to any needs or wishes the victim may have. In effect, they no longer really even exist in the minds of these sick people.

Victims however, are left confused and raw with emotion, yet still eager to find solutions to “fix” the dying relationship. Typically, the abuser resists all attempts to rescue the relationship, and they'll often bully with silence. If there is any kind of response, it's usually brutally cold.

In effect, the victim has become “worthlessly inferior” to them; they usually understand they've "drained the victim dry," so the victim has outlived their usefulness so its time for the abuser to move on to their next victim.

At this stage, victims should avoid trying to "win them back" because this behavior only feeds their twisted egos and provides them with a transient source of narcissistic supply.

Victims of Gaslighting

In "The Gaslighting Effect," author Robin Stern, Ph.D., identifies three typical stages gaslighting victims endure:

- Disbelief
- Defense
- Depression

• Disbelief

The victim’s initial reaction to the gaslighting behaviour is one of total disbelief; they cannot believe the sudden change towards them, or the fact that they are being gaslighted.

They know something terribly odd is happening in the relationship, but they can't quite figure it out, either. Sadly, this is precisely what the abuser wants, because gaslighting would't work if the victim knew what was happening.

The abuser’s interaction dynamic with the victim changes from being open and accessible to one characterised by blocking and diverting tactics.

What began as a sympathetic and supporting dynamic morphs into one of disdain and antagonism. Should the victim attempt to discuss what's happening in the relationship, they're usually met with silence. Even worse, abuser twists their words against them and trivializes their concerns.

Gaslighting doesn't have to be severe in order to inflict damage to the victim, either. It can be as subtle as accusing the victim of being "too sensitive," or that they shouldn't do something because they're "not able to do it." The abuser then follows-up by saying, "Leave it to me, I'll take care of it.”

Although the victim can rationalize that these statements are untrue, gradually their confidence is diminished to such an extent that they can't trust themselves. Gaslighting tactics often involve moving things from place to place, and then denying that they've done so. This  tends to instill tremendous confusion in the intended victim's mind.

Often the abusive gaslighter will say something, then later deny they've done so. It can even be defined as "psychological warfare" because it has the effect of making the victim doubt their own memory or perception of events.

Sometimes the victim can even become desperate for the gaslighter’s approval and reassurance that they're not going mad. When this happens, the victim becomes dependent on their narcissistic abuser for a sense of reality. Once this happens, the pathological abuser has their victim at their mercy, because they've now achieved the ability to "define normal" for their targeted victim.

• Defense

At this stage, the victim still has an adequate sense of self remaining to defend against the gaslighting manipulation. However, the combined, consistent and unrelenting gaslighting tactics are starting to throw the victim off balance by inducing self-doubt, angst, turmoil, and guilt.

Over time, this steady, ongoing emotional damage causes the victim to lose their sense of reality, and sense of self. Becoming lost, confused, and unable to trust their own instincts and memory, they tend to isolate themselves due to shame based reactions.

Eventually, the victim's psychic energy becomes depleted, and they're left unable to defend themselves from the horrendous gaslighting effect. At this stage, many victims (especially survivors of childhood trauma) may feel they're in danger of psychological annihilation.

When this is the case, their (subconscious) defense mechanisms usually "kick-in" when they're exposed to highly stressful experiences - gaslighting - threatening them with annihilation. These defense mechanisms usually remain intact throughout their lifetimes.

Often gaslighting victims turn to emotional bonding for survival.

In extreme situations involving isolation of the victim, this trauma bonding can lead to the psychological condition known as Stockholm Syndrome.

In Stockholm Syndrome, the victim adapts to the traumatic situation by unconsciously going into an regressive mode, where they return to childish infantile patterns of behaviour (Regressed Infantilism,) and bond with their captor as they did with their mother earlier in life as a defense against annihilation.

It occurs in situations where victims are held captive and in fear of their lives: kidnapping, hostage situations, and narcissistic abuse. This phenomenon of trauma bonding with the narcissist aggressor can be also be found in Narcissistic Victim Syndrome (NVS.)

NVS results from abuse caused by someone with a personality disorder, and more often than not, their personality disorder has not been medically diagnosed, therefore the afflicted  individual goes undetected in society. It is vital to understand that NPD is a serious mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, and a deep need for attention and admiration. Expanded definition of NVS.

• Depression

By this stage the victim barely recognizes themselves. Often, they're rapidly becoming shadows of their former selves. Living under tyranny within a war zone where they are controlled, physically and emotionally battered, unable to make decisions, subjected to constant rages, sucked dry, stripped of dignity and safety, their very state of being is tormented.

Usually, they begin to feel they can’t do anything right, they can't trust their own minds, and they withdraw with a skewed and distorted grasp of reality. They also escape into depression. Many victims will also experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD.)


Are You a Victim of Gaslighting Emotional Abuse?


According to author and psychoanalyst Robin Stern, Ph.D., the signs of being a victim of gaslighting emotional abuse include:

1.You are constantly second-guessing yourself.
2.You ask yourself, "Am I too sensitive?" a dozen times a day.
3.You often feel confused and even crazy at work.
4.You're always apologizing to your mother, father, boyfriend, spouse or boss.
5.You can't understand why, with so many apparently good things in your life, you aren't happier.
6.You frequently make excuses for your partner's behavior to friends and family.
7.You find yourself withholding information from friends and family so you don't have to explain or make excuses.
8.You know something is terribly wrong, but you can never quite express what it is, even to yourself.
9.You start lying to avoid the put downs and reality twists.
10.You have trouble making simple decisions.
11.You have the sense that you used to be a very different person - more confident, more fun-loving, more relaxed.
12.You feel hopeless and joyless.
13.You feel as though you can't do anything right.
14.You wonder if you are a "good enough" husband/girlfriend/wife/employee/friend/son or daughter.



Sources

Out of the FOG Support Forum
Out of the FOG Toolbox
"The Gaslighting Effect"
Psychic Trauma Markers, by Martin Hurvich Ph.D.
Article - Attachment and Adult Relationships
Narcissistic Behavior - The Road Show for Therapists
National Institute of Mental Health
Healthy Place
Respite from Sociopathic Behavior
“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

~ Bodhipaksa Krishnamurti

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gary

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Re: Let's Talk About Gaslighting
« Reply #2 on: May 15, 2013, 07:14:22 PM »
That's interesting because I have always kinda brushed off Gaslighting as something that happened to someone else. Just like I thought I was a Chosen (which I am) but never knew for a long time that I was also a Unchosen.

I know now that I have been Gaslighted all through out my life in one way or another.

What I'm getting out of it is that it's not like just one bullet going from the one doing the gaslighting to the victim but more like a cluster bomb in terms of the over all damage it can do.

The one doing it ( Please correct me if wrong) I'm sure starts off doing it with full intent to confuse and do hard. But probably if they continue it for a long time may even start believing it themselves and at that point is no longer gaslighting but a new false reality.

Then there is the bystander that happens to hear or see the gaslighting going on. To them it's not gaslighting because they don't know the truth anyway...but it becomes information to them that is false but to them may as well be the truth and then you have them as well having false impressions of you.

Just my view of how maybe it can be.
" A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking, because its trust is not on the branch but on its own wings.

Believe in yourself ".


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Moon Shadow

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Re: Let's Talk About Gaslighting
« Reply #3 on: May 15, 2013, 07:53:35 PM »
I was gaslighted all the time from my mother. She still does it.  And on some level, the little kid in me still believes her when she does it.   Her most famous thing to say if she is put on the spot about something she did is "I don't remember".  Period.  End of story.   If it escalates somehow past that, she will next say "you always exaggerate, Moon Shadow".   Or "you are trying to hurt me by this and I don't know why".   Or "you've got something wrong going on your head".

This week my mother gaslighted me several times in several angry emails.  Now that I understand about gaslighting, I can identify those things.   When you are a child and told that what you remember wasn't true, it leaves you with utter confusion and low self esteem.  You immediately feel shameful, even though you were right and you KNEW you were right, but then the guilt comes in to play and you start to think "gee, maybe I AM crazy".

Gaslighting to me is a form of lying.  It's a way to turn the blame away from yourself and on to others.   My mother LOVES to blame everybody else for her problems, and never accepts blame herself. 

When I think about it, gaslighting was the #1 abuse I got from Mom growing up.   It is still so hard to believe in what I know, what I saw, and most importantly WHAT I FEEL.   When you are told what you feel emotionally is not true, it shatters the soul.

Moon Shadow

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jchick

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Re: Let's Talk About Gaslighting
« Reply #4 on: May 15, 2013, 08:20:14 PM »
Varga -

You really are a Hero Member!

 I wish there was an emoticon to express sincere appreciation; the best I can do is:  :worship:

Thank you for this tremendously valuable contribution. I'll be printing it and reading it carefully - daily.

JC
« Last Edit: May 15, 2013, 08:23:19 PM by jchick »

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practicingacceptance

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Re: Let's Talk About Gaslighting
« Reply #5 on: May 15, 2013, 09:39:30 PM »
thanks Varja. however reading this has sent triggers, it is good to be reminded. validating what i have been through (33 years of brainwashing, gaslighting and abuse from ex) helps me to remember that it is not me that is crazy. recovering your identity/reality is a daily job once conditioned in this manner. i can't imagine what kidnap victims like the 3 women in Cleveland ar going through.

it is so important to recognize and admonish behavior against abuse of any kind. just today an older man was spewing disrespectful comments about "owning women" and keeping younger ones for one reason or another to another man (right in front of me!) at a local business.  :aaauuugh:  i wanted to kick him in the nuts! but i refrained, gave him a dirty look and when he left, i spoke up to the other man about it. he apologized to me for the chauvinist but it did feel empowering to speak my truth.

i feel angry right now but i think it is appropriate if it keeps me in a safer place. i read and learned about gaslighting early on in my recovery from C-PTSD and another good book which you may have read is: The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans. my ex was extremely manipulative and employed gaslighting tactics daily.

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musiclover

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Re: Let's Talk About Gaslighting
« Reply #6 on: May 15, 2013, 11:54:18 PM »
Good information. Thank you for posting. I want to share this with my sister.

Gaslighting, to me, is an amazing technique. some people just seem to be naturals at using it. I don't understand where they learned how to do it. Did they practice it when they were children on other kids? I've only known adults who use it. I've heard kids lie to cover up things. Does gaslighting start out as plain old lying and then move on from there?
Winston Churchill: "You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life.”

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SolarFlare

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Re: Let's Talk About Gaslighting
« Reply #7 on: May 15, 2013, 11:59:31 PM »
Varja,

Fantastic  post! That should be required reading in the chosen and unchosen boards.

Excellent resource.

The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans
That is also where I first learned about what was going on. I caught it too many times and was driving me insane with it. After that...things slowly turned around.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2013, 12:07:47 AM by SolarFlare »

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corky

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Re: Let's Talk About Gaslighting
« Reply #8 on: May 16, 2013, 12:05:19 AM »
Great--thanks Varja. What a lot of memories that triggered. I believe mine did it (and he was a pro) to distract me from his cheating. He started it early on with the "I didn't say that" or "I did say that" and lots of "oh honey, you know how bad your memory is"---always said in the sweetest way. It got to the point that I just went along with his version of things even when I KNEW in the back of my head that it was wrong. With me...the rationalization in my mind was "why would someone who was so in love with me lie over something trivial?" and since I couldn't answer that logically I just had to go along with it. I never once doubted his love for me & if I had taken off the love goggles I might have seen what was going on.  :stars:

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gb5

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Re: Let's Talk About Gaslighting
« Reply #9 on: May 16, 2013, 10:45:11 AM »
I was gaslighted by the boss at my last full time job. It wasn't until it was all over and I had been let go that I discovered what had happened to me. It took place over four or five years. I was criticized for things I never did or said. My written evaluations were "lost" so that I could not see them. I was told that parents and students said things about me that I now believe were never said. The mantra thrown at me all the time was "you are too negative" to the point that I began to become negative at work--I was so afraid of a word or action being thrown back at me as "negative" that I was paralyzed half the time. The last year, I was informed that I was on some sort of unofficial imaginary probation based on all the negativity about the school I posted on Facebook. Except that my page was private; I had no friends from the school, and I never posted about work there. Another victim, who lost his job at the same time, was put on the same "probation" (no paperwork, no written evaluations, no hearing, nothing...) for the same Facebook offense and he had no Facebook account at all. Circumstances allowed us both to not have our contracts renewed (private school, no union, no tenure, and a situation where there was temporarily no superintendent allowing this principal to make decisions with absolutely no accountability to anyone else for a three month period that included contract renewals and hiring for the next year).

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Moon Shadow

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Re: Let's Talk About Gaslighting
« Reply #10 on: May 16, 2013, 11:04:13 AM »
Here's gaslighting at it's finest: a cautionary tale:

When I was 17, my boyfriend and I had just come home from a date, and my mother and evil step father were fighting.  It was going to become very violent and it was terrifying to hear.  We did not have a phone.  My mother screamed  "go call the police"!!

My boyfriend and I raced to the nearest pay phone and called the cops.   I was shaking.  He was shaking.  It was pretty traumatic.  I didn't know what I would find when we raced back home.

When we returned to the house, the police were there.  My mother stood there and told them she had  not called the cops.  She told them that we did.  I said "Mom! You're the one who  TOLD me to go call them".   She said "I DID NOT".  Then she pointed to my boyfriend and said "you're not welcome here after calling the cops - go home".

Now, I have to tell you after writing this.... that I ACCEPTED the gaslighting. I was 17.  I knew she was lying through her teeth but I began to feel tremendous guilt and shame, doubted everything,  and allowed myself to be their scapegoat.      It takes years of conditioning to get us to that point, folks, and years to figure it out.   But once we do, we can't un-ring that bell.   The scales have fallen from our eyes, thanks to wonderful people like Varja who share this information with all of us.

I can guarantee you right now today, that I ever brought up this story to my mother, she would  say  "I don't remember that".


Thanks Varja!

Moon Shadow

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Lily

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Re: Let's Talk About Gaslighting
« Reply #11 on: May 16, 2013, 11:05:59 AM »
Thanks Varja. Great post! When I began coming to OOTF I was so confused about what had happened to me, who I was, what I was actually accountable for and what xH was accountable for that I was a mess. This sort of abusive technique had my mind reeling. I just could not understand it and had the impression that I was incredibly stupid as to not have known what was going on. There was just such a jumbled mess of impressions and experiences in my head and so much fog stopping me from being able to see anything at all. I think what's important here is to stress the fact that gaslighting is not something that the victim can look at and say "Aha! You're doing it again, I've caught you this time!" because when it is being directed at you it just looks like a normal person doing something as banal as having a normal conversation while sipping on their coffee. We, as parents, might even make the mistake of doing it to our children by doing this sort of thing:
Parent: "Put a pullover on, it's cold".
Child: "I'm not cold"
Parent: "Yes, you are! How can you not be cold, it's freezing! Put a pullover on or you can't go outside to play".
We innocently teach our children to not listen to their OWN bodies, feelings, impressions by engaging in this sort of behaviour.

Quote
With me...the rationalization in my mind was "why would someone who was so in love with me lie over something trivial?" and since I couldn't answer that logically I just had to go along with it. I never once doubted his love for me & if I had taken off the love goggles I might have seen what was going on.
Corky, that is my experience and even MY WORDS! I've said those exact same words (give or take) to friends many times since xH and I split up 2 and a half years ago. Uncanny, isn't it?  :bigwink: There is surely nothing more validating that this website, posts like this or comments like this that could have come out of our mouths.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2013, 11:10:50 AM by Lily »
The truth sets you free

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Lily

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Re: Let's Talk About Gaslighting
« Reply #12 on: May 16, 2013, 11:40:12 AM »
..I also just wanted to add one example of gaslighting from my experience in case it can help anyone to understand just how banal it can seem but how toxic it is and how far-reaching the consequences are.

xH rather fancies himself as a guru on parenting. He doesn't so much parent as control his own children, to such an extent that they all made the decision to leave and go and live with their mother when they reached adolescence and started becoming "uncontrollable" and less childishly trusting. Needless to say, he made it his "work" to judge, criticise and undermine me where my children were concerned. He managed to set himself up as such a knowledgable parent in my eyes that I always felt like he knew better and that I was, in fact, doing something wrong when he said I was. Which was all the time, of course. His daughter lived with us until she was 13 and she was everything he would accuse me of my children being: rude, unruly, disrespectful.  Often he would shake his head when I was having a conversation with one of my children and when asked why, he'd say something like "He just took you for a complete ride. You let him get away with speaking to you like that?" My children were 6 and 8 when we split up and they are good, little kids. I was always second-guessing myself and wondering how I wasn't seeing that their behaviour was bad. Well, one day, we were at the table, xH's parents were spending a few days with us and my children were at their father's. xH announced to his parents that he and I were going on holiday, just the two of us, and asked if one of them could come and take care of his daughter while we were away. She looked at him and said "Well, I don't give a s**t what you have to say about it but you're taking me with you too." I couldn't believe my ears when xH said "Ok, if you want to." I couldn't understand how he could let her speak to him like that and I couldn't believe that he would say yes WITHOUT consulting me first (he often accused me of making decisions without asking him first - something which I was certain I didn't do). I was very angry, went very quiet, didn't want to make a fuss in front of his parents and just went on eating my dinner.
After dinner when he asked me what was wrong I tried to tell him that he had behaved in all the ways he was always accusing me of behaving and I just couldn't understand it and he answered me, "I thought you were more intelligent than that Lily. I reacted the way I did to teach my daughter a lesson. How could you not see that?" What? What lesson? Furthermore, he did no such thing and by making me doubt my capacity to see his incredibly, intelligent parenting technique by trying to make me feel stupid he gaslighted me into not being able to understand what the heck had happened. I now see the entire thing for what it was but back then, I just felt stupid at not being able to follow the great parenting technique he was engaging in.

I hope I explained it clearly.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2013, 11:43:14 AM by Lily »
The truth sets you free

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jchick

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Re: Let's Talk About Gaslighting
« Reply #13 on: May 16, 2013, 04:25:50 PM »
It is super-important that folks understand what gaslighting is and isn't.

Remember: gaslighting is always an intentional, nefarious effort to undermine the victim's confidence in their memory and observations.

We, as parents, might even make the mistake of doing it to our children by doing this sort of thing:
Parent: "Put a pullover on, it's cold".
Child: "I'm not cold"
Parent: "Yes, you are! How can you not be cold, it's freezing! Put a pullover on or you can't go outside to play".
We innocently teach our children to not listen to their OWN bodies, feelings, impressions by engaging in this sort of behaviour.

I think what's described above isn't even close to gaslighting - and I'm concerned that people might think it could be.

I'm also worried when people read negativity into honest communications. So, lets think about the above scenario a minute.

The parent says it's cold. Perhaps the parent does think it's cold. Maybe it isn't cold, but the parent is cold anyway. Maybe the parent worries the child might be cold, or might suffer a chill later and get sick. Those are honest, valid reasons for concern & for instructing the child to put on a pull-over.

Yes, the child says he/she's not cold. It would be nice if the parent validated those feelings by saying, "I understand, however...." But depending on the parent's subjective experience of the temperature - or even their irrational fear for the child's well-being - the parent may not think the child's assertion is valid.

True, that parent may be teaching the child to discount his or her own experiences - or the parent may be teaching the child to recognize their physical states where the child's attention is completely directed on "I want to go play!"

How many times as children did we all stay in the water 'til our lips were blue, entering the beginning stages of hypothermia, but we were having so much fun we didn't realize it?

Again, it always comes back to the intention of the purported gaslighter.

If the person's intention is to express their honest difference of subjective opinion - however irrational - and however coercive - and they actively convince the other person of something they honestly believe is true, that's not gaslighting. It may fall into another category of unhealthy, unconstructive behavior, but again, it's not gaslighting.

If their intention is malicious - to induce fear and doubt and uncertainty and confusion - then you've got gaslighting.

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SolarFlare

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Re: Let's Talk About Gaslighting
« Reply #14 on: May 16, 2013, 08:56:57 PM »
 :yeahthat:

It's the Intention. Completely agree Jchick. Many things we do or think may not be the "accepted" norm or what have you. And to apply gaslighting to asking a child to put on a sweater is over the top.

My H, is a master Gaslighter, he still tries to pull it over my eyes...but, no go. I don't fight it, I log it. Nothing to be done. You cannot fight that method, but need to aware of it and trust your gut and KNOW that what you heard and saw is what it was and not allow them to rewrite it for you. He can rewrite all he wants, doesn't mean I buy into it though.