Who Turned The Light Down? “Gaslighting”

“It all depends on how we look at things, and not how they are in themselves.” – Carl Jung

I have had many clients that have come in to work on their self-doubt and self-perception with an inability to know themselves or how to decide anything because they have continually been discounted and put down by another person overtime. Often they don’t know what they like or dislike. They soon realize that they were abused so slyly and consistently that they might come to question or doubt their own sanity, and wonder if they are going crazy.

The word gaslighting is taken from the 1938 play Gas Light and the 1944 movie Gas Light starring Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman. The name of the movie inspired the basis of the expression gaslighting because it describes a systematic way of methodically and repeatedly manipulating a person’s sense of their perceptive reality causing self-doubt about one’s own mental state and a rational mind over time. The main plot in the movie is about the husband who tries to talk his wife into insanity and make others believe she has lost her sound mind when he used psychological manipulation by always saying that she is mistaken, incorrect, or her memory is wrong. He did this by using the little things such as ever so slightly dimming down the gas light on the wall as he searched for treasure in the attic or moving her keys from where she knew she had placed them and then said she didn’t remember doing it. She noticed these subtle changes and tells him about it. He is adamant that she is just imagining where she put the keys or the change in the gas light’s brightness.

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 and psychological manipulation 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, 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” girlfriend/wife/employee/ friend; daughter.
  15. You find yourself withholding information from friends and family so you don’t have to explain or make excuses.

Resisting Gaslighters

Since the 1970s the word gaslighting has been used to describe this phenomena of mental abuse. Victor Santoro’s book Gaslighting: How to Drive Your Enemies Crazy, delineates the use of legal schemes that might be used to bother or annoy others. Gaslighting can happen in any relationship, marital, work, sibling, etc.. Gaslighters leave you feeling drained, confused, and second-guessing yourself. Something is not right, and you can’t say exactly what it is. Skilled gaslighters are intent on altering your perception and  reality. It is the gaslighters persistent intent to control you when there is a power differential such as your boss, or an authority figure that is emotionally entangled with you that is most difficult to resist.

One of the main ways to refuse to give into gaslighters is to be able to trust yourself and your personal judgments or conclusions because the gaslighter wants only their own ideas to be accepted.

There are three simple ways to avoid being triggered by a gaslighter, Here are a few ideas to consider.

  1. Keep it short.  Gaslighters cause confusion. Even if you use logic, facts, and reasoning it will be trivialized and distorted.
  2. Slow down.  Give up the need to immediately respond with your own point of view, take your time.
  3. Form over content.  Stay calm and don’t lose your temper this is a good antidote to neutralize the gaslighter’s behavior by being able to withhold your emotional reaction.

“Above all things, never be afraid. The enemy who forces you to retreat is himself afraid of you at that very moment.  −Andre Maurois (1885 – 1967)

“Observe your enemies, for they first find out your faults.” −Antisthenes (445 BC – 365 BC)

© Ozimkiewicz


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