Gaslighting was a way of life for me while married to my narcissistic ex-husband. I just didn’t know. Later, when I became aware of the various gaslighting techniques, I realized that I had been a naive victim of this technique. Maybe I shouldn’t say gullible. The truth is that many victims of narcissistic abuse do not discern what is happening because their own hearts are not evil. People have a tendency to perceive reality through the lens of their own motivations. If their motivations are pure, it rarely occurs to them that others have bad intentions.
I frequently receive emails from victims of narcissistic abuse. Often, I try to point out and describe gaslighting because it takes clarity and intention to successfully leave an abuser. So first let me start with a concrete definition.
Here is the Wikipedia entry as a basic understanding:
gaslighting It is a form of psychological manipulation which seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a target individual or members of a target group, making them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. using persistent denialmisdirection, contradiction and lyingtry destabilize the victim and delegitimize the victim’s belief.
Keep in mind that gaslighting can happen to one person as well as to a specific group of people. Gaslighting is commonly used by dictators and cult leaders who are, after all, just narcissists with real power. Still not sure if you have a boss, partner or friend who is cheating on you? Look for these signs:
An abuser will absolutely deny that the events occurred, even if they can provide proof. This, in itself, can destabilize a sane person. An abuser will vehemently deny that he or she said such and such or that there is any truth to what you are saying. Doing this over and over again is actually a form of mind control. We start to believe other people’s versions of reality if they really stick to their story.
A narcissist often lies outright. Our general dedication to keeping the peace and avoiding public confrontation often prevents us from saying anything. But this lie is deliberate. It keeps the victim in a state of anxiety about everything the narcissist says. The narcissist’s game plan is to keep his victim from guessing her next move. If they can get you to accept what they say without comment, they have set a precedent that allows them to play with reality.
Gaslighting tries to move the victim away from support. A common method used is to tell the victim that mutual friends said terrible things about the victim. This drives a wedge in the victim’s mind between him or her and her friends, even if they question the abuser’s veracity. Often an experienced gaslighter will say things like Nobody really likes you. You are very lucky to have me by your side. They want to ensure your loyalty so they can better manipulate you.
Gaslighting is always an attempt to gain psychological control of another person. One way to do this is to harshly criticize the victim and then offer a couple of compliments. What this does is make those compliments seem genuinely worthwhile and so-called character flaws are to be avoided at all costs. Someone who wants to please will fall for it every time.
I was kidding! You are too sensitive. stop taking everything so seriously says the seasoned sociopath. This is another way to pull the emotional rug out of someone. It simultaneously invalidates the victim’s true feelings while bailing the narcissist off the hook. This becomes the abuser’s free ticket out of jail. After all, they didn’t really mean it. Or did they?
Gaslighting goes all out when it comes to seizing power. And one way an adult bully does this is by humiliating their victim in public with devastating put-downs. I remember a man casually telling me how lazy and stupid his wife was while she stood speechless with her head bowed. She didn’t protest because she had been married to this sleaze for twenty years. I guess she believed it.
One of the ways my ex-husband tried to brainwash me was by misrepresenting and reframing situations. The things he had done were my fault. At one point, he spent eight hours a night trying to convince me that he was destroying the family by working as an instructor at a local university instead of a factory. He himself never had a job during our marriage. At that moment, I was on him and I knew he was a destroyer. His parents were very confused by his crusade and why he would want him to take a lower paying job that required many more hours.
Burnout wears a person out quickly. He would wake me up and often the kids too and insist that we redo the chores we hadn’t done correctly. I was just helping the kids to be responsible, she said. He would make riots and empty the cupboards. and drawers because he was not willing to live in a pigsty, according to his version of reality. I complied because then I could go back to sleep faster. He, however, slept most of the day and was up all night. Exhaustion wears down a person’s struggle. A boss who doesn’t give you time to recover may be making fun of you.
Do not, under any circumstances, give in to these gaslighting techniques. If you’re the type to blame yourself for problems, you should take special note of any gaslighting techniques. I always tell every woman who emails me to see a therapist who is an expert on this if you can. Sometimes we just need an outside tip to see what is directly in front of us.
And as a warning, I want to end with the scene where Jesus is judging the flock in Matthew 25. The righteous ask When did we see you hungry? Jesus’ answer is that every time they fed the poor, they fed Him. But the unjust ask the same question. When did we see you hungry? Their answer is that when they did not feed the poor, they neglected it.
But the question itself is an attempt to enlighten Jesus when asked by the unjust. The question that in the heart of a person of integrity is about humility becomes an attempt to question Jesus’ version of reality in the hearts of the unjust. In the heart of the cruel, the question when we saw you becomes an attempt to deny any wrongdoing. But the unjust do not perceive the magnitude of their affront to Jesus, who is the Reality.
Do not be fooled. Abusers seek absolute control of you and your life. They are slippery fiends but they are fiends nonetheless.
Discipline and abuse: discerning the difference