Gaslighting! What is it? Well, it’s not lighting gas for a stove, a fireplace, or a grill if that’s what you’re thinking. If you go look it up on the internet, Google will yield about 3.9 million results. Probably 3.9 of those are correct. That’s a gross exaggeration, but you get the point.
“Gaslighting is the deliberate, malicious, and manipulative practice to deflect attention away from oneself back onto the other person, blaming them, in order to instill self-doubt, question their own memory, perception of reality, and in the process, their own safety, security, and sanity in their own environment.”
Confused? You should be. If you’re reading about it, and your perpetrator has done it effectively, you should be totally confused. After all, that is one of their intentions. The good news is, there is a solution for it.
It’s no secret that I love movies. I am somewhat of a movie buff (although those that know me most would probably argue, “critic”). I like many different genres of movies; including some of the older classics like “Gone With the Wind”, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, and “Casablanca”. There have also been several that featured gaslighting in one form or another. “Gaslight”, an Alfred Hitchcock film, set the standard for gaslighting movies. Paula Alquist (the late Ingrid Bergman) was systematically gaslighted into believing she was going insane by her husband, Gregory Anton (the late Charles Boyer) after a very short whirlwind romance that was all a ruse for the sole purpose of infiltrating her late Aunt Alice’s estate following her murder several years earlier. Anton never was interested in Alquist with the exception of her accessibility to her late Aunt’s estate to find the jewels he was unable to locate before he was so abruptly and inadvertently interrupted by Paula during her Aunt’s murder, and fled the scene. A more recent film, the 1991 movie, “Sleeping With the Enemy”, starring Julia Roberts, is another great example of gaslighting.
As we struggle to make sense out of it all, let’s break it down into much smaller pieces we can wrap our head around.
In most cases, this is pretty self explanatory. Generally speaking, it’s the partner in the relationship. It’s a spouse. It’s a love interest. Not always, but predominantly it is. But beware, this could be your boss, your parents, or even a friend that you happen to be in a toxic relationship with. Regardless of who it is, it is an unacceptable practice and an abuse of power and authority in the relationship.
This is also pretty self explanatory because we already defined it above. We know how to define “gaslighting”, but I want to go a step further and add that it is all about manipulation, domination, and control. Now let’s take this opportunity to add clarity to it by giving some real world examples to help solidify the definition for you:
- You second guess whether what you thought you saw was what you actually saw (because he has convinced you that you didn’t see it).
- You draw the conclusion that you are wrong in spite of everything to the contrary within you telling you that you are right.
- Your perpetrator tells you “we never had that conversation” when you know in no uncertain terms that you did.
- Your perpetrator tells you that you “you said you would [pick anything]” when clearly you know that you didn’t.
- You are accusing me of doing things for which you have no proof (like an overwhelming preponderance of the evidence isn’t enough).
- Your perpetrator tells you that you’re delusional, crazy, or you don’t know what you are talking about when you do, but you’re not given any opportunity to prove it.
- If you would have sex with me more often, I wouldn’t seek sexual gratification elsewhere (ouch!)
- Your perpetrator rationalizes that his actions and behaviors stem from your overall unattractiveness (you don’t wear any makeup or the right makeup, you dress like a slut, you don’t dress enough like a slut, you act like a slut, you’re too fat, you’re too old, you’re too ugly, you’re too skinny, and the list goes on and on and on).
WRITER’S NOTE: Never allow another person to ever make you feel inferior, like you are any less of a human being than anyone else. You are beautiful in body, mind, and spirit. Nobody can ever take that away from you unless you allow them.
“Gaslighting never says anything about you. But it always speaks volumes about them.”
At the end of the day, none of it is your fault, for you are never responsible for the actions of another human being. You are only responsible for that of your own.
Gaslighting occurs (in):
- Situations where the perpetrator has an ulterior motive that doesn’t include a meaningful relationship with the victim. He is using you.
- Situations where the perpetrator’s own word/action continuity (alignment), consistency, and conflict come into question where clarity becomes necessary.
- Situations where individuals, in a state of addiction, utilize lies and deceit to patronize, manipulate, and control another individual so as to maintain the relationship, preserve and protect their addiction, and all the actions and behaviors associated with it.
- Situations where you are traumatized, fearful, and doubtful because little bits and pieces of this proverbial puzzle you have seen many times before, and as such, you tend to believe that all of the pieces of the puzzle go together when in fact it’s many different pieces of different puzzles thrown at you all at once. There are just enough identifiable pieces of the puzzle to convince yourself it’s all the same puzzle you’ve been looking at all along.
- This is the most important definition of WHEN. “Repetitively”! Gaslighting isn’t a one and done scenario. It is a persistent consistent perpetuating cycle of abuse that occurs over and over and over again. Wash, rinse, and repeat.
This is just a few examples. Gaslighting is very hurtful, mean, and cruel. Like addiction itself, it continues in a cycle of increasing magnitude, frequency, and duration. And it will continue until such time the victim is armed with the knowledge, education, and experience, and subsequently the courage, to put an end to it. Make no mistake. Gaslighting is abuse on many different levels.
It all happens at home. It occurs behind closed doors, where no one else is around to witness it. The perpetrator doesn’t want anyone else to witness it because deep down inside of them, in places they just don’t want to talk about, they know they are in the wrong. Often times, these individuals have what appears to be a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde persona. To the outside world that knows them, they are the wonderful charismatic Dr. Jekyll. On the inside though, they are the monster that is Mr. Hyde. Neither is a remote reflection of the other. It’s often why others will also question your authenticity when you bring it to bear because just like continuity of his word/action alignment at home doesn’t match, neither does your perception of your Partner to the outside world. Gaslighters are very good actors that have genuinely fooled all of those around them; except for you.
All of these are lies that your perpetrator has told you that leads you to believe that you are in the wrong. You are forced to second guess the very things in life that you already knew to be true. It is done so systematically, so deliberately, happening over such a long period of time, that the victim never quite realizes it is happening to them until the damage is already done. And often, they have been so beaten down by this type of abuse, the desire, the will, and the power to overcome it, fight it, and do something about it, is often lost.
Don’t fall for this tactic anymore. If you know, in your own “gut instincts”, your “women’s intuition”, your “sixth sense”, or whatever you wish to call it what is true, that you are right, DO NOT fall for this tactic. Always trust these things within you, for more often than not, they are usually almost always right. Additionally, it’s also worth noting that if you choose to ignore them, you will lose that internal connection you have, know, and trust that often serves to protect your own self-interests and self-preservation. Like a diamond made out of carbon, with enough time, heat, and pressure, it can blind you, brainwash you, and indoctrinate you into believing what the perpetrator wants you to believe is your reality and your truth.
Gaslighting is often employed by addicts, but also much more sinister reasons as the aforementioned movies demonstrate. Listen up, because this is perhaps the most important message you’re going to get on Gaslighting:
“Gaslighting is inherently dangerous to every aspect of your well being . If you suspect you are being the victim of gaslighting, get help – or at the very least, a second opinion. It is abuse.”
WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT
If you read this, and you:
A) can relate to so many of the aforementioned points
B) spend your time, energy, and effort worrying, wondering, and waiting to see if/when your perception is going to catch up to your reality or vice versa, and
C) find yourself in a perpetual state of disclosure (lack of closure)
There are resources to help you restore your sanity, place trust back into yourself where it belongs, and put a permanent stop to the never-ending abuse that is gaslighting.
If you’re the partner of a porn addict that is gaslighting you we have a Betrayal Trauma Group Coaching service and if you’re a porn addict struggling with gaslighting we have a Porn Addiction Group Coaching service for you if you are in need of gaining accountability, expert knowledge, and community support.
There is no reasonable explanation for gaslighting. There is no reason to play out in your head this endless loop reel like Abbott & Costello’s “Who’s on First.” In the movie “Rainman,” Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) told Raymond “Rainman” Babbitt (Dustin Hoffman) “You’re never going to find out ‘who’s on first’ because ‘WHO is on first.” In spite of you second guessing yourself, your first thoughts? Your original thoughts? All of those thoughts that occurred to you in the very beginning? You were right all along.