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Word of the Day: Gaslighting (revisited)

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Do you know what it is?

Wikipedia says:

Gaslighting or gas-lighting[1] is a form of mental abuse in which false information is presented with the intent of making a victim doubt her or his own memory, perception, and sanity.[2] Instances may range simply from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, up to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim.
The term owes its origin to the play Gas Light and its film adaptations, after which it was coined popularly. Now the term even is used in clinical and research literature.

The Urban Dictionary says:

A more psychological definition of gaslighting is “an increasing frequency of systematically withholding factual information from, and/or providing false information to, the victim – having the gradual effect of making them anxious, confused, and less able to trust their own memory and perception.”

Your spouse begins telling you things that never really happened. For instance, he says that last week he told you he was going to go to the bar with his buddies this Monday night, but you never remember him telling you that.

Or maybe your boss gets angry because you didn’t prepare the report he asked you to. When you remind him that he usually prepares that particular report, he snaps that he told you to take care of it a few days ago because he was too busy. However, you know he never asked you to do so.

Both of these could be considered gaslighting.

by Your Reality Check, May 31, 2009

Dr. Sam Vaknin, author of Toxic Relationships – Abuse and its Aftermath says:

Ambient abuse is the stealth, subtle, underground currents of maltreatment that sometimes go unnoticed even by the victims themselves, until it is too late. Ambient abuse penetrates and permeates everything – but is difficult to pinpoint and identify. It is ambiguous, atmospheric, diffuse. Hence its insidious and pernicious effects. It is by far the most dangerous kind of abuse there is.

It is the outcome of fear – fear of violence, fear of the unknown, fear of the unpredictable, the capricious, and the arbitrary. It is perpetrated by dropping subtle hints, by disorienting, by constant – and unnecessary – lying, by persistent doubting and demeaning, and by inspiring an air of unmitigated gloom and doom (“gaslighting”).

Ambient abuse, therefore, is the fostering, propagation, and enhancement of an atmosphere of fear, intimidation, instability, unpredictability and irritation. There are no acts of traceable explicit abuse, nor any manipulative settings of control. Yet, the irksome feeling remains, a disagreeable foreboding, a premonition, a bad omen.

In the long term, such an environment erodes the victim’s sense of self-worth and self-esteem. Self-confidence is shaken badly. Often, the victim adopts a paranoid or schizoid stance and thus renders himself or herself exposed even more to criticism and judgment. The roles are thus reversed: the victim is considered mentally deranged and the abuser – the suffering soul.

This is all where I am currently, as a result of past gaslighting.

Dr. Robin Stern of Psychology Today says (really you should click on the link and read the entire article, it was very good):

How do you know if you are being gaslighted? If any of the following warning signs ring true, you may be dancing the Gaslight Tango. Take care of yourself by taking another look at your relationship, talking to a trusted friend; and, begin to think about changing the dynamic of your relationship . Here are the signs:

  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.

Remember, there is good news about identifying the Gaslight Effect. The good news is that knowledge is power. Once you can name this all too insidious dynamic, you can work towards changing the dynamic, or getting out — take back your reality, and, get more enjoyment from your life and your relationship!

My father and husband have been doing this to me all my life. Loserman did it, too. I was always told that ‘being emotional’ was a weakness and that having cry-baby feelings like mine would get me nowhere in life.

I frequently think I am crazy; hallucinating things. On numerous occasions, I have said to Doom-n-Gloom, “I must be going crazy, because nothing ever is how I remember it with you.”

“It is perpetrated by dropping subtle hints, by disorienting, by constant – and unnecessary – lying, by persistent doubting and demeaning…”

We would have arguments, and when I would ‘call him out’ on a mistake he would tell me that isn’t how it happened and relate some strange story that didn’t happen in the real world (at least not how I remember it happened), or direct everything back at me.

In fact, I even Gaslight myself: telling myself that I am overreacting, that it really can’t be how it seems. I doubt myself and my feelings. I tell myself that my feelings don’t matter, that they are too intense and irrational.

Do you have a ‘gaslighter’ in your life?

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6 thoughts on “Word of the Day: Gaslighting (revisited)

  1. Darling girl, I so know how you feel. And I’ll just remind you … Everything about you matters – EVERYTHING X

Talk to me :-)

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