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  • Writer's pictureSusan Stubbings

Gaslighting - the nerve of it!

The Art of Gaslighting!

The art of Gaslighting - is how a person behaves to gain power and control over others. What this manipulative behaviour does to its victims is mold them into a way which serves the perpetrator. We are all vulnerable to being gaslighted by others especially in times of stress, illness or when we are young and impressionable for example. The Gaslighting process is used by those we would think of as Narcissist, Sociopaths, those who dictate, by those who want some control over others, cult leaders, those who need power over others, it is a form of emotional abuse, which disorientates victims in a slow process, so the victim doesn’t see what is really happening.

Gaslighting is a form of brainwashing and interrogation it tortures and torments the targeted person. It is seen in marital relationships that are conflicted or where domestic violence is used to control, it can be seen in those people who abuse children. The abuser 'grooms' the adult or child into believing they are at fault, they are the bad one, the dirty one, they say no one will believe them if they tell, or if they tell something bad will happen. So the victims remain silent, keep the abusers secret by not telling. The abuser has manipulated them both emotionally and psychologically into believing something or things that are not true.

The victim begins to doubt their memories, perceptions, reality eventually becomes so confused by the abusers, lying, rewriting history, deflections, denying and contradictions it destabilises the victims and invalidates their experiences. No one talks about the violent relationship or the abuse so the victim only has the abusers words to go on. The victim must be mistaken then if no one validates what has happened and the victims view of reality is distorted.

Gaslighting can also be seen in those who bully others, or in lovers where one hath the upper hand and the other complies in fear of being abandoned or afraid the lover will leave them if they don't do as they are told! It can be seen in bosses who manipulate workers into doing it 'their' way without negotiation and it can be seen in friendships where the ethos is "my way or the high way"

It can be seen in those who are in leadership positions for example, recently Donald Trump’s press secretary was adamant about the numbers of supporters attending the inauguration comparing Trumps crowd to Obama’s crowd, Spicer was insisting the crowd “was the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration”. Only to be shown how wrong that statement was when pictures of the crowd at the two inaugurations, Obamas outshone Trumps by millions of people. This is one of the techniques Gaslighting use since those who use this technique use blatant lies to manipulate, confuse and contradict.

It is an art because the perpetrator who uses this behaviour does so knowingly and with precision. Perpetrators motto is "slowly slowly catch the monkey” Gaslighting is a subtle slow process so the victim is not aware of what's really happening, hence the target is 'brainwashed', i.e. persuaded, conditioned, programmed and convinced to "hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil". What the abuser achieves is the victim sees and hears and believes this is 'normal’ behaviour. Its not it is subtle behaviour which ‘tricks’ the victim into thinking whatever goes wrong where the perpetrator is concerned is their fault, some victims come to believe ‘they are wrong’ as a person this can lead the victim to endure toxic shame about being alive, being who they are and guilty for all they think, feel and do.

What Gaslighting does to its target is make them question anything and everything they do, say, feel, think or believe. Questioning is a good thing if we don’t question we don’t grow, learn and develop our minds, beliefs or views this affects how we make decision in life, when caught up in Gaslighting we become an extension of the person using it, we become almost a clone of the perpetrator because our survival instinct is do or die!

Gaslighting is made up of many tricks to encapsulate its victims for example:

Withholding information only giving half-truths, lying through omission. Unashamedly lie with a smile on their face or laughing at you inside knowing what they are saying is not true, once they start telling you lies they have begun to set up the pattern which will become the normal way of being with you, continually setting you up to fail.

Blocking controlling and manipulating conversations “I’ve already told you”, I’m not going over this again” if someone wants to find a solution they are willing to talk until the cows come home blocking conversation stops any solution being found.

Diverting either refusing to answer questions or comment and change the subject, the conversation is diverted away from what was asked and, in many cases, the gaslighter will cause an argument whereby blaming the victim for asking or making a comment in the first place. In the arguing the reason the question was asked has got lost as emotions become intense and the 'fault' for the argument will be laid directly at the victim’s feet.

Minimizing/Maximizing the perpetrator minimizes what they do and maximizes what the victim does. If the behaviour of the victim is seen as criticizing, negative, you may have actually said something nice or positive to the abuser but they will take it like you have wounded them in the heart with a knife and 'show' you your misgivings which leaves you confused and self-doubting, over and over and over again.

Abusive forgetting and denying what happened, what was said, how something was, how it is in reality will be selectively forgotten or denied so you will be destabilize throw off the sent of something else especially if you have questioned something they have done.

They use your past against you what you disclosed to them about your past in the beginning of your relationship which seemed to bring you closer together connecting you to each other. Further down the line they will use it against you to attack you and point out what they call your failing, faults or weakness this might be about a broken marriage, a childhood issue or something which will weaken your self-esteem and core of who you are. They confuse you on purpose to destabilize you and keep you in a state of disorientation questioning self, so you don’t see what is really happening.

Black V white you know they said something for example, told you they were going to a conference, to the shops or that they told you about seeing someone when out and about or they said they would do something. You have no doubt that they said it, but when you mention it they flatly deny they ever said it, you start questioning your reality and they double whammy you at a later date by asking you if you remember when they went to the conference, to the shop or when they saw that certain someone. You say something like “I thought you said you didn’t go or see when I mentioned it before”. They then deny that conversation ever took place and you question if you are going mad, crazy, or losing your mind! They swear black is white and then white is black!

Withdrawing - every good thing they offered you in the beginning of your relationship i.e. empathy, kindness, caring, love, affection, understanding, compassion, attention, non-judgementalness, joy, interest, confidence, cheerfulness, etc will be withdrawn slowly and systematically and replaced with negativity, confusion, disorientation, anxiety, depression, anger, they will strongly deny, lie, cheat and unscrupulously scheme insidiously, until you are broken down bit by bit until you are unable to function in some cases. In others a persons identity is eroded and lo, exposed to Gaslighting for any length of time.

Gaslighting - Effect

This is in adults so imagine what a child goes through because their identity is still being constructed! Children grow physically into an adult, their bodies don't stop maturing because it was abused, gaslighting is just one of the things which stop a child telling the truth of their childhood abuse. There are other dynamics that also help the 'stop telling' and an adult has a long journey until they can actually 'tell' anyone what happened to them as a child.

The above behaviours will be interspersed with all the good stuff from time to time so you are kept on the hook swinging on the abusers pendulum of emotional chaos unable to think for yourself. This is how abusers bond their victims making it almost impossible to leave the relationship, both physically and emotionally, they take away your hope of life ever being any different instilling in you that this is all you are worth!

Very clever aren’t they! The abuser has nerves of steel whilst they squash others!

Gaslighting evokes the victim to become confused, insecure, untrusting of their own thoughts, questioning ‘if’ what they heard, saw, felt, sensed is true or correct. It holds the victim in an emotional state of fear and anguish, confusion, disorientation which can create depression, suicidal ideations or intentions when in an abusive relationship for some time and questioning their own perceptions, memories or judgements.

From many people’s lips I’ve heard “Am I going mad”? or “I’m crazy” NO you are not the perpetrator is manipulating their targets every move sowing seeds of doubt every which way you turn. In the case of a child who is now an adult the abuse of gaslighting is enveloped within their very make up and it takes a lot of might, courage and patience to open that enveloped and see what is really there, since it has been stuck down for many many years! Has left them with layer upon layer of repression, suppression, fear and terror and for some mental health problems. All these thing have to be worked through before getting to the core issues.

If you feel you are the victim of Gaslighting and want to understand more contact me for an initial appointment to work through your fears and anxieties .... this is your first step to you becoming the real you, the you that you want to be and not the one someone else created by bad abusive behaviours. Gaslighting leaves victims with multidimensional issues to eventually solve, but take heart all these dynamics can be healed and you can live the life you choose.

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