- manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.
Gaslighting or gas-lighting is a form of mental abuse in which information is twisted or spun, selectively omitted to favor the abuser, or false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity.
*From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
What is Gaslighting?
The Gaslight Effect results from a relationship between two people: a gaslighter, who needs to be right in order to preserve his own sense of self and his sense of having power in the world; and a gaslightee, who allows the gaslighter to defend his sense of reality because she idealizes him and seeks his approval.
Gaslighters and gaslightees can be of either gender, and gaslighting can happen in any type of relationship. But I’m going to call gaslighters “he” and gaslightees “she,” since that’s the pairing I most often see in my practice.
I give the gaslighting effect special focus on the infidelity recovery institute’s website, as manipulation is so so common when it comes to adultery. The unfaithful spouse makes up unbelievable stories in order to carryout the adulterous relationship. Leaving the faithful spouse wondering if in fact they’re losing their mind.
Once the affair is out in the open, the affair recovery process takes such a long time, as the betrayed spouse tries to make sense of the history of lies, deceit, and manipulation. With the truth too hard to accept, but too hurtful to ignore, life becomes a living hell. Besides, the gaslightee does not want to loose her man, and he knows it.
Many cheaters/manipulators will blame their spouse for causing them to have an affair. The betrayed spouse feeling guilty for putting their cheating spouse in a position to violate “their values.”
Does this sound like you?
CHECK FOR THESE TWENTY TELLTALE SIGNS
Gaslighting may not involve all of these experiences or feelings, but if you recognize yourself in any of them, give it extra attention.
- You are constantly second-guessing yourself.
- You ask yourself, “Am I too sensitive?” a dozen times a day.
- You often feel confused and even crazy at work.
- You’re always apologizing to your mother, father, boyfriend, boss.
- You wonder frequently if you are a “good enough” girlfriend/wife/employee/friend/daughter.
- You can’t understand why, with so many apparently good things in your life, you aren’t happier.
- You buy clothes for yourself, furnishings for your apartment, or other personal purchases with your partner in mind, thinking about what he would like instead of what would make you feel great.
- You frequently make excuses for your partner’s behavior to friends and family.
- You nd yourself withholding information from friends and family so you don’t have to explain or make excuses.
- You know something is terribly wrong, but you can never quite express what it is, even to yourself.
- You start lying to avoid the put-downs and reality twists.
- You have trouble making simple decisions.
- You think twice before bringing up certain seemingly innocent topics of conversation.
- Before your partner comes home, you run through a checklist in your head to anticipate anything you might have done wrong that day.
- You have the sense that you used to be a very di erent person—more con dent, more fun-loving, more relaxed.
- You start speaking to your husband through his secretary so you don’t have to tell him things you’re afraid might upset him.
- You feel as though you can’t do anything right.
- Your kids begin trying to protect you from your partner.
- You find yourself furious with people you’ve always gotten along with before.
- You feel hopeless and joyless.
Also – do you find yourself in the same type of relationship over and over again? I will explain to you what happens…. Bookmark this page!
Gaslighing techniques (3 Stages):
The Idealization Stage:
During the initial “idealization stage”, the narcissist puts on their “best face” in order to mould their victim into a symbiotic relationship with them as their narcissistic supply.
In the beginning of the relationship the narcissist showers the victim with attention, they are loving, charming, flirtatious, energetic, exciting, and great fun to be with. They appear to be so happy and interested in the relationship, and the unsuspecting victim enjoys every moment with their new charismatic partner.
They love how the narcissist is so beautifully intense and how they get drunk on life, and they too want to drink this elixir with them. Intense bonding begins for the victim, and innocently, they also believe that the partner feels the same way about them, that the relationship is reciprocal, but this is the narcissist’s biggest deception.
Caught up in this alluring state of euphoria, the victim becomes “hooked” by the gaslighter’s exuberance and grandiose exaggerations.
In this kind of relationship, victims are known to experience biochemical changes in the body and structural changes in the brain. These exciting hooks create a release of chemicals (endorphins) in the brain, and it is these endorphins (or pleasure substances) that make the victim feel the euphoria in the first phase of the relationship.
Like any addict, they become addicted to that high, and very soon they find themselves hooked emotionally to their narcissistic suitor too. However, this honeymoon phase is only an illusion, all smoke and mirrors. Having expertly determined the victim’s strengths and weaknesses, the “Idealization Phase” is over, and it is time for the devaluation stage of the gaslighting to begin.
From here on in, the narcissist seems to turn cold, unfeeling, and even bitingly cruel.
The Devaluation Stage:
The relationship has now shifted into the “devaluation phase”, and it is as if a lethal freak fog has descended over the relationship. Almost overnight the narcissist becomes decisively cold and uncaring.
The victim’s falls from grace is a hard one, they cannot seem to do anything right anymore; the narcissists loving words turn to criticism, everything the victim tries ends in a negative effect, and they find themselves devalued at every turn. Totally confused, the victim has no idea what is happening, and they become increasingly stressed, unhappy and depressed with the situation.
The roller-coaster relationship leaves the victim in a state of constant chaos, as if always “walking on eggshells”. All their energy is directed at defending themselves, so the narcissist is not getting the positive attention that they crave; this is likely to be the time when the narcissist starts to look for a fresh provider of narcissistic supply.
The narcissist gaslighting is now at its peak, and there is no reasoning with them. Confused by the narcissist’s bizarre behaviour, the victim works harder and harder to please their abuser in the hopes of getting the relationship back to where it was in the start, when it felt safe. Deprived of their “narcissistic drug”, the victim is suddenly thrown into strong withdrawal symptoms. They are distraught with anxiety, turned inside out with confusion, and bereft of what they though they had, a soul-mate. In order to cope with the pain of this deep wound of abandonment and rejection, they escape into a range of unconscious defense mechanisms (a mix of denial, rationalization, infantile regressive patterns, cognative dissonance, trauma bonding etc.). Alone and isolated from the real world, these behaviours becomes their only way of surviving the narcissistic abuse, and the gaslighting they are now experiencing.
No matter what they do, they only seem to create narcissistic injury to this stranger, and each time they do that, they inadvertently release an almighty rage down upon themselves (without even knowing how they are doing it). By merely engaging in these survival tactics, the victim becomes the hostage that is overly dependent on their captive (Stockholm Syndrome), where unpredictability and uncertainty is the order of their day. As a result, they are now caught in the macabre dance with the narcissist’s pathological grandiose self, where hell reigns supreme, and they regress into infantile regressive patterns of behaviour (Regressed Infantilism).
At this stage they are most likely suffering the effects of Narcissistic Victim Syndrome (NVS), where they are reduced to a shadow of their former self. Finally they are at the mercy of the whims and pleasures of their “puppet master”.
The narcissist despises who their supply person has become; they view them as powerless, inferior and worthless victims, but at the same time, their worthless prey is providing them with a bountiful amount of narcissistic supply. Therein lays the paradox; the more the victim shows their distress, the more they become narcissistic supply for the abuser, and the more important and powerful the abuser gets to feel. The more important and powerful the abuser feels, the more blatant their verbal and physical violent becomes.
This “pull-push” scenario leaves the narcissist acting in a way that says, “I hate you, but don’t you dare leave me or I will kill you”. They will react to any perceived movement away from them as a threat to their narcissistic supply, therefore any show of self-determination by the victim will surly be devalued. The narcissist is merciless in the way they devalue the victim.
Devaluation of the victim can be delivered through many different forms and levels of attack; through victims own attachment needs, their intellectual capabilities, physical body, sexuality, creativity etc. By this time, like Pavlov’s dogs, the victim has been conditioned, and appears to the outside world that they are willing partners in the narcissists “convoluted dance”. Even if they do manage to escape from that narcissistic individual, they are at high risk of future re-victimization and entrapment with other narcissists, because they are primed in a way that other narcissists can spot.
The Discarding Phase:
In this phase, the game comes to its final conclusion. What started out as the idealization of a victim by the narcissist, is doomed to end with the idealization of the narcissist by the victim’s over dependence. Once this happens, the narcissist ardor for the game has dampened, in their eyes they have already won the contest, and the fun is over.
By this time, the narcissist is totally indifferent to any needs or wishes that the victim may have, in effect they no longer exist in their mind. Not so for the victim, they are left confused and raw with emotion, and are eager to find solutions in order to “fix” the dying relationship. However, the narcissist resists all attempts to rescue the relationship, they will bully with silence, or if there is any kind of response, it will be brutally cold. In effect, the victim has become “worthlessly inferior” to them; they know they have drained the victim dry, that they have now outlived their usefulness, and now it is time for the narcissist to move on to the next source of supply.
Any undertaking to win them back by the victim will only feed the narcissists ego, and further provide them with a transient source of narcissistic supply.
The Gaslighter’s Secret Weapons
Your gaslighter is an expert at using that sore spot as his secret weapon. He may:
- Remind you of your worst fears
“You really are too fat / frigid / sensitive / difficult …”
- Threaten you with total abandonment
“No one wil ever love you again.”
“You’l be single for the rest of your life.”
“No one else would put up with you.”
- Invoke other troubled relationships
“No wonder you can’t get along with your parents.”
“Maybe this is why your friend Suzi has dropped you.”
“Don’t you see, this is why your boss doesn’t respect you.”
- Use your ideals against you
“Isn’t marriage about unconditional love?”
“I thought friends were supposed to be supportive.”
“A true professional would be able to take the heat.”
- Make you doubt your own perceptions, memory, or sense of reality
“I never said that—you only imagined it.”
“You promised to take care of that bil ; don’t you remember?”
“My mother was real y hurt by what you said.”
“Our guests thought you were ridiculous—everyone was laughing at you.”
One of the first steps in freeing yourself from a gaslighting relationship, then, is to acknowledge how unpleasant and hurtful this relationship is right now. If you hate being yelled at, you have the right to insist that yelling not be a part of your disagreements.
Maybe some other woman wouldn’t mind the loud voice, but you do. If that makes you too sensitive, so be it.
Six Ways to Mobilize Yourself to Move Forward
- Identify the problem.
- Have compassion for yourself.
- Give yourself permission to make a sacrifice.
- Get in touch with your feelings.
- Empower yourself.
- Take just one step to improve your life. Then take another.
IF YOU’RE HAVING TROUBLE DECIDING
- Visualize yourself in the relationship next week. See yourself in as much detail as possible. What are you wearing? What’s the expression on your face? What’s the expression on your gaslighter’s face?
What’s he saying? How do you feel when you hear him speak?
- Now visualize yourself in the relationship next year. Again, see yourself in as much detail as possible.
What is your life like? Where are you working? What makes you happy? See yourself with your gaslighter. What are you each saying? How do you each look? How do you feel as you imagine the two of you?
- Go on to visualize yourself in the relationship three years from now. Once again, see yourself in as much detail as possible.
What is your relationship like? What is your life like now? Is it the life you want?
- Now, ask yourself how likely it is that the relationship you are in will bring you the future you want.
Ask yourself what your future will be like if you continue on as you have. Ask yourself what you are willing to sacri ce to stay in your relationship. Ask yourself what you are willing to sacri ce to get the life you want.
There are a few other things I’d like you to keep in mind.
First, as you read through the six suggestions for mobilizing yourself, remember, this is a journey that may involve many roads. Feel free to try these ideas in any order that feels right to you. I think it may be useful to follow the progression I’ve outlined here, but if skipping ahead to a later step gets you moving, then that’s the path that is right for you. You may even nd yourself doing more than one step at the same time.
You should also know that you may not feel good about this process right away.
As you start to see how things could be dfferent, you too may get in touch with levels of anger and despair that you didn’t even know you were feeling. You may feel moody and unpredictable—excited one minute and exhausted or depressed the next. All of this is also normal when people are making changes, so try not to take any of these feelings too seriously. Just experience them and let them pass. And if you have moments of exhilaration, euphoria, and being on top of the world, enjoy those feelings while you can, knowing that they, too, will probably pass! It’s going to take a while before all your emotions even out, so be patient and persistent.
I also want you to remember that changing your own behavior is an extraordinary achievement and one that will repay you handsomely for the rest of your life. Whether you’re able to save this relationship or not, the changes you make in yourself will stand you in good stead for a healthy, happy, and satisfying relationship in the future, either with your current gaslighter or with someone else. You may also be amazed at how all sorts of things in your life begin changing—how your relationships to work, friends, partner, family, and the world at large are all improved by your e orts to turn o the gas in any other part of your life. So even while you’re mourning the loss of what you may be giving up, remember to celebrate or at least appreciate the things you’re gaining.
Finally, I’d like you to be aware that the process of turning of the gas—and of mobilizing yourself, to do so —may take a long time. You may be able to accomplish wonders in a few days, or you may see no results at all for weeks. You may see some progress and then feel that you and your relationship are in trouble again.
You will almost certainly have bad days as well as good days—times when you feel sure you’re slipping backward as well as times when you know you’ve almost arrived. Either way, try to keep breathing, be compassionate toward yourself, and stay close to the people you love and trust. As long as you’re committed, you’ll get there in the end.
Things You Can Do to Bolster Your Resolve
- Commit to talking with trusted friends or loved ones once a day, or a therapist at least once a week, to keep your perspective.
- Write down your last three conversations with your gaslighter and edit them, reminding yourself how you’d like to handle situations such as these in the future.
- Remember the last time you felt joyful. Write a description, or create or nd a picture that evokes that time. Post it where you can see it every day, to remind yourself of what you want your new life to be like.
- Narcissistic Personality Traits in Men
- The Narcissistic Relationship
- Narcissistic Personality Disorder
- 4 ways to break up with a narcissist
Recommended Books on Gaslighting
- The Gaslight Effect: How to Spot and Survive the Hidden Manipulation Others Use to Control Your Life
- In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People – AUDIO
- In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People – BOOK
Recommended Books on Gaslighting for Professionals
Domestic and Emotional Abuse Resources
National Domestic Violence Hotline (http://www.ndvh.org/)
1-800-799-SAFE (7233); 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)
Safe Horizon (http://www.safehorizon.org/)