Psychology Today, Jan 22, 2017 /
From the experts – Psychologists certainly know all about “gaslighting” since it’s a “specialty” of the “helping, caring, fixing” industry.
11 Signs of Gaslighting in a Relationship
Stephanie Sarkis Ph.D. Here, There, and Everywhere
Gaslighting is a manipulation tactic used to gain power. And it works too well.
Gaslighting is a tactic in which a person or entity (your school, employer, therapist or psychiatrist, perhaps?), in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality. It works much better than you may think. Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done slowly, so the victim doesn’t realize how much they’ve been brainwashed. For example, in the movie Gaslight (1944), a man manipulates his wife to the point where she thinks she is losing her mind. (The female sex has been the object of religious and socio-cultural gaslighting throughout “civilized” history.)
People who gaslight typically use the following techniques:
- They tell blatant lies.
You know it’s an outright lie. Yet they are telling you this lie with a straight face. Why are they so blatant? Because they’re setting up a precedent. Once they tell you a huge lie, you’re not sure if anything they say is true. Keeping you unsteady and off-kilter is the goal.
- They deny they ever said something, even though you have proof.
You know they said they would do something; you know you heard it. But they out and out deny it. It makes you start questioning your reality—maybe they never said that thing. And the more they do this, the more you question your reality and start accepting theirs.
- They use what is near and dear to you as ammunition.
They know how important your kids are to you, and they know how important your identity is to you. So those may be one of the first things they attack. If you have kids, they tell you that you should not have had those children. They will tell you’d be a worthy person if only you didn’t have a long list of negative traits. They attack the foundation of your being.
- They wear you down over time.
This is one of the insidious things about gaslighting—it is done gradually, over time. A lie here, a lie there, a snide comment every so often…and then it starts ramping up. Even the brightest, most self-aware people can be sucked into gaslighting—it is that effective. It’s the “frog in the frying pan” analogy: The heat is turned up slowly, so the frog never realizes what’s happening to it.
- Their actions do not match their words.
When dealing with a person or entity who gaslights, look at what they are doing rather than what they are saying. What they are saying means nothing; it is just talk. What they are doing is the issue. (Therapists offer support, especially in “emergencies”, but where are they when you really need them?” AWOL behind a wall of phone banks, automated messaging systems, etc.)
- They throw in positive reinforcement to confuse you.
This person or entity that is cutting you down, telling you that you don’t have value, is now praising you for something you did. This adds an additional sense of uneasiness. You think, “Well maybe they aren’t so bad.” Yes, they are. This is a calculated attempt to keep you off-kilter—and again, to question your reality. Also look at what you were praised for; it is probably something that served the gaslighter. (You keep taking those psychoactive prescription drugs despite feeling worse or suffering bad side effects, in order to “please” the provider – or to avoid “shaming”; you quit taking those prescriptions, due to the horrible results, but feel obligated to lie about it rather than be honest, again, in order to “please” the prescriber. You are put in a position of healthy questions being a sign of “disobedience”.)
- They know confusion weakens people.
Gaslighters know that people like having a sense of stability and normalcy. Their goal is to uproot this and make you constantly question everything. And humans’ natural tendency is to look to the person or entity that will help you feel more stable—and that happens to be the gaslighter.
- They project.
They are a drug user or a cheater, (How common is drug abuse among psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and medical personnel?) yet they are constantly accusing you of that. This is done so often that you start trying to defend yourself, and are distracted from the gaslighter’s own behavior.
- They try to align people against you.
Gaslighters are masters at manipulating and finding the people they know will stand by them no matter what—and they use these people against you. They will make comments such as, “This person knows that you’re not right,” or “This person knows you’re useless too.” Keep in mind it does not mean that these people actually said these things. A gaslighter is a constant liar. When the gaslighter uses this tactic it makes you feel like you don’t know who to trust or turn to—and that leads you right back to the gaslighter. And that’s exactly what they want: Isolation gives them more control. (Does the therapist “meet with” your parents, spouse or other family and “reassure them” that you are “mentally ill” and incompetent – a manipulator, a liar, a “sick” individual who is not to be ‘believed” or trusted?)
- They tell you everyone else is a liar.
By telling you that everyone else (your family, the media) is a liar, (they undermine the view of your support system, that underneath the current difficulties, “you are the “good person” that they know and love) – it again makes you question your reality. You’ve never known someone with the audacity to do this, so they must be telling the truth, right? No. It’s a manipulation technique. It makes people turn to the gaslighter for the “correct” information—which isn’t correct information at all.
The more you are aware of these techniques, the quicker you can identify them and avoid falling into the gaslighter’s trap.
COMMENT / Case in point:
Asperger individuals tend to question everything, especially “authority” which we hold to be legitimate based on the actions and results of a person’s “work”. We simply don’t “buy” the social version of authority as someone whose “role” places them high, or at least higher up, the status hierarchy than the person or group with home the authority must interact, such as teacher / student; boss / employee; or therapist / client.
This has nothing to do with “respect” but everything to do with “authenticity” – “Don’t tell me, show me” is the Asperger request. No one is more respectful and loyal than an Asperger, once an “truthful” (honest) relationship is established. Ironically, the Asperger definition of a “relationship” is far more “intimate” than pro-forma social prescriptions!
A prime topic of this blog is how “Asperger’s” as a “collection of symptoms – behaviors” has been defined as socially objectionable, dysfunctional, pathological and the “result” of brain abnormalities; a profound declaration that automatically condemns us to a “defensive” position. This is outrageous gaslighting! Our main characteristic (questioning the social hierarchy of severe inequality) and our generally high IQ, verbal ability and visual-intuitive thinking, is labeled as a “developmental disability” and these obviously “positive qualities” are inverted, and rejected as defects! In what logical reality is this a “fair” description of who we are?
Our “best” qualities are used against us to make us insecure as to our very “sanity” – we are exiled from the community of human beings. How much more “gaslighting” are we expected to endure?
It is an almost impossible task to “rescue” a viable, confident and secure self-image from this “social warfare” – a campaign of disinformation, exclusion and cruelty against children – who are literally punished for being bright, inquisitive, capable learners who are following the natural curiosity that all children inherit as Homo sapiens, but which is steadily and ruthlessly beaten out of “normal” children in so-called “educational settings” which are tasked with enforcing social conformity – whatever the “social authority” of the day (or a thousand years ago) happens to be. Because it is “our nature” to be problem solvers, it is easy as children to become focused on understanding and “correcting” the irrational situation in which we find ourselves; outnumbered 99 to 1 in most day-to-day situations, and yet confident in our observation that “majority rule” can be a destructive convention: When 99% of the population perceives “reality” as the status quo, where is the motivation for change?
Social reality is a ruthless environment that is not healthy for living things. And yet, it’s the “only game in town” for modern humans.