THE RED FLAGS
It’s a person you love, a spouse, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a parent, a child. Maybe it’s a sibling, an in-law, an aunt or an uncle. It could be a grandparent, a friend or a co-worker. It could even be your pastor or a community leader.
But something is “off.”
And you just can’t explain it or put your finger on it. Your relationship with them keeps you second-guessing yourself.
You feel confused and disoriented.
Additionally, you feel threatened and on-edge. You may even feel the urge to flee from them. And maybe, you feel like you’re losing “yourself” around them.
You MAY LASH OUT
Sometimes, you might even lash out in ways that are not normal for you. They take your lashing out as a chance to embrace you back into the fold and help you figure out “what’s wrong with you.”
Other times, they may berate you.
Either way, they come across as stable and you seem neurotic.
YOU FEEL ISOLATED.
Maybe, even though they tell you that they’re not trying to separate you from others that you love, you feel like they are. You sense that they want your relationships with others to be on “their” terms.
Gaslighters minimize and/or dismiss your opinions. They have a gift for bursting your bubbles and downplaying your ideas.
What’s more, they want “intimacy,” possibly wanting you to share your “feelings” with them and to know “everything” about you. They want you to be enamored with them and to know that they’re the most important person in your life.
In addition, they might let you know that without them you will never succeed, be complete, live up to your potential, etc.
And you feel like you’re never quite “good enough” around them.
You find yourself apologizing for your preferences or over-explaining yourself.
…If the preceding words resonate with you, then you may be the victim of GASLIGHTING.
BUT WHAT IS GASLIGHTING?
The term “gaslight” comes from a play that was made into a movie in 1940 and then again in 1944. The premises of the script is that a psychopathic killer slowly and methodically tries to convince his wife that she is insane so that he can have her committed to a mental institution, inherit her wealth and cover up the fact that she found a letter evidencing his criminal activity.
Click here for a brief clip from the movie. Gaslight (1944)…starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer
According to Psychology Today, “Gaslighting is an insidious form of manipulation and psychological control. Victims of gaslighting are deliberately and systematically fed false information that leads them to question what they know to be true, often about themselves. They may end up doubting their memory, their perception, and even their sanity. Over time, a gaslighter’s manipulations can grow more complex and potent, making it increasingly difficult for the victim to see the truth.”
ORIGINS OF GASLIGHTERS
Gaslighting is a favorite tool of people with narcissistic traits, narcissistic personality disorder, psychopaths and sociopaths. Of course, not everyone who engages in gaslighting falls into the above categories.
Some people are unaware that they are gaslighters. They may have grown up in a gaslighting family, learning to gaslight and manipulate just like they learned to walk and talk. It comes as natural to these folks as breathing. Or they may have married into a gaslighting family and allowed it to continue until it became their go-to state of being, which means any children they raise will be reared in a gaslighting environment.
However, OTHERS know exactly what they’re doing.
They may have gaslit their entire lives, getting what they want from people by studying them, recognizing their paths of trajectory then manipulating them with subtle and well-placed words. Gaslighters will applaud themselves for being “honest” and demand “honesty” from you, especially “emotional honesty” but they themselves, while “honest” may actually be quite deceptive, using their emotional “honesty” as another tool in their arsenal. They can appear to be vulnerable when it’s for the purpose of shaping your emotional reaction in their favor.
THE ORIGINAL GASLILGHTER
Regardless of whether it’s on purpose or a natural extension of their personality, gaslighting is harmful. In fact, the first incident of gaslighting that I can think of is recorded in Genesis 3:2-4
2And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: 3But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. 4And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
Just as the serpent wanted to alter Eve’s perception of reality and make her doubt what God had originally told her, gaslighters want to alter your perception of reality. Gaslighting is witchcraft in its purest form, attempting to not only manipulate you into doing what the gaslighter wants, but it literally alters the way you view reality. It seeks to subjugate you to domination.”
Even Jesus faced a gaslighter when he was tempted in the wilderness. He’re an account from Luke 4.
3And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread. 4And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. 5And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. 7If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.
WHAT DO THEY GAIN FROM IT?
According to Shaneen Megji and all the books I’ve recently read on the subject, they do it for the following reasons:
- To gain power &/or control. Why? Because, maybe, at some point in their lives, they felt powerless and when they first got that taste of power, it fed them!
- Make you dependent upon them.
- Isolate you from people who might sway you over to another reality whether that be your family, your church, your friends, etc.
All of them do it because they want to control your thoughts, actions and version of reality for the purpose of reinforcing their own version of reality.
TACTICS USED BY GASLIGHTERS
Whether intentional or not, gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse and it leaves a mark on its victims. Here are some tactics that gaslighters use.
Angels of Light
-Gaslighters may often appear to be altruistic to the public. If they are financially able, they may even be philanthropists, giving to be recognized as “good” people. Doing good deeds with no recognition or grandiosity at all does not usually appeal to them. It’s possible that a gaslighter may be a prominent citizen and be “adored” by the public. They may come across as charming, polite, respectful, and fun. Whatever the case, they present one face to the world and when their victims try to speak out, no one believes them.
-Gaslighters often wear a mask of confidence or even compassion (it’s fake compassion) to make you realize that you’ve go it all wrong or that they simply have “your best interest at heart.” They know what’s best for you. You might end up apologizing, admiring them and doubting your own grip on reality. They want you to trust them and follow their lead on all the “big” things in life, but guess who decides what’s a “big” thing?
Gaslighters want to know what makes you tick. They intuitively feel the urge to find out as much as they can about you emotionally and psychologically. These folks want to know what pleases you physically, emotionally and mentally. They may need this for future ammunition.
CHANGING THE SUBJECT.
The gaslighter will sometimes get you off track by posing a question to you or simply changing the subject and getting you off track. He or she may even bring up another subject accusing you of something and turning the tables so that you are the attacker, and they appear to be the victim! They may convince you that you have a problem. Maybe a personality disorder or they might even convince you that you’re a covert narcissist or that you have an anxiety disorder, an attachment style disorder or any number of things.
Gaslighters may brush your insights, ideas and concerns off as insignificant, which leaves you feeling foolish for bringing them up in the first place. It’s not uncommon for them to ignore your boundaries or pretend that you weren’t plain when you set them. They may even tell you to set boundaries and want you to enforce them with others but when you try to enforce them with the gaslighter, he or she will explain them away. Often a gaslighter will sweep your emotions under the rug or say that you aren’t really feeling what you say you’re feeling or that you never said what you claim to have said.
Denial, twisting, dismissing and reframing.
Gaslighters will subtly (the better they are at it, the more subtle their twisting) twist and reframe whatever is said or done into their favor, often painting themselves as the victim and you as the toxic person. They will usually steer a conversation in their favor and if they do own up to anything, it’s only to get you to trust them and confide in them even more. When this is compared with fake empathy or fake compassion, it can make you feel as if you’re being irrational, and you may begin to question your own emotional or mental stability.