Gaslighting.


What would you do if your significant other told you one day out of the blue in a very earnest way that you were living a double life?  Yes, you were living a double life and they were so convincing that you believed that you actually did something wrong for a moment – even though as you quickly jogged your memory for bad behavior nothing surfaced*.

That is the power of influence from someone that is determined to get their way at any cost.  That is a person that shows signs of the dark triad by using a technique of deception known as gaslighting.  And this is my story on how I was manipulated by my significant other in order for her to live her “double life” that she ever so thought she was justified in living.

Before jumping to conclusions of weak-mindedness, at least I did, as an explanation for being gaslighted, let’s define it and then look at why it’s more complicated than that.

Gaslighting is a malicious and hidden form of mental and emotional abuse, designed to plant seeds of self-doubt and alter your perception of reality.  In other words, the perpetrator destabilizes you by delegitimizing your beliefs.

The term gaslighting comes from the film “Gaslight” released in 1944 played by Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer where the husband (Boyer) is trying to convince the spouse (Bergman) that she is mentally ill and that everything she perceives is not really true.  The husband has plans on committing her to a mental institution to gain power of attorney.  It turns out that the husband had murdered someone and was trying to keep her silenced.

The above story is my story in a nutshell with one minor difference: my significant other was hiding her infidelities and not concealing a murder.  But it was even worse than the film’s scenario as I actually have clinical depression which is a mental illness, making it as a plausible tactic at least at face value.  And in a similar way she was also trying to commit me to a rehabilitation center in order to avoid confrontation as well as make a smoke-screen that would serve to protect her image in front of family and friends.

We probably can identify traits that make someone more prone to being manipulated, but I’m not convinced it is as simple as gullibility because we are also very cynical.  When you have deep affection and admiration for someone, on the other hand, then you eventually open your inner-world to them, insecurities and all, and become vulnerable.  This means to give them the benefit of the doubt and to have faith that they consider you when making choices, even when you are not around.  It’s beautiful but also tragic.

But perhaps for me there wasn’t love, only an unhealthy attachment, which would explain a lot.  I never did, however, give her the benefit of the doubt as some may have, but I stored that tactic that I know now as gaslighting in my mind until I gathered more evidence to support my intuition.  At that time I chose not to leave the relationship because of fear and a low opinion of myself.  Yes, indeed, I would have been in the category of high risk not just because of a tendency to undervalue myself but because of the disparaging messages that I was receiving from this person that I let into my inner-world.


Notes

*This took some deep reflection as far as figuring out what exactly I felt when I was confronted for the first time with someone trying to dismantle my reality before my very own eyes.  My initial thoughts and feelings were as if I was sucker punched, stunned and confused.  So it worked for a minute but then immediately my analytical part took hold and said why would anyone have a need to exert energy to say such a crazy thing if they weren’t trying to hide something.  So I was angry and resentful and went on the offense immediately to attack her intentions.  But then afterwards I was saddened and having thoughts of how could someone that I loved be so malice and deceptive.


References

[1]  Buss, David M.. The Dangerous Passion: Why Jealousy Is as Necessary as Love and Sex. Free Press.

[2] Kole, Pamela. The Psychology of Abusive Relationships: How to Understand Your Abuser, Empower Yourself, and Take Your Life Back.

[3]. Lancer, Darlene.  “Beware of the Malevolent Dark Triad.” Psychologytoday.com.

[4]. Lancer, Darlene.  “How to know if you are a victim of gaslighting.” Psychologytoday.com.

[5] Marmot, Michael. The Status Syndrome . Henry Holt and Co.

[6] McBride, Karyl. “How does a narcissist think.” Psychologytoday.com.

[7] The Self-Conscious Emotions . Guilford Publications.

[8] Subordination and Defeat: An Evolutionary Approach To Mood Disorders and Their Therapy. Taylor and Francis.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *