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THE AUSTRALIAN Gaslighters and the erosion of self

Gaslighters and the erosion of self
Gaslighters are experts in manipulation who plant seeds of self-doubt into their victims’ minds.
The Australian 12:00AM January 26, 2018 Save Share oShare more...RUTH OSTROWColumnistSydney
A recent experience really distressed me. It involved someone who was in the wrong. When I caught her out, instead of apologising, she somehow convinced me that I was to blame. She relayed events differently to what I remembered, to the point I questioned my own sanity — and she accused me of creating a drama because I was feeling so guilty about my own bad behaviour.

Huh? I was so confused and kept going over events in my mind, until I became convinced that I remembered exactly what happened, which included catching her red-handed in an act of betrayal. Why had I ever doubted the facts for one minute?

Because what I’d fallen for is a deflective technique known as gaslighting. It is to make someone question their own reality.

The word is being bandied about in relation to Donald Trump as well more generally in the context of abusive men in the wake of the Weinstein scandal. It has also made appearance in a recent Netflix series on abusive, narcissistic people such as cult leaders who gaslight their victims. And so I want to unpack the meaning.

The Urban Dictionary says gaslighting is a covert form of ­manipulation, intimidation or psychological abuse, sometimes called “ambient abuse”, where false information is presented to the victim, making them doubt their own memory, perception and, quite often, their sanity.

Using denial, misdirection, contradiction and mixing of the facts, it attempts to destabilise the victim’s beliefs.

Gaslighting may range from the denial by an abuser that anything occurred even in the face of evidence, as we have seen with Trump, to the staging of events with the aim of disorienting the victim, such as the perpetrator changing the position of an object in the office repetitively and then claiming they hadn’t moved it.

My friend has a neighbour who cut huge chunks off her tree in the night because he claimed it was obscuring his view. The hacking left the tree in such disarray she needed to get rid of some dangerous hanging branches immediately before calling the authorities. As she got on the ladder with her cutters and tidied up, he secretly filmed her. Then he told her he had evidence that she’d illegally cut her tree for the view. She had fallen into the trap of a gaslighter.

You might think it’s rare, but it is actually common. Gaslighters know confusion disempowers and weakens others. World War II Nazi general Erwin Rommel used dust storms in the desert to confuse the enemy. Gaslighters make you lose trust in yourself and those you love. But never in them. And they make others lose trust in you because you are “crazy”, out of control, overly hysterical. They chip away your power base.

The aim is total power and manipulation for nefarious or selfish gain. In a recent article on the BBC news website, a man called Greg admits to gaslighting women. When accused of cheating by his girlfriend, he said, “I deliberately used demeaning language to make her lose confidence in her reading of the situation of my infidelity. She was ‘paranoid’, she was ‘crazy’, she was ‘full of drama’ … I’d say this all as jokes. But they would build over time, and she then started to believe,” he says, now wanting to warn women to be careful.

The term is from the 1938 Patrick Hamilton play Gaslight and its 1940s film adaptation, in which a man manipulates his wife by displacing objects in the home and dimming gas lamps so she thinks she is losing her mind.

Typical of this is Trump’s position on the Access Hollywood “grab ’em by the pussy” tape, which prompted Vanity Fair to ask: “Is Donald Trump gaslighting himself? The President has suggested to multiple sources that the damning Access Hollywood tape of him bragging about crude behaviour toward women is fake.’

“When Trump tells a half-truth or an all-out lie, he does so with such assurance that it is often impossible to tell whether the President is deliberately dissembling, creating more comforting fictions for himself, or simply confused.”

Many sexual abusers in the ­entertainment industry have been gaslighting victims, first grooming their victims, then making them feel responsible for bringing unwanted actions upon themselves.

Gaslighting is a tactic used to gain more power in a relationship, according to author of the bestseller Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited, Sam Vaknin. He says: “Gullibility, selective blindness, malignant optimism — these are the weapons of the beast.”

Vaknin says in his book: “Ambient abuse is the stealthy, subtle, underground currents of maltreatment that sometimes go unnoticed — even by the victims themselves — until it is too late. (It) is difficult to pinpoint and identify. It is ambiguous, atmospheric, diffuse. Hence the insidious and pernicious effects.”

Because it plays on our fears, he says gaslighting is the most dangerous kind of abuse there is.

And as gaslighter Greg told the BBC, “It’s not true that it is only vulnerable or insecure women who are susceptible to gaslighting — these were successful women.”


Encyclopedia of Narcissism and Psychopathy

Buy 16 books and video lectures on 3 DVDs about narcissists, psychopaths, and abusive relationships
Feb/4/2018, 5:24 am Link to this post  
samvaknin Profile
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Re: THE AUSTRALIAN Gaslighters and the erosion of self

People who gaslight typically use the following techniques. They are unpredictable, so the victim gets confused. One day it’s wonderful, stroke, stroke; the next day, a slap for the same thing. So you walk on eggshells trying to work out what behaviour gets rewarded, what is punishable. But the rules keep changing. Instead of running away fast, the victim is being brainwashed into believing that they are to blame. No longer feeling safe, the world for them is tipping ­upside down.

According to Psychology Today, gaslighters tell blatant lies. Yes, obvious lying, which is a deliberate strategy. They set their victim up to know they’ve been lied to so that everything else becomes confusing and the victim feels they don’t know what is true or not. “Keeping you unsteady and off-kilter is the goal.”

They lie that they didn’t say something they said even though you have proof: so you think maybe you are misinterpreting something or overreacting. Your reality disintegrates and theirs takes hold. And it is all done slowly, so the victim doesn’t realise how much they’ve been worn down — a sort of frog boiled in water.

Gas lighters, like narcissists, tend to isolate the victim; they make sure they are they are in control by cutting off their gaslighted partner from supportive people who might cotton on to what is happening; and they make people push the victim away, too, by telling lies about them. Then they ­become their partners’ only safe port of call.

From experience, I know gaslighters learn your weaknesses and insecurities, then use them against you: threatening your identity and demeaning the things you think are good about yourself so you get more insecure and fight harder for their approval.

They play word-salad games, saying one thing, doing another, eating away at your self-esteem.

And the most frustrating thing is that everything they accuse you of is usually what they do themselves: a drinker will accuse a victim of drinking and an unfaithful partner will accuse a victim of cheating. They project on to you so you find yourself so busy defending yourself, you get distracted from the gaslighter’s ­behaviour.

With gaslighters nothing is as it seems. To quote one genius: “It’s all just fake news.”

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Encyclopedia of Narcissism and Psychopathy

Buy 16 books and video lectures on 3 DVDs about narcissists, psychopaths, and abusive relationships
Feb/4/2018, 5:24 am Link to this post  

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