Tag Archives: dysfunctional relationships

New article on Psychopath Free: “What if they’re not a sociopath?”

This post is in response to this new PF article, based on the idea that healing from a hurtful relationship is all that matters, combined with dealing with your own demons – which would normally be true, except for the situations detailed below. Here is the conclusion of the article:

The question “What if they’re not really a sociopath?” loses all of its significance when we come to love ourselves regardless of the answer.

To start with, the article conveys a warm, fluffy and appeasing feeling, detailing doubts which might arise and nuancing an individual’s response to a failed relationship – an introspection which would undoubtedly be positive … were the website not called Psychopath Free, claiming to teach people how to identify  and deal with monsters. Not people who at one point in time displayed toxic behaviours. Soulless, irredeemable monsters.

It matters when you have publicly labelled said person a sociopath

This label is far from a private matter, at one’s discretion to keep or discard, when it was turned into a public accusation, ranging from a circle of friends to the presumed sociopath’s own family. Where exactly does the hipsterism fit in once you’ve damaged that person’s life?

Of course, one might argue that they’ve also damaged yours in ways which are difficult to repair. But still, does that absolve someone of the wrongdoing of tarnishing another’s reputation?

When you broke up with a significant other specifically because you applied this label

Which I’m sure has been the case on PF time and time again – confused people coming across the “life-saving” information which raises their adrenaline, feeling self-righteous beyond the shadow of doubt and making crucial decisions based on it.

The sheer thought that a loved one is impossible to deal with by default has been breaking marriages and relationships apart. At times, had it not been for this black and white thinking, many people would’ve surely reconsidered.

While I believe that education about narcissism and sociopathy are essential to healing and sanity restoration (especially in the early stages as we break the chemical bond and learn to go No Contact), I think there is something very powerful about eventually releasing this duality.

That’s just it – they are essential to those who are genuinely involved with these types, not to the rest, who might think they are in a moment of desolation, to later brood over their assessment and find it impulsive and inaccurate. People can heal from heartache without resorting to this demonisation, which is anything but sanity when untrue.

He is basically saying that this “education”, as well as going no contact, is essential even to those who later question their judgement. In the vein of act now, think later.

With the risk of emphasising this for the hundredth time: even when a lot of heartache was involved, on one or both sides, it doesn’t mean one has to give up on the relationship, as if this were the only beneficial route. Assuming that ending it was for the best regardless, even if the label is later questioned, and that reading about disordered people was just a prop towards the “liberating” break-up even when said person was not necessarily disordered, is absolutely ridiculous.

When you claim to be an expert on sociopathy and coach others on the subject

Basing your entire expertise on your experience, “educating” others with fanatical dedication, influencing their lives (sometimes irreversibly) and suddenly turning around to say that it doesn’t really matter if your judgement was correct regarding said experience just doesn’t fly.

It is basically stating that your cut-in-stone perspective on human interaction just might be based on a murky, questionable situation, in which you just might’ve been wrong. In this case, the smallest of doubts matters a great deal. Because you might’ve – just might’ve – fed lorry loads of horse manure to all the people who regarded your approach as the absolute truth.

One of the most common questions asked during recovery is: “Was he/she really a sociopath?” Survivors ask this question over and over again, because for most of us, the alternative is the sociopath’s reality: “You are crazy, jealous, sensitive, paranoid, unattractive, unwanted.” And so we oscillate back and forth between these two realities: bad other, or bad self.

This binary excludes the middle ground – actual rationality and sanity, which admits the possibility of both individuals being wrong at the same time, to various degrees. One for saying hurtful things and the second  for taking them as the absolute reality of the other’s thinking, prompting them to label the other as a merciless sociopath.

There is no need for this radicalism, as if one were completely incapable of analysing matters beyond “I was right” versus “this person was right”.

This is not a healthy way to look at life and people who tend to think in black and white should not be teaching others how to handle their problems.

 

The post is followed by quite a few which are glorifying an empath’s ability to love, regardless of their presumed sociopath’s behaviour. I know this will sound cruel on my part, but in this context it seems like a self-gratifying exercise which does not address the real question – what if the people they labelled as such were not actually sociopaths?

This article not only implies but states it is beyond the issue for anyone “recovering” from a hurtful relationship. Is it really though? Is loving yourself enough to obliterate any damage you might’ve done to someone and any afterthoughts about what might’ve been in the absence of this label? And is loving yourself enough to give you confidence to keep “spreading the word” about disordered people, even in the absence of certainty that you have even met one? And regardless of the damage you might do to others who believe you know what you’re preaching?

The answer is logical.

What Is NOT Gaslighting

By now, many people are familiar with this notion, especially if they have an interest in unhealthy interpersonal dynamics. A brief article explaining gaslighting can be found here. First of all, a few ideas are worth noting (though doing so might seem superfluous):

  • -It is inflicted on a victim by an abuser who believes to be superior;
  • -It is a consistent technique ( it’s used more than once);
  • -It is always deliberate (planned, organised in cold blood);
  • -It is meant to cause actual suffering (confusion, self doubt, low self confidence etc).

After encountering this term in a variety of inappropriate situations – its use being meant to accuse someone of foul intentions – there are some observations to make regarding what is – only in my view of course – not gaslighting.

  1. Someone trying to convince you of their opinion (yes, I know how stupid that sounds). A couple of times I’ve seen this artifice used on PF, along the lines of:

You want me to see this event your way, not mine, therefore you are trying to make me replace my version of reality with yours, therefore you are gaslighting me.

Which is of course an eerie, cult-like stretch, caused by a person automatically analysing the world through the lens of psychopathic behaviour – a lens most people do not use on a daily basis. One often has a different perspective and imparts it ingenuously, debating others; most people understand that; it’s only to the paranoid that a different opinion can seem a devious attempt to blur their sense of reality.

From everyone is entitled to an opinion it suddenly becomes  telling me that my view/ my perception is not accurate is abusive.  Which practically means they’re always right and contradicting them is a direct attack on their well-being.

2. Most fleeting conversations (online or not).

With an emphasis on ”fleeting”. Although presumably there are those who enjoy genuinely screwing with the minds of others for the fun of it (as opposed to simply trolling), jumping to bite the jugular of every recently met person for “gaslighting you” is not a healthy reaction.

Gaslighting is known to have a purpose; there is a clear intention behind it; it’s difficult to associate it with a few words exchanged by people who will most likely never meet again (unless criminal intention is present, as those involved in crime have to act fast). Otherwise, for a person to suspect this intensity or interest from a complete stranger, their ego must be quite inflated.

3. A poor way of making excuses.

Yes, someone might say, for lack of inspiration, “I didn’t say that”,”maybe you heard me wrong” or “that’s not what I meant”, while awkwardly avoiding eye contact. Some people are worse than others at apologising (that takes some balls) or even admitting guilt, or might try to cover for others, protect your feelings by not repeating an insult etc. When caught red handed, they might just say something stupid, such as this never happened. Which is not a laudable thing to do and obviously would trigger people who were actually gaslighted in the past.

Does that automatically make a person  a psychopath? Of course not. If it’s an isolated event, it means nothing at all. If it happens repeatedly, then it is a problem – however, if that’s the only thing to go on, I’d still reflect on it before jumping to conclusions.

4. People who lie compulsively out of anxiety.

The only instance in which I can find a valid excuse for repeated lying is when it comes from people who have developed this as a defence mechanism, after a long time (usually years) of suffering serious consequences whenever things went wrong, they made a mistake or they risked angering/ upsetting someone else. These people lie very naturally to pacify a situation, hiding negative aspects others would have liked to know about. The reaction they get when their lies are uncovered is worse than the one they would’ve received for simply making a mistake. But in a way I can sympathise with the chronic fear of attracting other people’s anger.

In a way it’s comparable to what children do. Since gaslighting is based on control and deviousness, not anxiety, it doesn’t apply here.

5. People who don’t pay attention.

Everyone’s met the type who is a bit self-absorbed and has rosy sunglasses on, meaning they minimise and brush off your sincere concerns as if they didn’t matter (and no, I’m not one for writing this post or any others which deal with these complicated issues).

I’m sure you just imagined it! I’m sure everything’s fine! Everything works out in the end! 

Of course they do it in order to keep things comfortable and keep talking about their own preoccupations, without bothering with yours. I’m not saying these people are worth maintaining a close relationship with or confiding in – obviously not – but that doesn’t mean their attitude is devious and seeks to undermine your confidence. It’s just complacent and ignorant. They also do that to protect their own view of the world, of a family, a community, an institution etc. Basically, it’s all about them, not about invalidating or worse, destroying you.

Most people are not out to abuse others – gaslighting is a cruel, premeditated and sustained  form of abuse, just like psychopathy is a chilling disorder, not to be pinned on every selfish asshole.

Later Edit

Nowadays, every other progressive has been harmed by a narcissist or psychopath, has been the victim of oppression and is suffering from PTSD, requiring trigger warnings whenever they are exposed to unfamiliar information. Next on the agenda, half of them will soon claim they are being  or have been gaslighted (probably more since the straws they cling to are so diverse).

Unfortunately, analyses such as this one are not unnecessary, since misinformation is already spilling out of the poisoned well of the victimhood culture, with feminism at the centre of it. This feminist website (which as a whole is possibly the richest source of unadulterated bullshit I’ve come across so far), seeks to take the false victim complex into the mainstream in every possible way.

This particular article, “10 Things I’ve Learned About Gaslighting As An Abuse Tactic”, is precisely the type of  generalisation I was referring to at the beginning of the blog post.

Far from wanting to invalidate the author’s experience, my honest opinion is that here, gaslighting is presented as a common method of overpowering someone using an emotional bond, by which a person gets another to see things their way, and undermines their confidence as a result, whether they intended to or not. There is nothing in the article to suggest maliciousness or duplicity from the supposed abuser.

Direct quotes are essential (the fair use notice is displayed on the homepage).

1. Gaslighting Doesn’t Have to Be Deliberate

(…)Unfortunately, the first definition I looked up was woefully inadequate. Gaslighting does not require deliberate plotting. Gaslighting only requires a belief that it is acceptable to overwrite another person’s reality.

The rest just happens organically when a person who holds that belief feels threatened. We learn how to control and manipulate each other very naturally.

First of all, the fundamental aspect of defining and identifying gaslighting is the clear intention of causing someone to lose their mental balance and self-confidence, manifesting systematically and in cold blood, inflicting as much harm as possible. It is the method through which pathological types gain control over others, with no remorse whatsoever, sometimes resulting in their victims committing suicide.

Muddying the waters to blur the logical differentiation of this technique from ordinary lying, spontaneous excuse making and even expressing a different perspective is very detrimental, as the real meaning of the word is lost, resulting in an excess of zeal and hysteria wherever this diluted information spreads.

Clear intention, calculation, persistence and cold blood are essential elements to identify in order to make an accurate assessment. Gaslighting must by definition be deliberate.

The author of this piece claims the generally used definition is inaccurate, instead of pondering her own decision to use this specific word. Which is what progressives often do – instead of finding their place in the world, they want to make the entire world adapt to them. With no disrespect to her experience, when a concept does not suit someone, what they do is let go of it and find anther one – or why not, invent it. What they don’t normally do is re-engineer that  concept to suit them specifically, claiming that everyone using it previously was going about it all wrong.

Another red flag is using a situation which is charged with emotions and subjectivity – an argument between romantic partners (which almost by default involves accusations), adding that the “gaslighting” was spontaneous and not deliberate; combined, these aspects become very suspicious. One should consider the following aspects:

  • Whether lies were definitely told, with the partner definitely being aware they were lying; the contentions made may very well be the partner’s honest opinion;
  • Whether the contentions were commonly made or just a one off;
  • Whether the partner simply had an emotional outburst, even if they went a bit overboard;
  • What their composure was and if they seemed to take pleasure in winding up their target (arrogance and delight usually become apparent in these situations).

Of course I’m no expert but this is all just common sense. The key issue is that this technique cannot be identified from an isolated incident or from the mere existence of two conflicting perspectives. Deceit (deliberate, repeated lying) and malicious intentions both have to be involved – lying once in order to cover something up does not count.

“Gaslighting only requires a belief that it is acceptable to overwrite another person’s reality”.  I’ve seen this happen with parents and children, indeed, yet the purpose was shitty excuse making (counting on children’s short memory and volatile perceptions to deny they had done something). Therefore this is an interesting nuance, though more of a cowardly thing to do and not intended to destroy a child’s self-confidence.

You can see it in the media constantly.

For instance, every time an obvious hate crime is portrayed as an isolated case of mental illness, this is gaslighting. The media is saying to you, What you know to be true is not true.

The media does gaslight people all the time, no doubt about it, on behalf of an establishment seeking to confuse them constantly, to the point that they no longer know what is going on around them. Alan Watt gives a good example with the contradictory conclusions of  studies, published from time to time, bamboozling those who read them. For instance, today coffee prolongs your life, tomorrow it gives you cancer, the day after tomorrow it is presented as a miraculous cure for some other disease.

However, the example the author chooses is not relevant, as it claims a presumed hate crime should cause a hysterical reaction and not be treated as an isolated incident. Why presumed? Well, when a person forming part of a minority of any kind is attacked (conservatives excluded), the media, followed by a choir of progressive activists, tends to simply assume that “hate” was involved, even before the actual motive is established. Violence can erupt in a multitude of situations and it is idiotic to simply assume, each and every single time.

But now if you abuse your partner, you’re usually considered to be a bad person. So what do you do, with all the beliefs that would lead you to violence, if violence is no longer an acceptable option?

You use manipulation, and you use gaslighting.

Here it is simply assumed that if these forms of abuse both involve control and a power imbalance, one is a suitable replacement for the other. However, causing someone to fear you is not the same as causing them to think they are insane. Moreover, while gaslighting is premeditated, violence is, more often than not, mindless and momentary. Also, violence is commonly used by the run-of-the-mill asshole, whereas gaslighting is a calculated and sophisticated technique employed by devious minds. Comparing the two implies gaslighting is very common and can be used by just anybody, which in turn implies that the world is full of heartless, devious people (basically psychos), fully capable of this level of evil. And since this is a feminist blog, guess which sex the psychos would predominantly belong to.

A gaslighter doesn’t simply need to be right. They also need for you to believe that they are right.

The whole point is getting their victim to believe a lie – it’s not that they think they are right to begin with; they know full well they are lying. This quote reinforces my initial suspicion that the author ignores this fact, which reduces the technique to someone convincing someone else of their perspective, which the other party (presumed victim) thinks is invalid or which later proves objectively invalid.

The description of the “three stages of gaslighting” is too long to paste here; you can find it by clicking the link above. Yet again, it describes a common argument in a romantic relationship, with no apparent, demonstrable conniving involved. The short version:

1.You argue for hours, without resolution. You argue over things that shouldn’t be up for debate  – your feelings, your opinions, your experience of the world.(…)2. Winning the argument now has one objective :  proving that you’re still good, kind, and worthwhile. (…) 3. You consider their point of view as normal. You start to lose your ability to make your own judgements. You become consumed with understanding them and seeing their perspective. You live with and obsess over every criticism, trying to solve it.

Just a few observations:

  • -One’s feelings and opinions are subjective; they are not absolutes and are always up for debate.
  • -Gaslighting deals with distorting one’s perception of reality, usually by reframing events or conversations, denying them or making them up, aiming to make the other  think they are confused or crazy. Feelings and opinions have nothing to do with this.
  • -The fact that someone eventually convinces their partner of their perspective does not mean that they are deliberately lying – or even mistaking, for that matter, and gives no indication of trying to drive the partner crazy.

By accusing someone of gaslighting you, you are basically accusing them of being a monster. Not every hurtful or difficult relationship involves that and not every insecure, hypersensitive,  overly loving or overly tolerant person drained by arguments is being subjected to an actual form of mind control.

Once again, this is the result of confusing feelings and opinions with actual reality, which opens the door for any argument to be seen as gaslighting, trivialising this notion.

Another article, this time written by a professional, gives three peculiar examples:

  • -A woman is left abruptly at the bus stop by her date (recently met), who prefers the metro and then calls later to justify his strange gesture.
  • -A woman complains to her boss about her assignments and is told she is stressed and sensitive; this keeps happening overtime.
  • -A woman develops anxiety over the fear that she doesn’t care enough about her husband, as he often criticises her for not paying attention to details (such as going to the right store at the right time to get him the right kind of salmon).

Call me crazy, no pun intended, but I do not see any deliberate attempts to make any of these women doubt their sanity. The first case involves a second date and an impatient and tactless prick; it is unclear what he thought he would achieve by dumping her at the bus stop. In the second scenario, the woman is aware of the injustice; she does work harder but nowhere does it say that she feels confused or crazy. And in the third one, she develops this unease because she lets him get away with being so demanding in the first place, taking his shallow reproaches to heart. However, nothing suggests he is being deceptive or that he wants to destroy her self-confidence; he is probably just exploitative and thinks he’ll gain some advantage out of making her feel guilty over trifles.

The list of signs is a long one, describing the targeted person’s feelings. Taken separately, none is a clear indication of being gaslighted, and adjoined, they paint a picture of an unhappy individual in an unhappy relationship, facing anxiety issues and low confidence, possibly depression. And yet there is no mention of actual inconsistencies in this person’s daily reality, of the facts which do not match between their memory and that of their abuser, of this person thinking they might have lost the plot or might be lied to on a constant basis. Someone going through a depression affecting their relationship might apply these filters and end up thinking they are the victim of a deliberate attack on their sanity.

Many comments I read agreed the examples were quite poor; however there were also others, such as this one:

“I recently found the term and its meaning. I was in a relationship (my ex husband) who was a classic gaslighter. I have been divorced from him for almost 20 years. However, a work situation, too bizarre to discuss here, has led to gaslighting on the job more than once, and by extension into the community thanks to ex colleagues. Your description, however, also describes my current relationship with certain family members. I have been feeling that things were not right in the home for some time, and I know this is also an extension of the workplace issue. Very nosy nervy backstabbers. What a great article.”

It becomes apparent that due to such vague criteria, some people end up believing they are being targeted in this manner by multiple individuals (much like others identify “narcs” at every street corner). On a large scale, this leads to a lot of misinformation being circulated.

Alternative Approaches to Dysfunctional Relationships

In an age of quasi-robotic living, quick answers and quick solutions, we tend to see human interaction as less complex than it actually is; we sometimes want to divide people into strict categories to love, hate, respect, trust, disdain or fear.

We no longer look inside ourselves or to those around us for ways to address our conflicts, but turn outwards instead, in search of the  ”mathemathics” of human relationships, thinking somehow others have decoded them and we can take a quick course which will give us the ability to always control who we relate to and how. That is an illusion; life is unpredictable and so are human beings.

Obviously, there are  situations when people can pose a real danger to others and the latter need to cut ties with them immediately; I am not referring to them here. Also, I choose not to refer to work-related conflicts as I have found people who needlessly pick on strangers (such as employees, co-workers, employers) are usually nasty and should be avoided.

Personal relationships are always tricky; there are issues such as a common history, a separate and joint evolution, high expectations, errors not yet forgiven, unvoiced frustrations, misinterpreted or undiscussed emotional signals and communicational problems.

There could be multiple explanations and solutions for personal conflicts, yet the tendency today is to seek the fastest one – my partner/ my ex/ my parent/ my sibling is a disordered individual and immediate separation is my only chance to live a normal life. Of course, sometimes that is the actual case. However, after watching the dynamics on recovery forums and my own tendency to ply myself to this stereotypical thinking, my observation is that some people do rush to this conclusion.

I am not arguing those who erroneously reach this conclusion are not actually hurting –  when one is overwhelmed by depression, anger, confusion or helplessness, they are an easily gained audience by know-it-all types with a quick answer and an agenda of personal validation. From first hand experience, people in such states are so mentally tired they embrace any plausible answer which gives them certainty and a direction in life.

Once they are in a group of this type they reinforce their approach and echo it to each other; it becomes their reality; then, as opposed to considering psychopathy an extreme societal aspect, they end up applying this label way too easily.

I remember when I became aware of the modern shift towards cultural Marxism; I was seeing marxists everywhere. In the same manner, people who are on the look out for psychopaths live by the ”warning signs” and when one or two seem to be present their guard goes up immediately. This leads to many ”false flags”, so to speak, and constricts the lives of those who live in a permanent fear of encountering disordered types.

In my opinion, extreme disorders such as psychopathy should be the last option to examine – certainly not the first.

Even if a relationship is toxic, it doesn’t automatically mean one person is at fault, and even when one person really is at fault it doesn’t automatically make them evil. And even if they are evil to some degree, it does not make them heartless, which is what psychopaths are.

When partners end up arguing all the time for no specific reason and become estranged from each other, the root could reside in issues such as:

  • Unvoiced frustrations;
  • Fears, phobias, complexes, obsessions and other aspects left undiscussed;
  • Other emotional baggage popping up unexpectedly;
  •  Past events, unrelated to the current relationship;
  •  Depression, hormonal imbalance, midlife crisis etc;
  •  Substance abuse;
  •  Stress, sleep deprivation etc, which affect one partner in particular;
  •  A spiritual crisis;
  • Major cultural and educational differences which start showing overtime;
  • Negative parental influences which start showing at some point etc.

These are common sense suggestions, to which I can add the overall difficulty of being a man or a woman in this day and age, when morals and gender roles are so blurred. People grow and change; it’s truly wonderful when they can put up with each other for many years.

Our culture is replete with the dysfunctional relationship and family motif, which is omnipresent on television, in films, in music etc. It is also replete with false ideals and expectations for partners to internalise, seeking to turn women into little more than blow-up dolls and men into emasculated metrosexuals who never grow up. Marketers seeking to sell the illusion of eternal youth know exactly what buttons to push and have a devastating impact on our psyche; we are brought up with messages which go against our instincts and often cause us to be confused.

When intense conflicts with family members are involved, aside from different values, repressed childhood memories and generational differences, there is a theory that spiritual issues may be involved as well, as described by Dr Kenneth McAll in his works, such as Healing The Family Tree.  Whilst this approach surely isn’t for everyone, it is generally accepted that family secrets have a strong impact when they finally emerge.

Past generations certainly had their flaws, yet also their strong points. One is a double-edged sword – the principle of protecting one’s intimacy and the public image of those we love. In past centuries and decades, the family was thought to be a fortress and people stuck together. Of course, that can be very damaging when real abuse is involved and no one should be shamed or emotionally blackmailed into covering it up – which is what happens in cults for instance.

But today we tend to use the internet as a venting platform for our grievances, regardless of their nature and seriousness (or lack thereof). As a person who has been guilty of this on occasion, I know that type of exposure, albeit anonymous, does draw a wedge between people, as well as guilt and embarrassment when realising the exaggerated reaction. Just as some people can be cruel jerks at times, others can be oversensitive and react too strongly to behaviour which would otherwise be annoying, yet not a matter of life and death.

A person can mislead themselves and those around them into demonising another without having to lie, by listing the shortcomings and mistakes of the latter. Logically, if we all made an honest list of our own defects, mistakes, wrong turns in life etc, hardly anyone would preserve a good image. Hence they can collectively draw a false conclusion based on true facts, if that makes any sense.

My stance is not of accusing those who lash out when they get too emotional, or who temporarily see a person in the wrong light; that would be hypocritical. We live in a messed up world where we no longer know what healthy living is, where we keep more contacts than we can sustain and have little time left for reflection. In my opinion, by constantly exposing our intimacy we harm ourselves and those around us. Again, I am not referring to actual abuse, which should be exposed and addressed.