Tag Archives: emotional abuse

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.

Silent Treatment – Is It Always That?

As the old proverb goes, all that glitters is not gold, including when it comes to difficulty in relationships.

A few of the behaviours labelled as forms of abuse and signs of psychopathy or narcissism are, in my opinion, ambiguous. Silent treatment is one of them. Whereas it can certainly be used as a form of aggression or control, abuse recovery communities encourage people to generalise, excluding other interpretations.

The reason silence is seen as abuse in romantic relationships is the strong reaction it provokes in the partner, who anxiously awaits communication, seeming lost without his/ her significant other and agonising over what they might be thinking. When complaining, the partner is sometimes referred to as needy and feels insulted; compared to them the presumed abuser seems cold, unemphatic and unloving.

But is this any proof  of foul intentions? Why should one assume these people are even aware of the drama they cause? Who’s to say that instead of being – as portrayed – sadistic monsters grinning beside the phone with a stopwatch, they’re not simply incapable of dealing with the intensity of a situation and need some distance?

Believe it or not, some people are more aloof than others; they need more space, even if that might seem unreasonable.

Even when done for selfish reasons, silence is not necessarily meant to induce a state of despair in the other, to punish them or to control them – in other words to intentionally inflict suffering. Even if someone habitually fails to care about the partner’s feelings, it’s still not the same as causing them deliberately.

To elaborate on that, I would like to make a few points.

1.The partner’s reaction is just as significant as the silence itself, if not more.

If the partner carried on with their own interests in the meantime, focusing on other matters, the situation might be seen as an odd behavioural pattern, yet not abuse. I’m writing from experience here, not out of some desire to engage in victim blaming. When one becomes so  emotionally dependent on another person, to the point of their feelings becoming an unseen burden on that person’s back, it’s not only unfair but also unhealthy. It is not a sign of maturity or balance to be unable to detach mentally from the relationship and turn your attention elsewhere for a while. This strong, disproportionate reaction to someone’s distancing might just be the tip of the iceberg.

2. These patterns (of one ignoring and the other responding with neediness) are likely to be influenced by what both partners have observed in their homes while growing up.

Although the dynamic is sometimes reversed, typically, it is women who feel neglected and men who feel their partners are always dissatisfied with their lack of emotional support. There is a very interesting video by Teal Swan on the perpetuation of these patterns and the Oedipus complex, describing how girls go on to seek the affection of partners who are predisposed to ignoring them and how boys go on to seek caring yet nagging women they end up withdrawing from – and so the cycle continues.

People may develop automatic reactions to certain situations, as a defence mechanism. For example, when someone in front of them raises their voice, the response might be to walk out of the room, regardless of other variables. This might be very frustrating for the partner, who can’t get a point across as things always escalate and end in this manner before any resolution is reached.

3. Poor synchronisation.

It’s fair to say that disappointment is the result of the expectations we have regarding others, whether they have caused us to have them or not. The reason we place such emphasis on trivial matters, like a forgotten anniversary or a trip which never materialised, is the importance we give them, as opposed to their real importance, which might be as small as a grain of sand.

When for instance someone makes an effort to plan a special evening with their partner and instead of it progressing well, the partner is morose and withdraws, causing discontent – if not a fit – the only damage done is to the figment, to the expectation. Nobody owns another person, as to force a certain mood on them and instantly demand reciprocity in their emotional state.

4. Love is about giving. Even space.

When we feel lonely and misunderstood, it can slip our minds that the people we are unhappy with might themselves have serious problems, be very tired or otherwise unavailable. Sometimes, the last thing to help the situation is ceaseless complaining over matters they might not have the energy to deal with. Neediness does make people withdraw more.

If someone is quiet for long periods of time, it can also be due to an issue they are trying to work through, at their own pace.We often come across these statements in popular culture:

If he/she really loved me, whatever issues he/she had, we could work them out together. There’s nothing he/she can’t tell me.

Wrong. Again, nobody owns another person and the need to keep some things private (even take them to the grave) should be respected. There is nothing more annoying and alienating than being prodded by others to speak because of the role they think they must play in your life. People don’t owe others explanations regarding their moods or feelings, if they do not wish to give them. They also do not owe them a mask of jolliness in order to not ”bring them down”.

 

In conclusion, this matter is as complex as it is delicate. One should pause and think very carefully whether another’s actions are really designed to affect them, or are simply an expression of how the other feels at the time.

 

 

“Amazing information! I’m clearly dealing with a psycho…”

How many times have you read that, or even written it, while participating in discussions on a popular abuse recovery forum? The most compelling evidence in one’s eyes (that the person they suspect to be disordered actually is that way) is the plethora of similar experiences posted by others.

As a first disclaimer, I am referring to those who are in doubt, usually when no deliberate, serious acts of cruelty have taken place. Many stumble upon unprofessional information which is very articulate and convincing, yet deep down, intuition tells them they are wrong or that they need to reevaluate matters. 

Also, I’m not trying to minimise anyone’s feelings or experience; however, I have serious doubts every case on these large recovery forums involves a genuine psychopath or narcissist. In a vulnerable state, with clever persuasion, mistakes are easily made.

As a second disclaimer, this is only my opinion.

The following issues to consider can be liberating for someone still pondering whether that label is accurate.

1.The fact that members were mistreated in similar ways is not proof they were all mistreated by psychopaths. This is especially valid when it comes to what is deemed emotional abuse.

Not all people who engage in aggressive or abusive behavior are disordered; there are dozens of variables in analysing why a person might have behaved in a certain way. Even though you find yourself repeatedly thinking “mine did that all the time”, keep in mind similarities can occur with normal people as well. Lying, making unflattering comments, using sarcasm, making excuses, being selfish, being arrogant are things most of us are guilty of at some point in life.

2. The way one feels about another person is not necessarily provoked by the latter.

I believe few people have strong telepathic abilities; most need straightforward communication to understand how one is feeling; even then they can remain disconnected, especially if they are emotionally unavailable for some reason. Reciprocity is an illusion in many cases, unless there is proper communication. The lack of it (two people relating to each other through endless assumptions and signal interpretation) weakens bonds; it pulls people apart. Those who are shy, oversensitive, have anxiety issues etc. find it hard to express their feelings; they can experience great frustration with others. Also, one can feel anxious around a person without that person causing their anxiety or even being aware of it.

3. Aggressive or abusive behaviour often has more to do with the person engaging in it than the person they target. As opposed to the message people get on PF for instance, that a psycho is bent on destroying them. 

I dare assume at some point in life we’ve all been shouted at by angry people just because we were there. Also, some feel too safe at times and take others for granted, as a teenager does when acting up, knowing they won’t lose their family over it. I am in no way justifying abuse – I am merely saying not every case is the same and not every person is the same; hence there are many possible explanations for aggressiveness (blatant or passive) . “This individual is bent on destroying you” is the exception, not the rule.

4. Psychopaths lack empathy and remorse. Calling them offensive or big-headed is the understatement of the century.

For a sample of excellent candidates for that “title”, read the comments under any Daily Mail article dealing with poverty or immigration. You’ll find chilling fantasies of opening fire on refugee boats or rounding up the poor to sterilise them. You’ll find acrimonious anti-immigration rhetoric under pictures of dead children, which fail to move any of these types. People often wonder how in the world mass killings such as the Holocaust, the extermination of a large part of Cambodia’s population or the massacre in Rwanda happened. Some people simply don’t see others as human. That murderous instinct hasn’t gone away and never will, I suppose, though we lie to ourselves we have evolved as a species.

There are also public figures with a considerable platform, such as university professors, who advocate monstrosities; what jumps to mind is referred to as  “after birth abortion”, or the possibility for parents to change their mind about wanting an already born child. Peter Singer argues that in case of disability, they should have up to thirty days to decide if they want to keep it, as people refer to children nowadays. If not, the it would be mercifully put to sleep, I suppose. Then there is Eric Pianka, who has another type of utopia in mind – the ideal world population, he says, would be a tenth of the actual one; it is therefore necessary to get rid of the other 90%. Not to mention an individual I won’t even name, who proposed during a widely followed TV debate that abortion should be mandatory for thirty years. And he wasn’t just saying that for shock value.

Then you have the SJW bloodhounds who ruin – not an overstatement – people for disagreeing with them on issues of faith or family values. Under the guise of promoting marriage equality, they target, trick and break those who won’t give up their traditionalist views, making examples out of them to frighten others. They put hard-working families out of business; they gladly take old people’s savings as compensation for having been offended. The greater the misery and suffering they cause, including to children or helpless elderly people, the greater their satisfaction.

You contemplate such individuals and suddenly, the guy who keeps forgetting your birthdays, changes his plans too much, avoids house chores or annoys you with his quirks seems less of a psychopath by the second.

 5. And then there is the world. An unstable, often depressing world where the future is shaky if not bleak; where values regarding human interaction have long been turned upside-down, to let confusion reign free. Here is a short list of contradictions between what we grow up to expect from people and the factors moulding us all nowadays:

We expect sensitivity in a desensitised world, where human suffering has become entertainment;

We expect not to be sexually objectified in a world where porn and objectification can be seen around every corner, hence kids grow up thinking it’s a normal part of life;

We expect stability, perseverance, work ethics in an economically unstable climate, where one’s efforts can be fruitless, causing a lack of motivation;

We expect commitment, faithfulness, when all around us marriages are breaking, people publicly debate the validity of monogamy and the family as a unit seems to be falling apart;

We want constant respect in an angry world, where people lose their temper with innocent strangers, where they lash out at each other for the smallest trifles; men and women want respect from each other while under peer pressure they ridicule the opposite sex for a few cheap laughs;

We expect others to know us and know what we are feeling when so many of us barely know ourselves; life is often so depressing  we turn to therapy and medication to be able to function;

We expect maturity when all around us adults behave like children or teenagers in older bodies, in a hedonistic culture of endless fun and games;

We expect love in romantic relationships, when fewer people have a clear idea of what that is anymore and where it’s supposed to lead, courtesy of our blessed culture of infinite possibilities, leaving many so confused they no longer know what they want.

These are only a few of the reasons why people should think twice about equating selfishness, occasional nastiness and frustrating behavioural patterns with psychopathy. People are complicated.