Are circular conversations a sign of gas lighting?
Recognize 5 gas lighting tactics
"That never happened; you have to imagine it." "Everyone agrees - you're overreacting." "You know no one else thinks like that, right?"
If this sounds like a familiar refrain, you may have been the target of "gas lighting," a term that explodes like a lighter thrown into a puddle of gas. A form of emotional abuse, gaslighting dominates the headlines and social media, and has been tossed around by everyone from experts to columnists to late-night comics.
The term comes from the 1944 film "Gaslight" with Ingrid Bergman. In the film, Bergman plays a woman, Paula, whose reality is slowly being undermined by her allegedly devoted husband, Gregory. While manipulating their minds, his nefarious aim is to institutionalize them so that he can gain access to their property.
The title comes from Gregory's habit of secretly looking for Paula's hidden jewels in the attic. When he sneaks upstairs and turns on the lights in the attic, the rest of the gas lights in the house are dimmed accordingly. Paula gets suspicious, but when she asks Gregory about the dimmed lights, he pretends she's crazy. She has to imagine things; They are just as bright as ever. "Why don't you rest for a while," suggests Gregory. "You know you weren't okay."
In a way, the movie is dead on. The mind games Gregory plays are diabolical: he tells Paula's friends that she is unstable. He isolates her from the family. He disguises himself cutting invalidations as worrying statements. He hides her things and then questions her sanity when she can't find it. In short, he not only plays with her but also with the people and objects around her to change her reality and make her believe that she is losing it.
Despite these realistic influences, "Gaslight" is clearly a Hollywood film. The gas light in real life is more complex than the movie shows - so this week we're going to highlight five tactics of this disruptive and manipulative practice.
Tactic # 1: Gas lighters overwrite your reality.
At its core, gas light overwrites your reality to the point where you question your own judgment. Like most things, there are degrees. It can be as small as telling a child, "You can't be hungry - you just had a snack" or as big as rejecting perfectly obvious facts, like this 2015 story about a man who got married. posted the wedding photos on Facebook and then told his long-haul girlfriend it was an invention of her imagination.
In summary, if the gas lighter had a mantra it would be, "If you repeat a lie enough times, it becomes the truth."
Tactic # 2: Gas lighters don't want to destroy you. You want to make it easier for yourself.
Unlike in the film, most gas lighters don't pursue anything as specific as a treasure chest of jewels. What they want is more psychological. The gas lighter wants the target to be shown around with the gas lighter in charge on a certain set of conditions.
For the same reason, gas lighting is not always conscious. In fact, gas lighters don't sit around petting your billy goats or petting a white cat while planning to undermine your sanity. Instead, gas light comes from the need to control consciously or unconsciously. Gas lighters work to undermine you so you can't challenge them. Then the relationship can go as it wants. You can have your cake and eat it too without the inconvenience of discussing things, compromising, or working together.
Tactic # 3: Gas lighting is often fueled by sexism.
Of course, gas light can be used by anyone against anyone - it is not always gender specific. But it is often used as a form of emotional abuse against women. It "works" in part because it feeds on sexist stereotypes of women as "crazy". jealous, emotional, weak, or incapable.
For example, Dr. Kate Abramson of Indiana University in an excellent 2014 article published in Philosophical Perspectives, a story in which a female student discovered that the male students made a list by which the female students were ranked by attractiveness. If she expresses that such a list is inappropriate, she is told that she is oversensitive, that she is monitoring innocent conversations among male friends, and that she is really just unsure if she is on the list, right? By not allowing her sexist behavior to go unchecked, the male students are suggesting that she act like the stereotypical "crazy woman".
What just happened there? When a woman raises the alarm about sexist behavior, gas lighters use sexist stereotypes to undermine the woman's complaints. Instead of taking them seriously, any of their complaints could be refuted as a stupid misinterpretation or dismissed as overly sensitive. In this way, the sexist stereotypes are used to reinforce one another - an unbroken pattern of circular logic: "See, she's just another insecure, overly emotional woman we don't have to listen to."
Tactic # 4: Gas lighters make disagreement impossible.
Once discredited, any argument you might have is casually written off. When credibility is undermined - you are insane, a wild, unstable, a failure, or lost your mind - anything you say is automatically suspect and will automatically build the case against you. Therefore, you cannot disagree or protest. And the louder your objections, the more your gas lighter can smile smugly and say, "Look, I told you."
Tactic # 5: Gas lighters get you to agree with their point of view.
Gas lighters need the world to be adaptable to their standards. And they need the very people who gas them to agree to them. Therefore, for gas lighters, for example, it is not enough to insist that sexual harassers just have a little fun. You need the harassment target to agree that everything was just a bit of fun. Ideally, the target would not only agree, but believe they deserved to be undermined because they were crazy, oversensitive, or imagining things.
Refusing to witness or substantiate your reality is an invalidation. But gas lighting means that you are invalidating yourself as a target, too. Not only does nobody take you seriously, you also wonder if you can take your own experiences seriously: your common sense, your feelings, your memories, even what you've seen before your eyes. In other words, gas light not only invalidates your experience, it also makes you question your ability to trust your experience. At this point, your gas lighter has you exactly where it wants you: it starts to doubt itself and your ideas, even when they are not there to carry the message any further.
Ingrid Bergman as Paula is confirmed in the end and Gregory is arrested - but not before she hands out some gas light revenge from herself when he is tied to a chair. In a final attempt to manipulate her, Gregory asks her to get a knife and cut him free, but when she pulls his knife out of a drawer, she announces, “There is no knife here; You must have dreamed you brought it here "before you toss it away and joke," I always lose things. "
Whether in Hollywood or in your own household, gas lighting is a form of emotional abuse. Isolation is an important part of gas lighting. If this article appeals to you, reach out to us. If only one person corroborates your experience, it can be a lifeline that begins the process of recovering from all lies and believing in your own truth again.
To learn more, visit ellenhendriksen.com
Facebook image: Wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock
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