EMOTIONAL ABUSE

MANIPULATION – COVERT AGGRESSORS - GASLIGHTERS

You might hold a bottle of poison, read the label, or google about it; but you wouldn’t drink it, you wouldn’t engage with it. So why do we engage with covert aggressors/manipulative people/sociopaths and or narcissists? All these types of people engage in a form of emotional abuse – Manipulation – which is used to manipulate a person into questioning their own sanity and to question reality. You may start to ask yourself, “Am I crazy?” as you continue to engage with them – to drink their poison.  They get you to “drink the poison” because they count on the fact that you have a conscience, which is a sense of right and wrong, a moral sense, an inner voice that tells you to believe in people, to help and care for people. This conscience also tells you to not judge people, to give people another chance, to believe that all people are good, they just need a bit of time and love and support. The manipulator/gas lighter have an impaired conscience and they know this, they also know you have a conscience that is not impaired, they count on this. So, when they fain confusion and play innocent, when they say, “it’s not my fault; I’m not a bad person,” or when confronted with what they have been denying no matter how much you have confronted, once they realize they have been caught “red-handed,” they back track. They rely on your fair judgement to accept and forgive them, and they actively poke at your conscience to get their needs met. They know what they are doing. It is not that they are unaware, or they just don’t care; they cannot care. And as a side note, whether they are aware or not – emotional abuse/ manipulation is not acceptable. They must change their behaviour, not you, your solution is DO NOT ENGAGE WITH THEM – DO NOT DRINK THE POISON.

GASLIGHTING – 10 signs if you are or have been gaslighted

  1. They “know” you (even better than you know yourself).
    • They tell you what you are really like, what your real problem is. If you say, “No I’m not like that,” they might say, “You are not being honest with yourself.”
  2. What is happening or what they are telling you is part of “normal” changes 
    • They say this is “normal,” but you know/feel or believe it is not normal.  An example, they want you to do something that you feel is inappropriate, unethical or you just don’t feel right about it. They might call you a “chicken” a “prude” or say, “just live a bit” or “get with the program,” rather than acknowledge and respect the fact you are uncomfortable about what they want/expect you to do. You are being gaslighted.
  3. They use your fears, weakness or even your openness to help people, against you
    • They will learn about you or they know your triggers and they use that knowledge against you. They want to appear to be better than you, so they poke at your weight, your ability to do a job or your professional expertise.
  4. They question your sanity (MIRRORING)
    • They intensify manipulation by accusing you of being crazy, as seeing things, as lying, or imagining things. They say, “You are paranoid”, “You are overreacting” “You are hormonal” or “You are oversensitive”. And a common response they use is, “You misunderstood what I said, I didn’t mean that.”
  5. You question your sanity
    • You start to believe the gaslighter and start to question yourself, “You are right, I am wrong, I must be going crazy.”  Or maybe you say, “I must be a really bad person”, “or I’m really incompetent at my job.’
  6. Making you doubt yourself
    • When someone repeatedly tells you something, you naturally start to believe it. They don’t need to manipulate you, you manipulate yourself by saying, “I must be wrong,” or “Obviously I don’t know what I’m doing,” or “I am not smart enough for this job.” You start relying on them to tell you how to do it right.
  7. Forgetting/denying/avoiding behaviours
    • They have constant selective memory, they deny ever saying “that”, they refuse to acknowledge “that” happened when you try to confront them about it.
  8. Make/encourage/ask you to lie
    • They will confront you on your appropriate behaviour, but because of the stress you feel, you lie about it. “Did you spend that $20.00? I was saving that money” “No, I didn’t, it must be around somewhere.” You know you have a right to treat yourself and you know it’s “your” money, yet you lie about it to protect yourself from their fallout. You may also find yourself lying about other things, as gas lighters want to control their environment too. They might say, “Tell them they can’t come over, I have a headache,” when of course they don’t have a headache. They are trying to isolate you.
  9. Causing you to stay silent or isolating you
    • We normally share our feelings and experiences with others, but a gas lighter will tell you “Don’t talk to anyone, come to me for answers,” or “Don’t talk to your friends, they don’t like me.” Since you know it is not productive to talk to the gas lighter, you stop talking to them and to everyone else. This becomes a habit once you realize there are benefits to not talking to anyone and you begin to live in isolation
  10. Causing you to have depression or anxiety
    • When you are pushed to question yourself, you can become very tired and feel very hopeless. Imagine believing that you are good at your job and you find out that maybe you are not so good, you are really incompetent. Well that might make you depressed or anxious because there is a cognitive dissonance between the two concepts. You may even seek out treatment “I’m depressed, I need help” or “I am anxious, and I don’t like going out or socializing with my friends,” This never addresses the main issue, which is you are involved in an interpersonal relationship based on power and control with someone who has targeted you and is using emotional abuse and  manipulation to devalue you to built up their own sense of self worth.

 

Gaslighting: It comes from a 1944 movie Gaslight, with Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman. Charles is trying to make Ingrid go insane by manipulating her and her environment because he is a crook who wants to steal the “family jewels”. He murdered her aunt and then used her to get to the jewels.  He would take or hide things of hers and accuse her of taking it or not having it, to make her go insane. She started to question her sanity, and then his behaviour and he would always put it back on her. The “gaslight” part was not used by him to manipulate her, it was used by her to recognize what he was doing to her. He believed the family jewels were hidden in the attic, so he conveniently “stored” all her possessions up there and sealed the doors (so no one could take them) and he would sneak up there and “turn on the gas lights” and look for the jewels. When he did that, the gaslights downstairs would dim, which she would see, but he never thought about that. She “learned” what he was doing by the gaslights. That is the secret for you to remember when learning what your “gas lighter” is doing to you. By looking at the “gaslight” (a metaphor for an outside reference to facts that the gas lighter has no control over), it will help you to discover what is happening and how you are being manipulated. So, keep all places of different references open, places like the “gaslights” (or in today’s terminology – friends, family, other coworkers and simply believing in yourself), they are the ones who are seeing the gas lights dim, and they will help you gather evidence to break free from the manipulation. Critically evaluate all information and rely on other sources of support to challenge yourself, if not the gas lighter.

** Side note: Remember, we all do this. We all manipulate people to get us out of trouble or to get want we want or to protect our interests. That does not mean we are manipulators. Manipulators use it as a tactic, as a way of maintaining active power and control. It is persistent and it is also used to oppress a group of people: Native people, Black people, LGBTQ community are actively manipulated to keep them in a place of subservience and oppressed

How to deal with/address a Gas lighter. 

First, everyone has the right to live with or be with the person they love. Everyone has the right to work where they want and to be able to support themselves with employment. However, you might want to ask yourself:

How long do I want to continue to do this? How long do I want to feel torn down and stripped bare? Do I deserve to be treated this way? As of now, I’ve been dealing with this for 5 years or maybe only 6 months, do I want to be talking about this still in 5 years or 6 months from now? Where do I want to be in 5 years or 6 months from now? What is this relationship or work doing to the spark that I need in order to be me? Have I lost myself? Do I now question myself? Do I question my competence? How long do I want to do that?

When dealing with a narcissist/manipulator/gaslighter – remember

  1. They always need to be in control. And the best form of maintaining control is the voice. So, they use forms of communication that are meant to control, such as persuasion, coaxing, sweet-talking, cajoling, blaming, and guilt-tripping. They will be closed minded, stubborn and not willing to consider anything that upsets their game plan. Consequently, when you engage and say, “No, I don’t” or “I’m not like that”, it is game on for them, as that is exactly what they want to do; they want to draw you in. Winning the argument is not your goal, maintaining your integrity, being true to yourself is the goal. Don’t play the “I’m superior to you game”. DO NOT ENGAGE
  2. They lack empathy. They don’t have it. They don’t know what empathy is. You cannot force them or make them understand. They are dismissive by default. They are unable to listen to any argument that will “bring them around to your point of view.” DO NOT ENGAGE
  3. Because they lack competence, they do not like it when you feel competent. They critically think with a negative slant, so they believe you are incompetent, and as above, they cannot change that view point. They try to keep you off balance, to disrupt your confidence. So, they use cornering questions and smoke and mirrors to contradict you. They might tell you, “You are being aggressive.” They do not ask questions to be open-minded. They ask questions to put you off balance. DO NOT ENGAGE. 

They use shame-based thinking to off-set you. Shame-based thinking stirs up feelings that make you believe there is something wrong with you. They want to make you look foolish, embarrass you, shame you, all to deflect how they feel about themselves. They cannot handle shame. That is their Achilles’ heel.

How to engage with a gaslighter?

DON’T DEFEND YOURSELF, DON’T THROW WEAPONS FOR THEM TO THROW BACK

Instead, picture yourself as a scientist. You are doing an experiment. Put on your protective goggles, put on your big black rubber gloves, put on your white lab coat and OBSERVE. Look at the situation or what they are doing as an experiment that you are watching to “see what will happen”. Stand back, out of harms way and just watch, just observe. DO NOT ENGAGE. If you need to say something, say, “Is that what you intended to (say) or (do)?… then say “OK, thank you.” And leave it at that, as you are only confirming what they are saying.

The only thing the gaslighter can relate to is SHAME. By not engaging, by not allowing yourself to fall into their attack strategy, where you try to defend yourself or protect yourself by fighting back, you signal to them that you are not playing their game. By not playing the game you embarrass them, this may engender them to feel shameful. Shame is their Achilles heel; shame is your Kryptonite to their Superman. By not engaging, you control the outcome of that event, and you maintain your integrity and self-worth.