Monday, December 5, 2016

gaslighting and lying from active alcoholics and narcissists

name of cartoon: "The Gaslighting Queen"
image is © Lise Winne

Definition of gaslighting:

from Google dictionary:
manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity

Gaslighting or gas-lighting is a form of psychological abuse in which a victim is manipulated into doubting their own memory, perception, and sanity.[1][2] Instances may range from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred up to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim.
The term owes its origin to the 1938 play Gas Light and has been used in clinical and research literature ...
... Sociopaths and narcissists frequently use gaslighting tactics.

my own definition:
manipulate a target and a target's social circle for the sake of rendering (and labeling) the target as insane.  

Typical gaslighting phrases:

* "I never said that." -- when they did.
* "I never did that." -- when they did.
* "I would never say that." -- when they did say that.
* "That would never happen! What is wrong with you?!" -- when it did happen.
* "You're being dramatic." -- when you are showing emotion.
* "You're always remembering things wrong" -- when you aren't.
* "What are you talking about?!?"
* "You need to calm down." -- when you've caught them at a misdeed, being unethical or immoral, or at a lie. Other kinds of phrases along the same lines are: "You're over-reacting", "You must be confused again", "You can't possibly believe that", "No wonder you are so upset; you need to take a pill", "It's no wonder you are acting like this! You need to see a psychologist before you drive yourself crazy", "It's okay. I'll take care of everything. You can stop being upset about this now. Poor thing."
* "You're too sensitive. It's not that big a deal." -- when it actually is a big deal. Other phrases along the same lines are "You're making a big deal out of nothing", "You make mountains out of molehills", "Why do you react to everything? It's just an affair" or something along those lines.
* "I'm sorry that you don't have a good grip on reality." -- also described as a faux apology
* "You're crazy." Other kinds of phrases along the same lines are: "You're insane", "You can never get things right, but you'll be okay; trust me", "You know, if you weren't so insane you would make life much easier for me. Then I wouldn't have to do (*abusive action*) to you", "I don't hurt you! You hurt me! If you weren't insane, you'd understand that! But you can't possibly understand because, well, it's your mental state", "You just don't know how to see things right. It's a reality that is only particular to you, but is bizarre to everyone else", "I'm not going to listen to someone who is insane", "I'm sorry. But you're the one seeing a therapist, so you're the one who is insane", "I wish we didn't have to deal with your insanity day in and day out. Why can you never get the facts straight!?"

In general gaslighting is twisting and reframing, minimizing and discrediting, and doing it with a complete air of confidence and assertiveness (and even arrogance).

For more reading on how to know whether or not you are being gaslighted, check out Angela Atkinson's post entitled Toxic Narcissism in Relationships: Top 10 Warning Signs You’re Being Gaslighted

Who perpetrates gaslighting?

Gaslighting is perpetrated mainly by people with Cluster B personality disorders and occasionally from active alcoholics. People with Cluster B personality disorders include Borderline Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and Antisocial Personality Disorder (sociopaths). Cult leaders and some alcoholics are known to gaslight as well. For more information on who perpetrates abuse and what constitutes abuse, GO HERE.

Borderlines generally gaslight the least and sociopaths generally gaslight the most.

Gaslighting is one of the most insidious and most damaging forms of abuse, particularly for victims of child abuse. I will cover why this form of abuse is so damaging to children in another post, but it goes way beyond knocking down the self esteem of children. It makes them doubt their memory and senses, indeed all of their experiences (what happened to them, and why). It denies who a child is, their voice, their perceptions, their feelings, their sensations, their concept of their place in the world -- and puts a label on it: "crazy" or "insane". What is more, the "crazy" and "insane" labels are used further in smear campaigns and slander. The scope of damage to little human beings is astounding in that it takes many years to unlearn what the perpetrator talked the victim into. Many victims of child abuse in therapy realize the extent and depth of the gaslighting and how it defined the child in them. Often separation from the parent doing the gaslighting is needed to recover fully from it and to learn how to count on one's own perceptions and perspectives without the parent interfering or interjecting his or her opinions on the reality of situations (constant interjecting is also called enmeshment, a by-product of constant intrusive interrogations that narcissists and sociopaths are famous for).

Gaslighting is also used in marriage, work relationships and friendships, and it is damaging in those relationships as well, particularly the longer it goes on, the more exposed a victim is to the gaslighting, and the more brainwashed a victim becomes by it. Usually empaths (INFJs) and innocents, are the primary targets of gaslighting and the ones most vulnerable to it. If the victim also grew up with gaslighting from an abusive parent, the damage done to the psyche in the way of PTSD can be severe.

Many therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists consider gaslighting one of the worst forms of abuse, and unfortunately it is a type of abuse that is almost always practiced with other forms of abuse including the silent treatment, verbal abuse, erroneous blamingisolation tactics (trying to isolate the victim from family and friends), vilifying and smear campaigns.

What gaslighting is:

Gaslighting is always considered to be abuse. It also usually goes in tandem with many other forms of abuse (for a list of common abuses GO HERE).

The purpose of gaslighting is to control people. If someone makes you doubt your reality, and is insistent that you are crazy for believing in your own perceptions, you're more likely to accept a "reality" the other person gives you, rather than your own. It is a way of saying "You're a crazy person and I need to help you by controlling you and your perceptions." It is an insidious form of abuse that is particular to people with narcissistic personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, psychopaths and active alcoholics. It is written into most textbooks about abuse.

Gaslighting achieves a number of things for abusers:
1. they feel higher in stature
2. they use it so that they can feel justified in blaming their target when things go wrong, or when their victims are acting recalcitrant, or when their victims are calling them out on the abuse. By painting their victims as crazy, they can use it to paint themselves as always right and in touch with reality, while at the same time painting their victims as always wrong and out of touch with reality.
3. achieving an upstanding reputation in the community by excusing the inevitable cycles of idealization, devalue and discards that abusers are famous for, painting the victim as too insane to have a relationship with.
4. Using it to slander their victims, getting others to believe that their victims are crazy too. By doing this the abuser hopes that others will always believe what the abusers say and never what the victim says.
5. It is a form of brainwashing. If victims can go along with what the perpetrator says, then slandering is made easy for the perpetrator. It also hands over a lot more control to the perpetrator as a huge majority of abusers try to freeze out their victims from close personal interaction, whether that be family (for child abusers) or their mutual friends (for spousal abusers).
6. Getting away with abuse. If the victim can be persuaded that he or she is insane, and can convince their entire social circle of family, friends and community, then no one will ever question the abuse. The abuse is allowed to go on because everyone has been persuaded by the abuser that the victim is insane.
7. Gaslighting (with slander) is a type of bigotry. The abuser spends his time trying to get the victim to look at himself as "less than", and then spends time trying to convince others that the victim is "less than" too. It is a way to try to demote the stature of an individual. As with marginalized members of society (who are of a different race, culture or creed), the hope of the perpetrator is that his victim will also be looked at that way too for easy scapegoating purposes. "He is crazy" works on demoting the victim more than "He is stupid" for the sole reason that "crazy" is not so easily detected as "stupid". Perpetrators of child abuse can especially be highly effective at convincing others to look at the children as "crazy" and deserving of scapegoating/isolating, especially if they can also get backing from mental health professionals (much harder today, but very, very easy from the 1940s - mid 1980s).

Anyone can be a victim of gaslighting as this article, entitled "How To Spot The Sneaky Form Of Psychological Manipulation Psychopaths Rely On" by Rob Weiss can attest to (the whole article is worth reading):

One of the most disturbing facets of gaslighting is that everyone is vulnerable—even incredibly intelligent and emotionally stable individuals. In part this is because, as human beings, our natural tendency is to believe what the people we love and trust tell us. So rather than questioning a loved one, we tend to defend and make excuses for the person, even if the behavior we're willfully ignoring hurts us directly.

Moreover, gaslighting is just plain hard to spot because it tends to start slowly, with small lies and believable excuses. "I'm sorry I'm late, honey. I've got a big project at work and I lost track of time." A loving spouse would hardly question that statement. Over time, of course, the lies get bigger and the excuses get flimsier, but we might not notice because the escalation is so gradual. In some ways, it's like putting a frog in a pot of water that is set to slowly boil. Because the temperature increases only gradually, the frog doesn't notice that it's being cooked.


The problem with most abusers is that when they lie, they then try to convince others that they are telling the truth and that their victims are lying instead. Switching the blame to their victims instead, is also a form of gaslighting. Sometimes abusers get caught, but they will make every attempt to cover their tracks and dirty deeds with excuses and oblique deflections, demoting the lie as an overlook or inconsequential, as a little slip or forgetfulness. They will do everything they can to convince others that their victims are liars or bad crazy people that need to be locked up or avoided. So they gaslight first, and then slander later. 

So, what if you are on the other end of a conversation where someone is trying to tell you that a person is lying? Or bad? Or deserving of a cold shoulder?

Research goes a long way! Interviewing and research can reveal the truth in a way that blind faith in a person's stories about themselves cannot. If you have ever been the victim of abuse, you will know to carefully inspect people next time you are thinking of entering another relationship. Ways to research: are there any other signs of abuse in the person's background like giving the silent treatment to others, refusing to resolve issues, slandering, stealing, bullying, triangulating, gaslighting, duplicity, blaming others, insulting others, vilifying, never admitting to accountability? Are there any other signs of abusiveness in the person's background like never admitting to accountability, dodging or blame-shifting accountability, serial cheating, mirroring what their victims say (i.e. "You're hurting me!" "No, you're hurting me!" -- i.e. responses that are more reminiscent of children than adults)?

But even then, what if you can't tell who is lying and who isn't? What if you can't tell who is the victim and who is a perpetrator? It is not easy, and often you can't, and as I have mentioned before, most perpetrators spend a great deal of time in persuading activities. But here is how therapists often get clues as to who is the possible victim and who is the possible perpetrator:

In therapy, perpetrators cover up deplorable behavior by trying to convince a therapist, and anyone else who will listen, that their victims are liars (or so insane that they can't tell what the truth is). Again, this is gaslighting too, except it is in a professional setting. The thing is, perpetrators usually spend their first sessions trying to persuade the therapist that their victims are insane before they discuss anything else. It is their number one concern, the number one thing on their minds, their number one agenda, so it is a great tip-off to someone who either has narcissistic personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder or an active addiction.

The gaslighters go in with an attitude of trying to argue points with a therapist, often with a black and white attitude, i.e. that they are always right while the victim is always wrong, much as a lawyer would do. They often appear haughty in their telling of what happened, or use glib phrases such as: "He (or she) is just bad (or demented)." Or: "Let's forget about it!" Or: "I just want to live a good life without all of this crazy lying around me!" Or: "She creates so much drama! I just want a peaceful life!" Or: "The thing I want most in our relationship is not to be criticized, to be shown gratitude for all I have done." -- this is because the majority of abusers are flattery addicts.

One of the first signs is that gaslighters are shallow and off-hand about a subject that should have great import to them: their close personal relationship (whether that be with their child, lover, spouse or close friend). They act dismissively rather than with thought, or concern. If they show concern, they will say glib things like "He's a little off" or "we have our differences". Also, they seem to get on with their lives a little too quickly after the relationship has ended, or over an episode that should be deeply traumatizing to them. They also use opportunities to convince others that the victim is at fault and should be avoided, using exaggeration and persuasion, often talking loudly and with command. If they aren't the lawyer-ly type, they will do special favors (with a little ass-kissing) towards those they are trying to influence. They will feign intimacy and disclosing (using a whispering voice) or appear more in command of their faculties than their victims. They will appear secure in what they are saying. They will almost never say anything that has any self reflection behind it, but continue to paint their victim as a crazy monster that should be avoided or locked up, i.e. black and white thinking. They will often be a little too sweet and nice (in order to win you over). They will often paint themselves as heroes or exaggerate their expertise. They will build themselves up and tear their victims down in their stories. They will appear to appreciate other perspectives, and even appear to remain neutral and uninvolved, but through time, their agenda is to wear their victims down so that the victim shares their perspective exclusively. They are known to make comments under their breath that are disparaging of their victims.

If a victim says that a perpetrator is lying, they can say it brazenly too, but the difference is that most victims are empaths and they practice a lot more self reflection. Most victims have a tendency to look stunned, without fanfare. They almost never have a black and white attitude, i.e. "I am always right and he (or she) is always wrong". Victims generally try to study or get some sort of feedback from experts. Victims very rarely can deal with being gaslighted without years of therapy. While victims may try to avoid a perpetrator, and may even occasionally warn others, they very rarely expect, maneuver or manipulate others to avoid the perpetrator unless their lives are in danger, i.e. they respect the autonomous decision-making of the choices of others. If they do not want to be near the perpetrator, they simply state it, rather than expecting someone else to end their own relationship with the perpetrator. This is the huge difference in their approaches!

If a perpetrator has studied victims, he may know how to act out a victim role, but even then the body language can often reveal the wolf in the sheep's clothing, especially if all of their other actions point to how abusers act.

Again, research and interviewing go a long way. 

Lying and gaslighting from narcissists:

According to Adolf Hitler, "Great liars are also great magicians" (interpreted into English from: "große Lügner sind auch große Zauberer")

Undeniably, this is probably what many narcissists believe as well. Where ever there are narcissists, there is usually a lot of lying going on (and I mean A LOT).

When a narcissist is a parent, it is almost guaranteed that one child will be brainwashed to think of himself as insane (usually the most abused child, the scapegoat of the family -- see favoritism in the family). It is also a great tip off as to whether you are dealing with an abuser before you get hurt. Everyone inside the family and outside the family will also be "taught" that the child is insane as well. Narcissists even try to get their diagnosis backed up by a psychiatrist, psychologist or therapist (it worked like a dream for them in the 50s to the mid 1980s which I talk about at the end of the post).

So why is gaslighting so predominate among narcissists? Well, several theories have been put forth.

Some of the most plausible theories have to do with narcissists' childhoods, and growing up with an abusive narcissistic parent or caretaker (and by the way, Hitler had a very abusive alcoholic father and many of his attitudes can be traced back to his upbringing). If you grew up in a violent alcoholic family or in a household with a narcissist at the helm, surviving the upbringing often means being either a bully or a victim. The victim can be talked into being blamed for nearly every interpersonal relationship problem, so budding narcissists avoid it by bullying. Again see my post on favoritism to get a better understanding of how this happens).

In order to avoid all of the blaming, shaming, humiliation, rejections, isolating, scapegoating, and abandonment (and perhaps even sexual and physical abuse) in an abusive home, the child felt he had to lie and to be inauthentic (i.e. wear a mask, take on enough of the personality of his abusive parent so that he could flatter, and be phony, or keep to himself) in order to feel safe. He also felt he had to act out a role to please the parent.

See also How Narcissism Develops at an Early Age by Josephine Ferraro, LCSW.

If you are around narcissists enough, you'll notice a trend: they almost always sound emotionally flat when they talk (except when they are in a rage). They especially sound flat around people who are expressing emotions. In particular, they tend to lecture when someone is upset, sounding haughty in the process. They may say they "care", but most often they really don't care because they have become divorced from their emotional selves. If you listen to their tone of voice and pay attention to their body language, it will be obvious that they don't care, and they will have the attitude that expressing feelings is a sign of weakness, deserving of exploitation. They put on an act, and either lower their voice too much or go to a higher pitch with their voice, thinking the tone of voice will come across as a caring tone of voice that will be believable, despite feeling emotionally unmoved inside.

Some of the more disordered narcissists that are near the antisocial part of the spectrum can seem a little too sticky sweet. Some narcissists croon and touch you when you are expressing feelings.

However, if they ever terrorize you emotionally later on, one reason they acted so concerned was to get you to open up to them, to confide in them. Then when they want to abuse you to get their fix of narcissistic supply, they use the information you gave them to make the most devastating impact that they can to your emotions, your psyche, your support system (through slander and triangulation). They count on this effecting your self esteem and your reputation. They will lie if they have to, and they are known to lie often.

If they are caught at lies, they will either say you didn't hear them right (i.e. "I would NEVER say that!" -- often sounding incensed) or they find ways to deflect, or to split hairs, or to say you're crazy for believing what you heard from them (gaslighting). 

They also sound insincere, superficial and mannered in a way that seems fake (overly friendly, seemingly dripping with sincerity but it does not go with their body language, for instance). They can smile with their mouth, but their eyes often aren't smiling. When they are smiling, they have often been noted to look watchful, on guard, nervous or scared. They can be too touchy-feely, and dripping with compliments or concern, more than most people, to the point where it feels creepy. They are often charming and come on a little too strong, using mirroring to seduce their victims. Many of them also look at people a little too intently, and if you look closely back at them, you'll notice they are always sizing people up.

In fact, narcissists' thoughts are always about manipulation. They think about how they can manipulate others, whether they can manipulate others, whether they can get away with manipulating others, and safeguarding themselves from the fallout of manipulating others by trying to solve fall-outs with others with even more clever manipulation. These aren't people who prioritize thinking about solving the latest scientific problems, or the logistics of how to walk on the moon, or how to solve flaws in civil rights laws, or how to finish an art project, or how to keep their child safe from a school bully or a sexual predator in their neighborhood; they are thinking about how to get people to do what they want them to do. That is why when people don't do what they want, they go ballistic: rage, blame, humiliate and get abusive. For them, manipulation is their highest achievement, their pinnacle of success, their obsession and often their downfall.

Of course, their acting job can be so believable that you fail to notice, but once you are discarded by them, and start to wonder what happened (most narcissists discard and abuse their victims over small things: feeling criticized, feeling you aren't up to their standards of perfection in some way  -- see my post on perfectionism, or for some other reason that doesn't really make a lot of sense). They will, in the aftermath, and looking back, seem like crazy sleazy salesman to their victims. They are even known for discarding their own children.

In fact, most narcissists react to emotions by saying "You're a drama queen", "you make mountains out of molehills", "you're too sensitive", and in worse-case scenarios "you need to shut up!" or "you are crazy; you should be in a mental hospital" or "you deserve to be punished". Yes, there are narcissists who are so unbalanced and deranged that when their victims are hurt by a life event, they think their victims need to be punished just because the victim is expressing emotion and talking about the situation that lead to it. The narcissists who want to punish, and who enjoy punishing victims for feeling sad, grieving, victimized and hurt, are usually malignant narcissists who are so divorced from their own feelings and the feelings of others that they literally judge feelings as provoking (provoking their anger, provoking their self-entitlement to flattery and attention). This is why living with a narcissist is impossible; indeed it is even impossible to be around them without being inauthentic yourself: once you have been hurt by them, and know they are manipulative 24 - 7, you have to be manipulative right back to be safe (even the gray rock method is a kind of manipulation: you are manipulating how you are seen by the narcissist, i.e. as so boring and uninteresting that they leave you alone of their own accord). I discuss a few other ways to be manipulative towards the end of the competition baiting post.

You have to be inauthentic yourself to keep from being manipulated by them again. It is so uncomfortable, so creepy, so anxiety-provoking to be around them, that avoiding them as much as possible is really the only choice. If the narcissist is a co-worker or a family member, stay silent about your personal life and feelings, keep them at a distance with good boundaries, don't take their baiting and taunting (I will tell you how to do that in another post). You can be polite, and superficial, by talking about the weather, the good food at a restaurant, a visit to the zoo, but it is advisable not to go any deeper than that into what is happening in your life. You should always maintain distance with someone who is abusive and personality disordered.

Sometimes it takes being discarded twice by them to realize that they aren't trustworthy at all. If they do it once, you can make excuses for them for a lack of judgement. Initially you may fall back on such attitudes and thoughts that in their attempt to return to you and their relationship with you, they somehow came to a realization about the importance of your mutual relationship in their lives. But discarding you twice? No way. It is like subjecting yourself to believing in the promises of a criminal who has burglarized your house twice.

At that point, it is an obvious pattern and habit! Toxic patterns of this kind are totally hard to break for the narcissist who has been using silent treatments and rejections as a tactic since childhood, and intolerable for the victims to keep going through over and over again!

The reason why so many narcissists became divorced from their emotions while growing up is because they were punished for their emotions, or they saw that emotional family members were derided and scapegoated, or they were taught that expressing emotions was a sign of weakness, or their emotions and victimization were ignored, or their emotions were paid attention to but they were subjected to lectures about how to get along with a toxic person or situation, or they were made to feel embarrassed by their emotions, or their emotions were mocked and they were made a laughing stock. They became emotionally flat to keep from being abused. Generally, abusive families cannot tolerate genuine emotion.

Many budding narcissists also mimic their narcissistic parent as a way to flatter. It works: narcissistic parents generally are over-the-moon by being flattered by a mini me (flattery is their weakness: they are flattery addicts who cannot bear to hear an opposing viewpoint). Being so flattered often means favoritizing the mini me, putting that child on a pedestal, and in charge of the other children in the house (often leading to sibling abuse). It is the mini me that often becomes the golden child (favoritized). Getting the best from the parent, being spoiled and feeling entitled to get more than their siblings get, while saving themselves from abuse, is usually overwhelmingly rewarded. So the mini me internalizes that teaching by his parent, that he is better than others, and always feels rewarded when he lies to and hurts his victims.

Supporting the abuse and entitlement of the mini-me usually backfires when the narcissist is old (more about that in a future post).

So the narc golden believes, instinctively and unflinchingly, that if they are lying, manipulative, mirroring, inauthentic, bullying, rejecting and acting, they will be rewarded forever for it in life. They can be artificially rewarded (because they fool others), but for most narcissists they either are caught and politely avoided like Hyacinth Bucket in Keeping Up Appearances, or they fall at some point, and fall very, very hard, so much so that many of them contemplate suicide at some point in their lives, with some of them going through with it. Lack of integrity, being found out, lack of relationships with real empathetic people, even being caught in a crime, are how they make their hard fall.

The problem with being a mini me is that they grow up to be a highly manipulative person, to be a bully, or abuser, or batterer because that is what their parent rewarded and loved about them. Some narcissists live lives of duplicity, adultery, crime, or think they are so bullet-proof that they can drink wild amounts of alcohol without repercussions, or think they can reject and abuse so many important people in their lives without repercussion, that they can gain access back into their victims life with superficial pronouncements, or small gifts.

Many artists and psychologists depict narcissists as empty shells which the narcissist will fill up with someone else's personality, the personality of the person they talk to (becoming chameleon-like), taking on the interests and perspectives of their victims. This is the ultimate lying con job called "mirroring". For more information, see my post on mirroring.

So, why can't we just make excuses for them, and vindicate and tolerate them, and have compassion for them, if they are just victims of child abuse?

The reason why we can't is that their child abuse manifested in such a way as to harm others. Hitler was a child of abuse, but he became a malignant narcissist and his disordered personality did what these kinds of personalities do: tortured scapegoats (for him, his scapegoats were Jewish and Gypsy), pronounced himself and the German people as superior by virtue of their race, started wars, got rid of people who criticized him. He was cruel to anyone who challenged him. Not all narcissists are violent, but an overwhelming number of them are emotionally abusive at the very least. We cannot assign different moral and legal standards to them, because in doing so, it gives them a green light to keep abusing, manipulating and exploiting others.

What needs to be remembered is that they were most likely rewarded in childhood for being abusive, for mimic-ing and taking on the personality of an abuser, therefore being rewarded for lying and acting. It is common knowledge that many mini me narcissistic children are used and rewarded by narc parents for disciplining, punishing and abusing their fellow siblings. The mini me narc is so hard wired for being rewarded for abusing in childhood, that they expect to be rewarded as adults too.

It is my opinion that being hard wired for being rewarded for bullying and abusing their siblings or others the parents deem as inferior, is why they get off on causing pain to others. Inside their brains, deriving pleasure from seeing their victims in pain may very well be learned reward and familial endorsement from when they were a child. Since children look to parents for approval for survival, seeing your parents as threats to your life and sanity is often shocking. Abusive parents often go further than the message that they are mean, to effect how your siblings behave towards you (that they are mean too, and will do everything to keep you down and silent, the role of the scapegoat).

 Living a life expecting to always be rewarded for abusing, is probably why abuse is so intransigent in them: it is a habit they make very clear that they do not want to break, for the most part.

For this reason, they cannot be excused for being a victim of child abuse any more. They should not and cannot be looked at as wounded souls "who just need a little love and understanding so that they will grow out of abusing others." No. This is dangerous thinking on the part of victims because abuse usually always escalates, no matter how much love and understanding you give them and their problems.

Abusers don't know how to relate to love, and they will terrorize others when they feel that the other person is loving them. Abusers don't respect love, or take care of it; they always trash it in the end. They are not understanding and compassionate the way the rest of us are: they only see it as "my arm twisting and threats are working" or "not working." They don't realize that love is genuine in others either. It is okay to feel empathy for narcissists, but most of us should not translate that into letting them into our lives or close enough to us to wreak havoc. Most narcissists will expect a close personal relationship, they will expect you to give them constant personal disclosures while they withhold the same kinds of information from you, they will even expect total enmeshment at some point, because enmeshment is the only way they feel secure and in control of you. They may act trustworthy, and cry the crocodile tears, but that doesn't mean they are worthy of trusting. The problem with their abuse is also the timing: they are known to take the best and worse times of your life to abuse.

The development of narcissism happens at an early age, around 8 - 10 years old. With the early rewarding and very early programming, it is probably why narcissism is so fixed: they see it as "just a part of my personality." If you ask most narcissists if they want to change their behavior, they say "no". This means they feel absolutely comfortable hurting others, and with continuing to hurt others, though not so comfortable that they want to broadcast it to the world.

They know that they will be abandoned when they hurt others, or get caught at hurting others. It is probably why they appear so cavalier, unmoved and unfeeling during breakups and why they appear to revel in the idea of being divorced or estranged, even if they don't feel it internally. They know that they will have to recruit other relationships to avoid dealing with the pain of separating from others (with its inherent lack of narcissistic supply), so they always plan their discards of their victims way ahead: they have been known to have other relationships in the wings while they are with you. When they feel insecure with you, they run to the person they have had in the wings to take your place. Disloyalty and phony love are also highly deceptive, with outrageous lying and gaslighting always being an integral part of most betrayals.

A huge majority of narcissists are the youngest of their family of origin, although first-borns run a close second, with middle-born children usually being assigned a scapegoat role. It also has to do with how sensitive the children are. If the middle child is acting cold and calculating and acting like the parent, then he will be chosen as the golden. If the oldest is sensitive, then he is likely to be the scapegoat, and so on.

By the way, when feelings cannot be expressed in a relationship or family, when members are scapegoated and derided for expressing feelings, it is a sign of a toxic unhealthy family (which is usually abusive as well). If there are children involved, Child Protective Services should be notified to protect the child from further abuse. If the child is being expected to stuff feelings, it is usually the sign of a narcissistic parent at the helm.

Ollie Mathews, who is a survivor of narcissistic parental abuse, and gives advice to other survivors on-line, feels that gaslighting is the worst form of narcissistic abuse. I would disagree as I find the smear campaign to be the worst, especially if the abuse is in a work environment, or in a close-knit family environment, but it is definitely the second most sadistic form of abuse. All child abuse victims have being gaslighted by a parent figure in common. The reason why being gaslighted feels so bad is that it negates the validity of your experiences, thoughts and feelings, where the abuser supersedes your reality with his or her opinions of your reality, insistently, often telling you and others in his social sphere that your perceptions are wrong.

When you actually catch them at gaslighting and confront them, they will usually do a disappearing act (give you the silent treatment and smear your reputation with more desperate explanations of why you are crazy).

Gaslighting is the part of the abuse that is planned, devious and evil. This makes them not just mentally or socially ill and disordered.

I have imbedded his video below.

I have found that most survivors don't miss their perpetrator when they remember the gaslighting.

Gaslighting from violent malignant narcissists, terrorists and despotic tyrants:

If you observe despotic leaders like King Henry the VIIIth, Saddam Hussein, Pol Pot, Hitler, you will notice that they used gaslighting as the ultimate tool for erroneously vilifying, condemning and putting to death.

In these cases, some trumped up charge is used to marginalize the victim, and the torturers try to get the scapegoat(s) to believe they are guilty (even when they are not). In the old days witchcraft was used as an excuse to blame and torture. These days "insanity" is the new excuse. Often the perpetrators use unusual torture (the rack and the screw, the whip, the gulag, waterboarding, excommunication, sanctions of food, etc) to get a confession out of their victims. Believe it or not, if the torture is bad enough, or the victims have an unusually sensitive or impressionable nature, victims can lose resolve and even make themselves believe they committed horrible grievances.

(note: I will be providing links to explain more, so check this part of the page for these future links)

Lying and gaslighting from active alcoholics:

Lying from active alcoholics can look a lot like lying from narcissists, except what they are lying about is very different from what narcissists lie about.

According to Robert Weiss, LCSW, CSAT-S in this Psych Central article:

Alcoholics, drug addicts, and behavioral addicts of all types (gambling, video gaming, spending, and the like) employ the same exact manipulative actions, working hard to convince their spouses, families, friends, employers, and everyone else that they (the addict) are not doing anything wrong, and if it looks like they are, then it’s because the other person (the non-addict) is misperceiving the situation.

Lying for active alcoholics centers around their drinking and later on about their behaviors due to their drinking. It is like they are invaded by a host. In order to keep the host happy and to keep the host from torturing them, they have to lie to protect the host.

The definition of alcoholism from Google is "an addiction to the consumption of alcoholic liquor or the mental illness and compulsive behavior resulting from alcohol dependency." Too many people are under the assumption that to be an alcoholic, you have to act drunk, i.e. slur your words, have trouble with your balance, get into car wrecks and bar fights, look cross-eyed and red faced, act irrational, and fall into gutters. In other words, they assume alcoholism means being disabled from drinking. However, that is just plain ignorant thinking. Alcoholism has to do with addiction, not how drunk the person appears. Many alcoholics can drink huge amounts of liquor (like a bottle of whiskey a day, for instance) without appearing drunk because they have built up a tolerance to it. They can be sipping on their bottle of whiskey throughout the day trying not to get drunk, but keeping delirium tremens (withdrawl symptoms) at bay. They can actually do so much more damage to their bodies and brains because they and their loved ones cannot see the deterioration and damage that is going on inside their bodies, whereas drunks notice right away that they are doing damage to themselves. In fact, people who die of alcoholism are more likely to be functional alcoholics than falling down drunks. While active functional alcoholics can feel they have their drinking under control because they act relatively normal, if you take alcohol away from them for more than 24 hours, they go through delirium tremens.

By the way, delirium tremens is dangerous to go through without medical help because 15 - 20 percent die from the withdrawl symptoms alone (seizures), whereas the number of deaths is lower with medical help: 1 - 5 percent. Amy Winehouse and Elliott Bulloch Roosevelt both died from alcohol withdrawl syndrome.

The first sign that someone may be an alcoholic is someone who drinks every day. In fact, non-alcoholics tend not to drink every day. Non-alcoholics can drink a glass of wine at dinner, or two beers a day without becoming addicted, but they are more likely to drink on the weekend or at random than every day. Drinking daily will increase your tolerance to alcohol, so in order to feel the effects of alcohol, you will have to increase your dose. This is where you run into problems with addiction (i.e. become an alcoholic).

Anyway, lying and active alcoholism go together like peas and carrots, or more likely, like the Bubonic virus and the plague. Like a virus, alcohol can do things to a person that wouldn't normally be happening. It has been well known that alcohol increases the anger response, for instance. Active alcoholics are easily and often provoked over inconsequentials, and this is where they have a lot in common with narcissists. Since alcohol almost always comes first over their relationships, they can become irritated and demanding with others because all that they really want to do is drink, and to be in peace with their drinking.

Like borderlines and narcissists, if members tell the alcoholic how his drinking is effecting the family, they are known to go into a rage and blame instead of dealing with the emotions of their loved ones. In fact, many alcoholics spend inordinate amounts of time in blaming and vilifying activities. Many active alcoholics resemble borderlines and narcissists in other ways too: they cannot take criticism or complaining in their family relationships without going into a rage, they deceive and gaslight, they threaten, they are known to have affairs when they are under the influence, they are known to be selfish and self centered and do not care how their actions effect others, they primarily live lives of superficiality and single-mindedness (but unlike narcissists, their single-mindedness is not so much about manipulating others as it is about drinking).

Active alcoholics can be dangerous, and they can sometimes be more dangerous than narcissists and sociopaths, because some of them are not conscious of what they are doing when they are violent. They can also dream up a provocation in their victim which is even more fictitious than a narcissist or sociopath. While narcissists can feel extremely hurt that you didn't butter their toast the way they wanted, and go into a tizzy of silent treatments and blaming over it, an active alcoholic can accuse you of trying to hurt them by not buttering their toast (i.e. that you have an agenda, and mean to hurt them and overlook them).

Active alcoholics, at some point in their disease, are known to dream up wild conspiracies and bend the truth so far from reality, that their minds and recounting of events are totally unreliable. If they have abusive tendencies, the unreliability can make them extremely dangerous. Most people cannot live with active alcoholics.

Some active alcoholics live with another active alcoholic, knowing this, but there comes a point even in these kinds of relationships where one alcoholic has to take care of the other alcoholic. Even functional alcoholics eventually become disabled and unable to work and function normally during phase III of the disease.

Please also see my post about pathological lying and severe alcoholism HERE.

Recovery from Gaslighting:

How can one recover from gaslighting?

Staying clear or having minimal contact with people who gaslight can make a huge difference in feeling confident and sure about your perceptions again. I believe that being married to someone who gaslights all of the time can create such powerful cognitive dissonance that it can make you physically and mentally ill.

If one of your parents gaslights, you have been taught and groomed to walk on eggshells, to accept no other version than theirs, you are blackmailed into accepting theirs (priveleges taken away), you are expected to lie for them. If you fight for the truth, you are expected to lie to make them seem infallible. You are taught that you are insane by them.

If you were a child in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s up to the mid-1980s, your parent had a right to take you to a psychiatrist and either get you lobotomized or put you on heavy anti-psychotics like stelazine or thorazine to get you under control. Parents in those days were exonerated for their perceptions of their children. It made gaslighting really easy. The professionals in the mental health field often went along with the perceptions of abusive parents without any (and I mean any) investigation into possible child abuse or narcissistic parenting (where a scapegoated child is the one taken into the psychiatrist's or psychologist's office). In fact, some psychiatrists went along wholeheartedly with a parent because they did not want to believe in child abuse as the culprit, and there was money to be made from wink-wink-nod-nod. This is how your parent could justify your being crazy and your needing help in deciphering the truth.

In another post (gaslighting stories), I will tell of a mother who put 6 of her children through "psychiatric care" and powerful anti-psychotic meds if that mother thought that her child might be thinking about sex. A child thinking about sex, she was sure, made them insane, even schizophrenic (note: schizophrenia is not possible in children -- it only manifests in late teenage years for boys ... for women it is often even later, typically around the age of 30). This should prove that gaslighting children into thinking they are schizophrenic for a parent's agenda was an accepted practice at one time, and could be easily done in the decades I mentioned, with full collaboration of mental health authorities.

If you were taught by your parent that you are mentally ill, or schizophrenic, or psychotic, or neurotic, or had attention deficit disorder, or that you had an autism spectrum disorder, get diagnosed again. You may have PTSD from child abuse instead (read my post on what constitutes abuse HERE).    

The other thing that constant gaslighting can do is to make you wonder whether anyone around you is telling you the truth, where you are trying to read between the lines of everyone you meet, at all times, questioning their motives, questioning their feelings and thoughts, trying to interpret what they are saying, or what their motivations are, in ways that can make interactions fraught with anxiety.

Wanting to be alone, and not interacting with people, is one of the causes of abuse, and of PTSD. It takes a lot out of you, and feeling trusting of others is extremely difficult, if sometimes impossible. But just remember this: abusers want you alone, and depressed, and despondent, as being alone means you are easier to pick on, to use for ever-more gaslighting and blaming, and being alone means there are no other witnesses to their dirty deeds.

The other thing that gaslighting often does to victims is that victims obsess over details of conversations, details of evidence, details of conversations. Re-playing events over and over again is also common.

My opinion is that victims of gaslighting should be treated in counseling, preferably with a domestic abuse therapist who understands the many ways that abusers attempt to get people under their control. Often the therapy includes re-telling events as Andrea Schneider, LCSW, from this article states:

With the help of a skilled therapist who knows how to support survivors of narcissistic abuse, people can thrive and restore their confidence in themselves. Mastering the trauma by narrating a story helps to synthesize facts, even contradictory and confusing facts/emotions caused by gaslighting and cognitive dissonance. With a compassionate, nonjudging psychotherapist, the abused person then learns or relearns how to trust his or her perception of the abuse history, thereby strengthening the individual to release the trauma and any associated anxiety. Increasing coping skills in moving through anxiety and depression is also essential, in addition to mourning the loss of the abusive relationship.

Once you are away from people who gaslight you, you get away from people who want to convince you that you are crazy for their own self-serving "needs". Most therapists who specialize in domestic abuse know what gaslighting is, and why abusers use it, and can help you understand why you were being told you were/are crazy. It is always good to know that your perceptions were right, and that they only told you that you were crazy to control you or abuse you.

Recovery from gaslighting in my own life:

I have found tremendous peace and relief from getting away from the gaslighting (even if that separation was through their discard). I spend very little time thinking about the particular narcissists who have gas-lit me, but I do think about the subject of gaslighting quite a bit for the purpose of healing.

The reason I think about the overall subject is because I believe that educating oneself about gaslighting and other forms of abuse is one of the most important things one can do for one's recovery from it. For my own part, I read a lot of articles on gaslighting and its effects.

I also talked with many other survivors.

When you get to know many other survivors of abuse, you realize that most of them have been gas-lit too. The experiences can sound remarkably similar, even down to the same vocabulary and phrasing. The way this can help you to heal is that it is immediately apparent that you aren't insane and neither are any of your fellow survivors. It becomes clear that the perpetrators use it as a brainwashing technique.

Below are some great links to articles and videos that helped me personally. If you know what abuse is and what it looks like, you are almost guaranteed to find that gaslighting was part of their agenda.

One small gaslighting story from my past:

I came across a correspondence recently over some official records that one of the narcissists in my life tried to re-tell, and tried to convince me that I skewed the records just to make them look bad, even though they were OFFICIAL RECORDS! Just to make sure they were official records, I ordered the entire transcript. But they insisted on their made-up version anyway. As the saying goes, "you can't make this stuff up".

When telling my story to a group of survivors, most of them laughed. "What are they going to do? Try to convince you that you are so insane that you can't read or understand the documents? Oh, my God, they must be desperate!"

And I could understand why it was so funny to them because gaslighting is so ingrained in abusers that they don't know what else to do when being caught red-handed. It's like someone who is hell bent on telling everyone they are driving a car when they are actually peddling a bike, and right in front of everyone! ... except it isn't so funny when they are so insistent about altering the truth, and terrorizing people for not altering the truth just for them.

The gaslighters in this instance have other people in their lives who lie for them, and even lie so much more than they do, and it seems fitting that they are all together, in one loving crocodile unit, making fantasies and manipulative chess arrangements about how other people should conduct themselves -- also ridiculous. 

Narcissists hate the truth, because the truth feels very dangerous to them, something that cannot be changed and altered through manipulation without a lot of effort, especially if the truth is in "official documents." Manipulation is their "comfort drug", what they live for. This is to say that only manipulating something, anything at all, feels safe to them ... except when the more clever narcissists (in the guise of other bully flying monkeys) that they can get to lie for them lie to them as well. This is when they feel utterly tortured by their own beloved tactic. It boomerangs back at them at some point, with even more force than they threw it with (that's because lies are like a run-away train, with more lies piled onto more lies, culminating in trumped-up charges, with only other liars able to tolerate so much lying).

Indeed, it is what is happening to the gaslighters in my own life.

At any rate, I felt an immediate and overwhelming queasy sensation at seeing their e-mail when they tried to rewrite the truth (i.e. gaslight me). They also were insistent that I see a mental health professional over the official documents (as if I have the brain of a naive child who would believe them just because they said so). I haven't felt queasy in years, but it put me in touch with how I used to feel. In my new life, I don't have that queasy feeling any more, of course. And I work at avoiding any more toxic people, and deepen relationships with the enlightened people (the truth-seekers, the people who have done a lot of inner work, the people who care about feelings, the people who love to investigate the truth, the non-judgmental people who seek out a moral end to conflicts, who abhor violence and abuse, who delve into what is right and what is wrong for all humanity).

I enjoy the sensation of feeling free of pressure to change the truth, of being shamed by them for speaking the truth, just so their gaslighted altered reality would make them feel better about themselves. Yuck.

Further reading:

Gaslighting stories -- coming soon: my own posts showing you horrific nightmare stories from survivors of child abuse

Gaslighting: How Addicts Drive Loved Ones Over the Edge -- by Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S -- the article also discusses gaslighting as a form of Betrayal Trauma (which manifests as PTSD for victims) 

Gaslighting as a Manipulation Tactic: What It Is, Who Does It, And Why by George Simon, PhD, from the Counseling Resource blog

The Effects of Gaslighting in Narcissistic Victim Syndrome -- recommended, by Christine from the 3 Faces of Evil website.
Excerpt:
The intention is to, in a systematic way, target the victim’s mental equilibrium, self confidence, and self esteem so that they are no longer able to function in an independent way. Gaslighting involves the abuser to frequently and systematically withhold factual information from the victim, and replacing it with false information. Because of it’s subtly, this cunning Machiavellian behaviour is a deeply insidious set of manipulations that is difficult for anybody to work out, and with time it finally undermines the mental stability of the victim. That is why it is such a dangerous form of abuse. The emotional damage of Gaslighting is huge on the narcissistic victim. When they are exposed to it for long enough, they begin to lose their sense of their own self. Unable to trust their own judgments, they start to question the reality of everything in their life. They begin to find themselves second-guessing themselves, and this makes them become very insecure around their decision making, even around the smallest of choices. The victim becomes depressed and withdrawn, they become totally dependent on the abuser for their sense of reality.


Each Time You Lie, Your Brain Becomes More Desensitized to Lying -- by Allison Eck for Nova (PBS special). This article covers decrease in the size of amygdala as a result of lying.

Gaslighting Is a Common Victim-Blaming Abuse Tactic – Here Are 4 Ways to Recognize It in Your Life by Kris Nelson for Everyday Feminism Magazine

10 Things I wish I’d known About Gaslighting -- by Shea Emma Fett

You're Not Going Crazy: 15 Signs You're a Victim of Gaslighting -- by Aletheia Luna

What is Gaslighting: Covert Narcissistic Abuse at its finest -- from the Narcissists, Sociopaths, and Flying Monkeys -- Oh My! blog

You’re Not Going Crazy: How “Gaslighting” Erodes Your Sanity by Aletheia Luna

Unloving Mothers and the Power of Denial -- a Psych Central article by author Peg Streep who wrote "Mean Mothers: Overcoming the Legacy of Hurt". In this article, she describes a life of gaslighting by a mean mother.

The Archers domestic abuse is classic ‘gaslighting’ – very real, little understood -- an article from the UK publication, The Guardian by Jay Watts

121 Things Narcissists Say When They Are Gaslighting You by Angela Atkinson for the Queen Being website

Gaslighting: One of the Most Dangerous Forms of Mental Manipulation We All Deal With

Price of calling women crazy: Military women who speak out about sexual assault are being branded with “personality disorder” and let go by Amanda Marcotte, an article from Salon about how and why the military gaslights victims of sexual abuse

"Gaslighting" -- a powerful poem about Anne Boleyn (wife of King Henry the VIII). King Henry practiced idealize, devalue, discard with all of his wives (some of whom he decided to execute, and Anne Boleyn was one of the ones he executed). The poem is by Maggie Royer.

The term "gaslighting" has even been used by CNN to describe how Donald Trump reacts: Donald Trump is Gaslighting All of Us -- by Frida Ghitis






a pertinent video by life coach, Lisa Romano, about how narcissists try to make you
doubt your own reality:

Ollie Mathews reads a letter online from a woman whose parents
used gaslighting in combination with threats:

name of cartoon: "The Gaslighting Queen Strikes"
image is © Lise Winne

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comment may be published after moderator's acceptance. Thank you for your thoughtful reply.