It’s been a while since I blogged, but a recent experience alerted me to what Gas Lighting actually means, and that over the years I have been subjected to Gas lighting on more than one occasion, though in later years it seems to be getting more and more common.
The official definition is: Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse that’s seen in abusive relationships. It’s the act of manipulating a person by forcing them to question their thoughts, memories, and the events occurring around them. A victim of gaslighting can be pushed so far that they question their own sanity.
The term “gaslighting” comes from a play and subsequent movie called “Gaslight.” In the movie, the devious husband, played by Charles Boyer, manipulates and torments his wife, played by Ingrid Bergman, to convince her she’s going mad.
Gaslighting, whether intentional or not, is a form of manipulation. Gaslighting can happen in many types of relationships, including those with bosses, friends, and parents. But one of the most devastating forms of gaslighting is when it occurs in a relationship between a couple.
For me the definition is slightly different, though essentially the same…
Gas lighting: the Art Of changing the facts (literally or by context change) throughout a conversation to support your point of view or “win” an argument….
In all cases it is known as “emotional abuse” (and it doesn’t matter if its deliberate or unintentional… it’s still abuse.)
If you are in a conversation or argument, and you think, “I didn’t say that” or “that’s not what I meant, it’s not the context I used” and you start questioning your own memory and/or sanity, you’re probably the victim of gas lighting… either that or you are actually going insane…
Spotting if you’re being gaslit..
You can usually tell which by the fact you start thinking, “I need to record conversations like this in the future” or the person you are conversing with starts “talking” (can be face-to-face or via one of the myriad of “instant” messaging services) really quickly or changing the subject really quickly and not allowing you to go back to what was said to clarify or correct, they may also try and invoke a “guilt trip” to get you to change the conversation into you defending yourself instead of challenging the new facts… It is also common (extremely common) for the abuser to accuse you of gas lighting them, or abusing them, or you are trying to do some form of manipulation on them.
Stopping this emotional abuse…
There are two distinct ways, both can be used, or either, both detailed below.
Getting professional help.
Talking to a psychologist, psychiatrist or therapist about your concerns and experiences. They can help you sift through your doubts and fears and understand the realities of what you experienced. You’ll learn how to manage doubts and anxiety and develop coping skills.
Stopping the abuse yourself, if you can.
This is tricky if the other person is your partner as they will still want to control the conversation by making it face to face, but it still can be done with a little thought.
First: Stop the conversation and walk away…
If the person is face to face, do it literally, if they are ‘remote’ hang up the phone, block/mute the person on the text messaging app after telling them to take it to something you can refer back to, either email or an old fashioned pen and paper and write a letter…
What this does is ensure what is “said” can be easily referred to and “quoted” to point out to the abuser that the context or facts are not what they just changed them to, and ultimately show them the actual conversation/facts of what was said.
This is quite easy by email as you just have to ensure all messages you send quote your previous messages *and* theirs.. try to use “inline quoting” rather than reply on top. This makes it clear of the context of your words, what you are replying to (so that the other person cannot engineer a reply and use that reply in a different context.) If the conversation is an argument and you have to resort to written (pen and paper) replies, ensure you quote from previous letters by using, “in your later letter, you said…” and quote the *exact* words they use, because the first thing a gaslighter will do is accuse you of gas lighting them if you miss part of the item you are quoting and they see an opportunity to say, “I didn’t mean that” or “that’s not what I said”.
In all cases, the most important thing is continually fact check yourself, fact check what they said to you by referring back and quoting.
An example from my recent past, an abuser accused me of trying to manipulate their emotions by saying I was dying. To me this was incredulous and highly amusing because had I been face to face with the person, they would have quoted me as saying something slightly different, they would have been very quick to talk over me, and Im certain there would have been a “what ever, but” and the subject would be changed slightly to stop the challenge of the changing of facts.
It was incredulous, because this was a supposed highly intelligent person (who is not afraid of telling you that they are on the ‘spectrum’ and ‘way high IQ’) and they failed to spot I had closed down all methods of communication except email. I had done it quite deliberately after this “friend” had tried to manipulate me, and I had felt manipulated for sometime and after talking to a professional they suggested it… I just couldn’t work out how to do it without letting them know I was on to them… so when an opportunity presented itself I took it with open arms…
The conversation below is limited to just one of the manipulations and gas lighting they tried, because, like the person, the rest of details are now irrelevant (Note: the ‘test’ and “something new” is not the exact word use, as it is purely work related… however the punctuation and “if I pass” is a direct quote.)
It went something like this…
I said I was “taking a test, and if I pass, I’d be doing something new”… the reply came back a while later that I had tried manipulate their emotions by saying I was dying…
The reply came back: “Even now, you continue to bait and manipulate me IE: talking about you dying and moving.”
Classic example of what an emotional abuser will do, accuse you of doing the very thing they are doing to you… so my reply went back asking what the f*** they were talking about “dying and moving”…?
The response was swift and as I had already guessed, a classic example… it was this…
“You did mention moving and dying. Don’t be stupid and read over your own emails. “***** address is changing in three months” “if I pass” etc etc etc. it’s there in black and white. YOU fucking said that shit TODAY. “
My reply was as swift, I did debate just not replying, but as I had just proven clearly their abuse and I was never going to even speak to them again… ever… I figured a parting shot from me, can only do good, maybe they’d actually get some professional help (very unlikely, but you never know in the future when they look at how their past relationships with friends, co-workers and even partners ended and are trying to work out why they never last long and all go south, they may remember the email and seek help.)
I quoted the original conversation excerpt in full and replied, “That’s “if I pass the test” you blithering idiot.”… the moving part was something very similar, not going to put it in full here, but I will say, it was about needing paperwork only if moving, which was changed by the abuser into, “you said you were moving” … i hadn’t actually mentioned moving other than in the context, it’s not urgent as only will need it when moving.
To finish, this is just one of the many experiences I have personally had to deal with over the years, at times I have literally thought I was going insane where I thought, “I didn’t say that!”, and “That’s not what I meant”… and I must be an abuser magnet because as you’ll know by my previous posts, over 10 years ago I was severely abused by a pathological narcissist… and I took to actually recording interactions as they were the picture of sweetness outside of the home and absolutely nasty as nasty can be behind closed doors.
I hope this helps you if you are either the abuser or the abused… just don’t do it.. its easy to do unintentionally as it is easy to do deliberately, and as an onlooker you can’t always tell which is which.
EDIT: Last thought….
If you want to determine the difference between an abuser and someone who inadvertently gaslit you… wait for the apology. An abuser will never apologise, and in many times they will accuse you of doing it to them, or even just gas light you about the whole incident. A good person, may or may not apologise because at the time of being caught out, they will likely be upset or angry and it will take time to realise what they did and apologise for it. Many times (with me for sure) by the time the apology is even considered it is way too late to give it with any intention of repairing any damage done. e.g. in the recent case, I don’t expect an apology as I am certain it was deliberate abuse, and if I’m wrong it won’t matter any how. I deliberately left it months before the challenge over the gas lighting, and so by the time they actually work out the truth of their behaviour, they won’t be able to contact me… either from their own embarrassment or the simple fact I will not be contactable other than face to face and if I see them coming I will walk the other way… because by that time they will be persona non grata in my circle.
EDIT(2): An Update… how the abuse can continue…
Surprisingly I got an email (rather than comment) in response to this article on Gas Lighting.
Unsurprisingly it was from the subject of the example demanding the article was to be taken down as it was about them. They supported their argument with the assertion that they have shown it to multiple people who agree it’s about them. Needless to say, I haven’t and won’t respond, the article is about Gas Lighting and not about any individual, and without showing emails and communications with third-parties there is no link to the subject of the example, either inferred or directly… I deliberately did not include details that would point to any individual specifically and out of misplaced respect for them.
That all said, I will now say a few words that will directly address things brought up in the email in a manor which is both anonymising and direct to show how the abuse can continue.
They started by quoting the original email which was the target of the changed context/facts and then continued to state “Both of those could be read as you threatening to harm yourself” … anyone who knows me (like this person alludes to) knows my days of self harm ended in hospital in 1994/5.. but apparently “everyone who’s seen that email agrees” … which unfortunately goes back to the the first part of this update that they are pointing the finger at themselves in respect to any inference that the post is actually targeted at themselves. They then go onto apologise but rather than actually apologise attempt to justify their position by referring to the very far distant past and how they ‘assumed’ it was about suicide. This is a tactic I have seen before in abusive relationships, and indeed non abusive (usually desperate) to try and justify themselves as why they did no wrong and how the target (in this case me) should forgive them for making a mistake. The psychology is quite simple, illicit doubt that there was a deliberate act then canvas guilt that the target got it wrong. This in many ways is similar to the changing of facts in gas lighting, but without speaking to a professional on the subject I cannot conclude whether it is actually just another form or not.
The email continued, and as per the usual tactic of abusers it stated one fact, but in the complete opposite of the actual course of events… Specifically, “you wanted me gone, I went” but as you’ll recall from further up in this article, I specifically cut communication where it was not recorded in a way that could be referred back to. In fact there was no ‘I want you gone’ mentioned anywhere in any communication at all, reality is the person was told (confirmed) that if they didn’t respond to me I would cut all lines of ‘instant’ communication and later consider them persona non grata. They didn’t, so I did. It was not something I wanted but something that was necessary for my own sanity…
…and now for the classic sign of abuse and manipulation…
The email goes on to reminisce on ‘good times’, then switches to a one-liner indicating I am abusing them, and how they are sorry that I am “feeling hurt and upset” (Note: no apology there, it’s trying to turn the entire conversation from their guilt to me being the guilty person.)
They then continue to profess their feelings and how they can’t work out why we’re not friends anymore.. which is quite simply yet another attempt to place the guilt (or loss) they are feeling for what they did on me instead of themselves. They them say about how ‘friends’ are forwarding this post to them, which is no doubt an attempt to deflect from a previous lie where they say they don’t know any of my domains/contact details… (in the unlikely event it’s true… they are not your friends!) They (the abuser), however forgets I have blocked anyone and everyone that knows both myself and them except for one family, who don’t actually know of this blog, let alone knows where to view it or would forward a post.
They also fail to realise I have been manipulated multiple times in the past and with age and time comes knowledge and insight. Those of us who seemingly accept the abuse, quietly and without argument are actually collecting and collating the abuse to be 100% sure before making our move. Sometimes it pays to be quite and listen to what is not said, rather than what is spoken.
The message to them is simple… The world does not revolve around you, this post wasn’t about you, but whilst you’re here… You got what you wanted, you said it yourself. When you’re ready, seek professional help and maybe you’ll realise what you actually did. Don’t leave it too long or you’ll find yourself in the same situation as Donna. That said, I personally expect by the time you do; I am sure I will be long gone as will your husband/employer/partner/whatever… (really I don’t know any more) …. In the event you actually seek help in the next few years, when you feel the time is right, you might want and be able to contact me. However, be warned though, lying is unacceptable, transference of blame/guilt/loss is unacceptable, manipulation is unacceptable, gas lighting is unacceptable, if that is on your mind or you think you can get away with it, don’t even bother… and to be honest, after what you have done, I don’t even know if I will ever want to know you again, let alone be friends… but I guess I’ll find out in the unlikely event you actually get there.
Parting thought: When one is given enough rope, many will hang themselves.
Music for the day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Elk6NXBHjBg