This is a post I have intended to write for a long time but seemed at a loss every time I sat down to do it.
I will make a few comments about gas-lighting and what it is but I found an article that explains it accurately and succinctly. I will put a link to it at the bottom of this post.
I really believe this is one of the more important terms you need to understand, especially when dealing with the victim of narcissistic abuse, with the most important part being the end result: the victim’s inability to trust their own perception, judgement, memory, and interpretation of reality.
Gas-lighting is a form of psychological abuse where the abuser expertly and effectively invalidates his victim’s perception of reality through means of misdirection, denial, discrediting and even outright lying while insisting he is telling the truth. This is often done systematically and consistently causing the victim to distrust their interpretations of events.
Over time the victim begins to doubt him or herself and relies on the abuser as being the one with a more accurate memory or interpretation of events. There is a real skill to doing this and narcissists have mastered it over their lifetime. I am not entirely convinced that they engage in this behavior consciously much of the time.
An example of this can be when you present a concern or complaint to the abuser. If you find yourself in a complicated dance about whether your concern is valid or even exists and somehow end up being the one apologizing you probably fell victim to gas-lighting. You find that problems or concerns you’ve presented have somehow been turned back on you and are now apologizing for having the issue in the first place. It is somehow your fault. You are told you “misunderstood” or are “wrong” for feeling that way and walk away feeling befuddled.
This is just one example of how this works though. Gas-lighting occurs in many different forms. In fact, I think of gas-lighting as more of an umbrella term for a conglomeration of tactics such as: blame shifting, denial, minimizing, deflection, and derailment to name a few.
You are key to this tactic however. This tactic is a ruthless appeal to your good nature and pliability. There are some personalities that are more prone to being manipulated this way. Empaths, who often feel compelled to give and keep giving, are easy targets. Their self-sacrificing personalities attract the takers and open them up to this ruthless taking advantage of their nurturing personality. (A lot of empaths become nurses, go figure 🙄 )
While I think giving a personal example would help, that is the hard part. I was only able to identify with this tactic after the fact. (And I don’t mean after the discussion.) It wasn’t until I started doing some research that I had my “Ah hah!” moment and was able to identify that tactic. You don’t realize what is going on at the time or why you feel confused or crazy. I just knew that no matter what issue I may have brought up, we never ended up on that issue and somehow I ended up holding the “hot potato.” (i.e. I wasn’t loving enough, attentive enough, etc.) Looking back I can easily see that it happened all the time, but giving a specific example is just a bit harder.
I do remember in one particular discussion having this thought process. I remember thinking “What is going on here and how did we get to this place?” while mentally trying to retrace my steps to the point where the conversation derailed. It was so confusing however, I was unable to make sense of it.
There is one simple example of gas-lighting that I remember and stands out prominently in my mind. After discovering a particular habitual sin by stumbling across the evidence, I confronted him. When confronted with the evidence, he admitted to his guilt. I began to cry. (Not weep or wail, just cry). The response I received after that still astounds me. “See? This is why I never tell you anything.”
Suddenly the sin disappeared and it was about me. It was my fault. My response to this revelation was the problem not the sin.
Take a look at this article below for a bit more information on the topic and definitely do some research on your own. Next time, I would like to look at how to combat gas-lighting if you find yourself the victim of this insidious tactic.