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What is Gaslighting? What Does It Mean to Be Gaslighted?
It may simply be the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, or it could be the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim. But, sadly, it is the truth: You mention this to your cousin and after a little bit of convincing, she agrees to go to the sale. There, she finds some really cute boots but waffles on buying them and you convince her to do so. Later, you and cousin are with some friends having a drink and someone compliments cousin on her boots. The story she tells, however, is that she remembered the sale, you had to be talked into going and you tried to talk her out of the boots. You have just been gaslighted. Because your cousin is not a malignant narcissist, she has altered the reality of the experience simply to make herself the bright, decisive one. She remembered the sale and you were reluctant to go. It is all about making her look good—but not about making you feel bad. If you do, it is simply fallout, but not her intent. The malignant narcissist, however, may use gaslighting for far more nefarious purposes: Since then, it has become a colloquial expression that is now also used in clinical and research literature. The malignant narcissist, remember, has no conscience so using your feelings as a play-toy for her amusement is perfectly acceptable to her. My mother used the technique not only to make me crazy but to distance family members from me. Victims of narcissists must not have allies, people who believe in them, if the narcissist is to succeed in using that victim. You cannot either scapegoat or gaslight someone if others are aware of the truth. Like all abusers, the narcissist will seek to distance her victim from all possible sources of support, thereby making the victim dependent on her abuser. One of my NM's favourite techniques was to impute motives for my behaviour that, in truth, had nothing to do with my real motives. While taking a Home Ec course in school, we were taught how to set a proper table. When I got home from school I painstakingly scrounged up the necessary items to set a proper table, hoping to get praise from my mother when she got home. Instead, I got nothing except a suspicious eye and raised eyebrow. I knew there was something you were buttering me up for! Over a course of years of this sort of thing, I began questioning my own motives, even when on another level, I knew better. My ex-husband was the kind of malignant narcissist who derived great amusement from gaslighting me—rather like a little boy who enjoyed pulling the wings off of flies. On one occasion in which I was insisting something happened one way and he was implacably insisting it happened another, I found myself twisting in the wind, torn between my own memory and his very certainty that I was remembering incorrectly. He knew—and he was doing it on purpose! I think that women who have long trusted their own judgments but are intelligent enough to recognize that they are fallible and therefore may misremember something, fall prey to gaslighting as well as their less self-assured sisters. The thing about a person who gaslights another is that they portray a degree of absolute certainty that they are right, and that very certainty can cause anyone not as narcissistic as they are to buy into it. This is digging deeper into an alternate reality. The victim must stick firmly to the truth, write the truth down if necessary so she can remind herself of it through regular reading and re-reading. If there are witnesses, asking them for clarification helps. One must also develop the ability to recognize it. Unable to relate to gaslighting or why someone would gaslight another, too often the uninitiated are unable to grasp the motivations of the narcissist and turn it around to blame the victim: The idea that someone would—or even could—offer…and pull off…a wholly distorted version of reality as the truth is pretty much discounted by normal people. Narcissists do not suffer the pangs of conscience for dishonesty, and they bend reality to fit their needs, fully believing themselves justified and somehow avoiding cognitive dissonance in their own brains when they reassemble reality to fit their objectives. They gaslight because there is something in it for them, and they have no fear that others will have the temerity to call them on their lies—in fact, they count on the fact that their very self-assuredness will cause others to question their own recollections of a circumstance or event, and they can be very successful at it. They say and do things to make us question our sanity, our memory of events, our boundaries, our values, and our beliefs. I need to lighten up a bit. I should let it go. It keeps them blameless, allows them to look like heroes or victims…or both…whichever will give them the best Nsupply at the moment in question. Some, the malignant narcissists, will gaslight people for no other reason than to sadistically enjoy the psychological torment of their victims. Their behaviour cannot be explained in rational terms because it is not rational. And the best thing you can do it you discover that you are in a relationship with a narcissist and you are being gaslighted is to leave. We may be financially dependent on the narcissist or we may still be too young to escape a narcissistic household. Fighting with a narcissist is a losing battle. Because the only way to win the war with a narcissist is to remove yourself from the field. Stick to truth and reality and get out as soon as you can.
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