Are you a victim of gaslighting?

gaslight

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse where a person is made to doubt their own reality or judgment.  It’s a very common way that narcissists, psychopaths, and other abusers manipulate their victims.

The term comes from the 1942 movie of the same name, in which the heroine is victimized by her abusive husband into believing she is going insane, when she notices the gaslights in their home going on and off seemingly by themselves, when it is actually he who is doing it to torment her.

Here are a few examples of gaslighting:

Your partner calls you hurtful names, and when you object, tells you you are being “too sensitive,” “acting crazy,” “playing the victim,” etc.  (blaming the victim is very common in abusive personalities).

Your parent, who was physically abusive to you as a child, says it never happened and you are just imagining things.

Your partner steals money from you while you’re asleep, and then when you bring it up the next day, says you must have misplaced it or didn’t count it right.

Gaslighting occurs on the societal level too and is a favorite tactic of sociopathic leaders to maintain control of their narrative and keep their opponents off balance and fearful, but that is beyond the scope of this short post.  I have covered that topic elsewhere in this blog.

Gaslighting is death by a thousand cuts.   While an individual incident of gaslighting might seem minor and nothing to get that upset about (and all of us, at one time or another, have probably gaslighted someone else),  these incidents tend to add up over time and cause a person to doubt their own reality to the point of developing symptoms of trauma or even PTSD.

A person who is the victim of gaslighting becomes fearful, unsure of themselves, feels as if they’re “walking on eggshells” all the time, afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing.   If you feel uncomfortable, ill at ease, or fearful around a particular person, or clam up when you are usually more outgoing, chances are you are being gaslighted.

Here’s a handy table that will help you know when to tell.

gaslightingfacts

Advertisements

7 Characteristics of the Modern Psychopath.

hannibal

Below is a link to a really good and informative article from Psychology Today about sociopaths and psychopaths,* and the devastation and misery they leave in their wake, both in personal or familial relationships, and on a much larger, societal level.

This article explains how to detect them.   While only 4 percent of the population suffers from Antisocial Personality Disorder (sociopathy and psychopathy) , a larger portion (up to 15%) are situational sociopaths or psychopaths.   This is explained in more depth in the article.

A malignant narcissist is a person with both Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Antisocial Personality Disorder.    This combination of personality disorders is especially devastating because of the already conscienceless person’s insatiable need for adulation and approval.  When narcissistic supply is abundant, instead of satiating the person and making them act more pleasant, as you might think, they become “drunk” on the ego “fuel.”  This phenomenon is evident in Donald Trump, who, feeling victorious and vindicated after the Barr’s summary of the Mueller Report stated he did not collude with Russia to win the election,  became “drunk on power” and his cruelty, gaslighting, lies, and unreasonable demands actually got worse.

7 Characteristics of the Modern Psychopath

*A small percentage of psychopaths (not sociopaths) choose to be prosocial instead of antisocial.  Psychopathy, unlike sociopathy, is a condition a person is born with, in which the parts of the brain concerned with conscience are missing.  Psychopaths can cognitively learn the difference between right and wrong, so they can choose to do the right thing (even if the motive for making that choice is always self serving).   It’s not second nature to them but they may make that choice if they have learned it benefits them the most.   In contrast, sociopathy is an acquired condition associated with malignant narcissism or antisocial personality disorder, and such a person will never choose prosocial behavior and in fact aren’t capable of doing so.

6 stages of recovery.

Image

6stages

The Silent Treatment: weapon of control.

silent_treatment2

The silent treatment is a psychological weapon all narcissists use, even those lacking the cunning or Machiavellianism to successfully use more complex weapons like triangulation or gaslighting (I’m not sure they really require intelligence since it’s probably programmed into them and I’ve known plenty of dumb narcissists who are great at controlling and manipulating others in these ways–they are like trained monkeys).

We’ve all been victims of the silent treatment.  We might have even used it ourselves on occasion.  It’s not exclusive to narcissists so is probably not a good red flag, but all narcissists use it–and they use it a lot more frequently than other people do.

If you’ve been a victim of the silent treatment (also known as “stonewalling”) you won’t forget it.  You know the drill. It’s when they just stop speaking to you or even acknowledging your existence.   Usually, it’s in response to an insult of some kind.   You tell a narcissist their new haircut looks nice, and they get mad at you because you didn’t say it makes them look like a runway model (that’s how sensitive some of them are).   But they don’t tell you what made them mad.  No, you’re supposed to be a mind reader!  Instead, they don’t talk to you.   No matter how many times you ask them to tell you what upset them, their tongue is locked up like Fort Knox.   You beg and plead and soon find yourself apologizing even though you don’t even know what you’re apologizing for.   Anything to get them to talk to you!  It’s torture.   But it’s supposed to be–you are under their control and just where they want you to be.  It’s a brilliant psychological weapon and requires nothing from the narcissist other than a refusal to speak.

words_may_sting

While the silent treatment is most often used in response to an insult of some kind, this isn’t always the case.  Sometimes a narcissist will use the silent treatment for seemingly no reason at all.   I remember a man I dated for a short time before he devalued and discarded me and moved onto a new victim.  We were driving around New York City in his car, and having what I thought was a good time. The radio was playing and we were laughing about something or other.   Suddenly, for absolutely no reason, he went silent.  No matter how many times I begged him to tell me what was wrong, he wouldn’t.  In fact, my questioning seemed to piss him off.   It was weird. One minute he was laughing and had his arm around me, the next he was silent and stony faced.  I didn’t get it.    But he wasn’t done with me yet.  Suddenly, he pulled the car over, and told me to get out.  It was nighttime and we were in a terrible neighborhood.  I reminded him how dangerous this area was at night, and asked him for money for a taxi. “No,” he said coldly. “Take the subway to your bus stop,” he said callously, practically pushing me out of the car.  I managed to get home without being raped, robbed, or killed, and the next day this jerk called me and wanted to see me again.  He acted like nothing had happened.   I didn’t dare ask why (I didn’t accept his invitation though).   In retrospect, I think he did what he did because he could.  It was fun for him, and while he was doing it, he felt big and powerful and in control.

And that’s what the silent treatment is all about.  Control.  You are completely at their mercy, bewildered and confused–and they love that.    It makes them feel powerful.  If they’ve suffered narcissistic injury, giving you the silent treatment restores their equilibrium.   It’s also a handy way to punish you.  But sometimes they do it just because they can and there’s no way you can fight back.   If a non-narcissist uses the silent treatment, it’s a reaction to legitimate anger or hurt.   They are so upset they don’t want to speak to you for the time being.  But it isn’t being used to manipulate or control you.  They will talk to you about it later.  With a narcissist though, you will probably never know what upset them–if anything at all did.

The point of no return.

u_turn

Last night Fivehundredpoundpeep disagreed with a post I wrote, saying that people who chose narcissism reach a point of no return when become thoroughly evil. She has religious reasons for this view (“reprobate” is a religious term that means the person even while still alive is destined for hell because God has turned his back on them due to their bad choices). While I don’t share her literal biblical beliefs in certain damnation for some (I believe this is from Calvinist thought), I agree with her that most narcissists do get worse with age and many reach a point of no return, where they become so hardened they have no hope of changing-and I do agree this change is due to a total selling out of whatever conscience they may have had, if they ever had any. I have seen this up close and personal with my ex, who is a frightening example of someone who completely sold his soul, for lack of a better phrase, to the devil. All Cluster B personality disorders have a spiritual as well as a mental component, but narcissism is a slippery slope into inescapable darkness and misery.

When I married my ex in 1986, he was definitely a narcissist but lower on the spectrum than he is today. While still being abusive and extremely manipulative, he did have moments where he showed what I believed was genuine goodness. He was actually a good father to our two children–at first. In fact, he was more patient with them as babies than I was. It was later that he began to scapegoat our son (who like me, is highly sensitive and able to see through his father) and started to use our daughter as a sounding board for his own problems when she was still just a child as well as a junior flying monkey against me and her brother.

I’m not entirely sure when he crossed the “point of no return” but it seemed to be between 1997 and 2001, during the time his mother lived with us before entering a nursing home. This is when I believe he became thoroughly evil and it was because of the way he treated his ailing mother.

His mother was a thoroughly malignant narcissist who was very abusive to my ex while he was growing up. She too became worse with age, but in the late 1990s, she developed Alzheimers and could no longer live alone, so we brought her to our home where an eye could be kept on her. As malignant as she was, she was losing her faculties and her mind and it would have been inhumane not to try to help her.

Most of her care fell on my shoulders, a difficult thing because my kids were still very young and I was trying to raise them too. I was also suffering from severe depressions during this time due to my ex’s increasing abusive behavior as well as his heavy drinking and drug taking, for which I had to be hospitalized twice. So you can imagine I wasn’t the most patient caregiver, especially because his mom could still be so unlikeable. It was hard for me to not become angry with her. I tried to control this, but found it so hard, especially when she began losing control of her bowel and bladder. Every day I was confronted with messy bedding because she kept pulling off her diaper and would fight me or start crying whenever I went to change her. I was never cut out to be a nurse, but this was too much and there were those times I’d yell at her in frustration.

old_woman
Unknown artist.

My ex hated his mother, but did not want to put her in a nursing home due to the expense. Of course anything I had to say about the matter fell on deaf ears. He had actually made her sell her house when she moved in with us and obtained a power of attorney so the money from the sale was in his name (the money was gone within one year). I never felt this was right but admit I enjoyed having more money, so I never said anything to him about it being wrong. While what he did wasn’t illegal, it was extremely unethical and selfish. While his mother’s immediate needs were taken care of, he had complete control of the money and most of it did not go for her care and went for luxuries for us instead. I always felt badly about this and for years felt like my sin of overlooking this would never be forgiven. (Recently I repented and know I have been forgiven but it still bothers me sometimes).

But enough about that. My ex was increasingly abusive to her while she lived with us, and reached a point where he became physically abusive and would spank her like a bad child–IN FRONT OF MY CHILDREN! As awful a mother as she was to him, she did not deserve this. Whenever I brought up how wrong his behavior was, he said he had a right to treat her that way because she was such a horrible mother. He said it was karma. Not once did he ever admit he was wrong. After a while, my bad case of narc “fleas” became so bad I began to join in the abuse–not hitting her, but I stopped trying to defend her and began to think maybe his spanking her wasn’t really wrong. After all, she did act like a naughty three year old. I didn’t know it, but I was suffering a form of Stockholm Syndrome, where a victim begins to identify with their abuser and make excuses for their bad behavior. Still, I begged him to put her in a nursing home but he still refused.

It was during this time he began to grow pot in our outbuilding, and his immoral behavior ramped up a few notches. He recruited our 8 year old daughter to water the plants and watch out for cops! I couldn’t believe he would do this, but I said nothing because nothing I said ever was taken seriously or I’d be belittled for bringing it up. He also started to hit my son, and berate and belittle him constantly. All this was new for him. Before his mother had moved in he had never been physically abusive to our children and stayed away from alcohol and drugs. Now he was drunk or high most nights and began to change into a person I was becoming extremely afraid of. His look became harder and colder, and he was rarely affectionate anymore. His eyes became very cold, almost demonic at times. Both of us had affairs (I’m not proud of this either because I was actually worse than him). I was mentally ill myself due to the abuse but this doesn’t excuse the part I played in this whole mess of a marriage.

In 2000 his mother developed cancer and after her hospitalization, finally entered a nursing home. We hardly visited her at all but whenever we did, he would tell the kids how stupid and horrible his mother was and encourage them to insult and demean her. He told them she deserved the way he treated her because of the way she had treated him.

She died in January of 2002 and to this day, my ex never went to pick up her ashes.

It was during these five years from 1997-2001 that I saw my ex change from a person who could sometimes be nice and was often a lot of fun into a monster who appeared to have no emotions at all or any empathy for anyone else. Looking back, I think it was because he crossed a line from “mere” malignant narcissism into full blown psychopathy brought on by continual abuse of his helpless mother. Yes, his mother was a highly malignant narcissist herself and his hatred of her was understandable, but no one with a conscience would have treated her the way he did when she became ill. It scares me to think how close I came to becoming evil myself, because of my collusion with him in this horrible abuse. For the past few days I have been struggling with the evil I see in myself, and as a borderline, I’m so close to being a narcissist anyway. There were so many times while I was with him that I flirted with turning my back on everything good and right. I’m having a rough time accepting this and forgiving myself. But that’s for another post.

From 2002-2004 our marriage continued to worsen and the psychological abuse grew worse (not the physical, because he stopped drinking and he was only physical when he was drunk). We obtained a divorce but in 2006 I made the mistake of allowing him to move in with me. By this time he was parasitic and refused to work. I’ve written about this elsewhere.

walking_indarkness

Today I see no goodness in him at all. I’ve never seen a person so filled with hate and rage. His conversation is always sarcastic, biting, and negative. He never has anything positive to say and spends most of his time trolling political websites and getting high. He’s not out there committing violent crimes, but he’s a person who seems to have no soul. The rare times I do see him (I avoid this as much as possible), I can’t even look him in the eyes because they’re so dead and empty. I’m afraid just looking into them can infect me with his evil. Our daughter unfortunately is still in thrall to him, and I pray all the time she will be okay. I’m afraid further close contact with him can destroy her soul the way it almost destroyed mine, and she’s halfway there already, showing a number of narcissistic traits. Like me, she has a really bad case of “fleas.” I can’t keep her from seeing her father though. She is an adult and I have to accept that I can’t make her choices for her.

While it’s very sad to see a person so thoroughly gutted spiritually, I have no sympathy for my ex. I do have sympathy for the little boy he used to be, but he died a long time ago.

My son, who was scapegoated by his father, seems to be the most mentally healthy person in the immediate family. He does have some anger and self esteem issues (don’t we all?) but he is strong and determined to escape the fallout of the family illness. I am so proud of the man he’s becoming.