“If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating…”
from “If” by Rudyard Kipling
This is part one in a series exploring the various tactics Gaslighters use to silence, control, isolate, marginalize, and psychologically torture their victims. This article will explore the double bind – the no-win situation engineered by the Gaslighter. One psychoanalyst, Lenoard Shengold, described this process as “soul murder”.
Gaslighting, at it’s very core, is an attempt to “drive someone crazy”, and to orchestrate this belief in the victim’s support system, to isolate them. It’s a calculated, preemptive strategy to discredit the victim, so that the Gaslighter can abuse with impunity, while even recruiting proxies to join in. Thus, the abuser escapes accountability, the victim is alone, making it impossible to fight back, while a group of proxy abusers is formed, frequently even from the victim’s own family, who will carry on the abuse, group or family mobbing and social bullying, even in their absence.
“Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person or a group covertly sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or group, making them question their own memory, perception, or judgment, often evoking in them cognitive dissonance and other changes including low self-esteem. Using denial, misdirection, contradiction, and misinformation, gaslighting involves attempts to destabilize the victim and delegitimize the victim’s beliefs. Instances can range from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents occurred, to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim.”
“The term originates in the systematic psychological manipulation of a victim by her husband in Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 stage play Gas Light, and the film adaptations released in 1940 and 1944. In the story, the husband attempts to convince his wife and others that she is insane by manipulating small elements of their environment and insisting that she is mistaken, remembering things incorrectly, or delusional when she points out these changes. Gaslighting-Wikipedia
One of the most insidious, underhanded tactics Gaslighters use, is to manufacture situations where the victim cannot confront the inherent dilemma, and therefore can neither opt out, or resolve the situation. So, the double-bind is two conflicting demands, neither of which can be ignored or escaped. The victim is torn both ways, and no matter which way they turn, or how hard they try, they can never win. The Gaslighter knows the game is rigged, but the victim doesn’t find out until they have exhausted every possible attempt to satisfy the demands of the Gaslighter.
A few of my own personal examples are as follows: The Gaslighter regularly complained that he needed me to “make more money”. Unknown to me, he went behind my back to my family making those same false allegations, while turning on his magnificent “charm”. It’s important to note that not only was there a heavy guilt trip, demanding that I “do more”, facts were conveniently missing from these statements and demands – the money I was earning already, along with the substantial savings by having no child care expense.
I was already well-trained by the Gaslighter to believe anything that went wrong must be my fault, and could be fixed if I’d only try harder. So, I got more employment, but it would require the Gaslighter to help by putting our child on the school bus two mornings per week. He readily agreed, and so I began the job. However, after a few weeks, the Gaslighter made vague excuses and suddenly wasn’t available, even though his job allowed him to do it.
This happened repeatedly. The Gaslighter loudly complaining about a fictitious lack of money for all to hear. Then I would start a job, only to have him duck out on his responsibilities after a few weeks. It became a repeating cycle, with the Gaslighter sabotaging my employment every single time. Yet, he continued blaming me for not earning enough, and complaining about my so-called “unwillingness to work” behind my back to my family, while of course, never admitting that he was purposely sabotaging it.
Another double-bind the Gaslighter manufactured was “losing the house”. The family home went into foreclosure during the separation, when the Gaslighter stopped paying the mortgage. However, the mortgage was only in his name, and I had no legal rights to even talk to the bank, much less pay the mortgage.
But yet, I was the only one attending all of the foreclosure court dates downtown at the Chicago Daley Center – alone. After considerable effort, with the help of a foreclosure community action group, I somehow even managed to work my way up to the very top of management at Bank of America, obtaining an unheard of meeting with the VP of State Government Relations. This bank executive put me into a cab with her where we went to meet with the underwriter. A deal was offered that would have allowed us to keep the family home for our child. They agreed to refinance the loan, and allow me to assume the mortgage after a month’s time.
All the Gaslighter had to do was provide documents directly to the bank to process the refinance, since the mortgage was only in his name. Then, after refinancing, they would let me assume the loan. So not only could the family home be saved for our child, the Gaslighter would no longer have a foreclosure on his record. This was beneficial to him as well.
The VP of Government Relations sent an email to the Gaslighter, outlining the bank’s offer, as well as assurance his information would be confidential, and I would not have access to it. However, the Gaslighter refused to provide the documents. He wasn’t asked for any money-only documents.
This double-bind was set up so that he could blame the loss of our house on ME, while omitting the fact that he made it happen.
With this strategy, he was able to falsely portray me as a lazy person who couldn’t be trusted with money, to my family. These are a few of the tactics that enabled him to influence my elderly, ill father to give him tens of thousands of dollars for family court lawyers, and to sign over my share of our four generation family farm trust to him. It also enabled him to get money out of my very elderly grandmother.
It can be a very arduous, painful process, but, the victim can slowly heal from the deep traumas created by the Gaslighter. In time, with hard work, much perseverance, and a strong support system, the victim can re-claim their own voice. It may be difficult to see, but there is life out there beyond Gaslighting, abuse, trauma, and social bullying.
Naive, easily-deceived people may be forever lost to us. And, there are those who will never be able to let go of the Gaslighter’s smear campaign because it serves their psychological need for a scapegoat. There are also those simply too proud to admit they were duped. While they may be lost forever, the world keeps turning, life goes on without them, and I wish them well. But, one by one, many have also quietly come to offer heart-felt apologies for listening to the lies, and participating in the family mobbing, as they have finally taken the time to remember who I am, and investigate all of the facts.
Sadly, the Gaslighter will always be who they are, forever trapped in their sick, compulsive need to control others, and use them to soothe their fragile egos. But the victim can heal, and there is much joy out there in the real world, free from days spent being traumatized, isolated and exploited by a Gaslighter.
It is important to note, that if you have been fooled or manipulated by a Gaslighter, you are a victim too. Gaslighters are very highly skilled manipulators, and most people have difficulty seeing through their considerable charm, elaborate layers of lies, subtle manipulations and distortions of the truth, and their seemingly uncanny ability to zero in on each victim’s particular emotional weak point, to manipulate them for the desired effect. Most people don’t operate in this purposely deceitful manner, and so they naturally don’t expect others to do so, particular when it is someone you love, trust and admire, or sadly, even rely upon. Don’t be too hard on yourself, if you too were deceived about the victim. Victims come to realize that those who were manipulated against them are not really to blame – the real blame lies with the Gaslighter!
Please visit the Resources page for further information on Gaslighting: Resources