What To Do If You Are Being Gaslighted

In the previous post, Small Lies Are Emotional Abuse, I described the devastation to the psyche when someone twists around who you think you are. It is emotional abuse; it is mental abuse, and the fact that the process is subtle makes it more, not less, devastating. Why would someone need to do this? Why would someone be so attached to a distortion like this? I can think of two similar possibilities: Strong Belief In a False “Reality” Creates [False] Security 1. This individual grew up in a home where reality was distorted. He or she didn’t have outside sources of information to figure out how the world sees things. When I was researching my dissertation, someone said that he grew up in a home without a dining room table. The family watched TV at dinnertime, sitting on chairs facing the set. He thought that was how everyone did it. 2. This individual grew up in a home where there was very little conversation about feelings or perspectives of others so there was no way to get outside opinions on whether his perspectives were on target. In either case, the person must figure out how the world works without much help from those who’ve been there. That’s a scary place. Tiptoeing on a tightrope, the person feels very insecure. What can give him or her some sense of security? – clinging tenaciously to his ideas! The very act of shedding doubt creates the desired security. This, by the way, explains why people with paranoia cling to their mistaken realities; it also explains suicide bombers and other people on the...

Small Lies Are Emotional Abuse

There’s a subtle type of emotional abuse that it could take you years to uncover: Taking the truth and twisting it around. It’s not a bold-faced lie. It’s a little lie, a subtle and surprising twist — and that’s why it shakes the ground under your feet. It’s a small lie. Supposing in your lifetime that literally 456 people have told you that you are pretty. Yes, the first two were your parents. But there were 454 others that were less biased in your favor. In fact, to help defray the costs of college while you went for a degree in biochemistry, you did a little modeling. It was fun and you made a few dollars. Now, just supposing you happen to be married to someone who, in a moment of anger because of something you didn’t even do, decides to say to you: “And you’re not so good looking, either.” Small Lies Are Worse Than Out-and-Out Lying You’re devastated. Not because you care so much about looks but because the attack is so gratuitous—and so off the mark. It’s this last piece, the part about being off the mark that I’m classifying as the worst of the emotional abuse. You see, we know that the ground is under our feet and the sky is up because over years and years we have taken these two things as given. There are lots of givens in our lives, things we wouldn’t dream of questioning. After all, “everyone says so” and “that’s the way it is.” Things like mom is sweet and dad is distant or uncle Ned is outrageous and...

How To Recognize Manipulation

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION from the Florida Jewish News There’s little worse than thinking someone is a manipulator who isn’t, except failing to realize you are being manipulated when you are.   We should think well of our fellow and give people the benefit of the doubt. It would be nice if we didn’t even have a doubt to begin with. Judging others favorably means thinking positively about others no matter if we think we have “evidence” to the contrary.   Given this dictum, to assume someone is a manipulator is particularly bad. But, one could argue, what if all the evidence lines up in such a way that you can find no other explanation for the behavior but manipulation? If that’s what you really think, here’s my diagnosis: I hope the person in question is not your spouse, parent, or child because, whoever it is, there has been a terrible breakdown in your relationship with this person. For the individual to need to manipulate is a sign of a relationship that has practically failed; it is also a sign of a person who doesn’t have a clue how to put it back together.   The reason for this conclusion is simple: Manipulation is deception. It’s painting half the picture or fabricating the other half in order to gain some end that would not be gained in a normal, straightforward manner. It may or may not involve lying, but it twists the truth. Why would someone feel the need to resort to that? The answer is clear. Only where the lines of communication between that person and you have degenerated...
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