{September 6, 2012}   The Gaslight Treatment

Did you ever see the movie, “Gaslight?” It is a 1944 film starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer. In the film, a woman’s husband attempts to drive her crazy by playing cruel tricks on her mind. For instance, he hides her things and acts like she must have forgotten where she put them. He takes pictures off the wall of their home and looks puzzled when she asks where the picture is, and tells her she must have imagined a picture there. When she hears footsteps in the attic he tells her there could be no footsteps up there, when the footsteps are actually his. He dims and brightens the gaslights and when she tells him she sees the gaslights change, he tells her he doesn’t know what she’s talking about, that she must be imagining it. He isolates her from other people and allows her no visitors “for her own good.” He does everything in his power to convince her that she’s going insane. And he almost gets away with it.

According to Wikipedia, “Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse in which false information is presented with the intent of making a victim doubt his or her own memory and perception.”

Narcissistic, abusive mothers are classic gaslighters. Here’s a description of what happens during the gaslighting process:

She makes you look crazy. If you try to confront her about something she’s done, she’ll tell you that you have “a very vivid imagination” (a phrase commonly used by abusers to invalidate your experience of their abuse). She’ll say that she has no idea what you’re talking about. She will claim not to remember very memorable events, denying they ever happened.  She never acknowledges the possibility that she might have forgotten. This is gaslighting.  It is an extremely aggressive tactic common to abusers. Your perceptions of reality are continually undermined so that you end up without any confidence in your memory or your powers of reasoning. This makes you a much better victim for the abuser.

Narcissists gaslight routinely. The narcissist will either insinuate or will tell you outright that you’re unstable.  Otherwise you wouldn’t believe such ridiculous things or be so uncooperative. You’re “oversensitive.” You’re “imagining things”. You’re “hysterical”. You’re completely “unreasonable”. You’re “over-reacting”. She may even characterize you as being neurotic or psychotic.

Once she’s constructed these fantasies of your emotional pathologies, she’ll tell others about them, presenting her smears as expressions of concern. She’ll declare her own victimhood. She didn’t do anything. She has no idea why you’re so irrationally angry with her. You’ve hurt her terribly. She thinks you may need therapy. She loves you very much and would do anything to make you better, but she just doesn’t know what to do. All she wants to do is help you.

She has absolved herself of all responsibility for your antipathy towards her. She implies that it’s something fundamentally wrong with you that makes you angry with her. She plays the role so perfectly that people may have a hard time believing you.

This is the classic, narcissistic gaslighter. Denying one’s own abusive behavior to a victim is gaslighting. The abuser must maintain their self-image as a good person, causing the victim to believe that he or she is to blame for their mistreatment. It’s a very creepy form of psychological abuse. Beware!



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