The Gaslighting Effect
The gaslighting effect gets talked about a lot these days. But when I first wrote about it in In Sheep’s Clothing, no one even had a name for it. Now, we have a commonly accepted label for a certain kind of phenomenon.
Gaslighting is the “feeling crazy” reaction you have when someone engages in covert-aggression. Your gut tells you someone is trying to get the better of you. You feel under unfair assault. But they act innocent. They may even act like they feel attacked by you. In fact, they act like they’re doing almost anything else but trying to have their way with you. Moreover, you can’t objectively prove what you suspect they’re doing or why. Worse, they may engage in other behaviors specifically designed to convince you that you have everything all wrong. You start profoundly doubting what’s true and what isn’t, what’s real and what isn’t. That’s the gaslighting effect.
See also: Covert Aggression Causes Gaslighting
Covert Aggression and Manipulation
I began studying covert-aggression and manipulative, abusive relationships because so many folks were telling me how crazy someone was making them feel. In the process I learned a lot about disturbed characters and the many subtle, underhanded ways they fight. Everything I learned went against traditional teaching about why most folks do the things they do. Like many others, I’d been trained to believe that most folks are unaware of most of their motives. The primary task of therapy, therefore, was to help them “see” what they were doing, the likely reasons why, and the unhealthy consequences.
It’s true that some folks really are oblivious. They don’t understand themselves and have no insight into what drives a host of maladaptive behaviors. We’ve often called such folks “neurotic.” And traditional therapy is tailor-made for them. But some folks know exactly what they’re doing. And they willfully aggress, even when they don’t feel threatened. They might simply want something. And they’re more than willing to do whatever they have to do to get it – to win! I also learned that some accomplished fighters aggress in subtle, stealthy tactics that enable them to be ruthless – to stop at nothing as they use and abuse – while still looking good! No wonder folks on the receiving end of their behavior feel crazy! Covert-aggression underlies most manipulative behavior and causes the gaslighting effect.
See also: Disturbed Characters Can Be Crazy-Makers
See also the comparison between “neurotic” individuals and disturbed characters in Character Disturbance, pp. 25-58
More about Gaslighting on an AVAIYA Online Course
Recently I gave an interview to Ande Anderson at the online university AVAIYA. During the interview, we talk about the gaslighting effect. And we explore the kinds of behaviors covertly aggressive people engage in that make their relationship partners feel crazy. We also discussed the basics of what folks have to do to overcome the gaslighting effect. Perhaps you’ll want to avail yourself of the discussion. If so, just follow the link to access: Overcoming Emotional Abuse and Deception.
The next installment of “All About Narcissism” on the “New” Character Matters program is available for viewin or listening on YouTube. Access the podcast here or on the Archive section of the Character Matters page of the blog.