Impression Managers and Gaslighting
Skilled impression managers can engender all kinds of inner turmoil in you. Once you’ve uncovered a person’s true character, you often want the whole world to know who they really are, too. But somehow, the bad actor in your life has other folks seeing them very differently. This can be very disquieting, and seriously alienating! Many abusive relationship survivors are at their wits end trying to understand why others are still so positively swayed by the person who treated them so heartlessly. It’s a scenario that produces an intense gaslighting experience.
Good impression managers possess several skill sets. They know how to be likeable, and in many ways, how to relate with ease. The might also know how to charm. And the more someone has the skill to seduce others, the more it hurts to witness them operate so successfully once you’ve come to understand who they really are in character. (Perhaps it was largely their capacity for seduction that captured you in the first place!)
Interpersonal Skills in a Shallow and Superficial Age
Narcissism and other forms of character disturbance are more common than ever, and for good reason. For decades now, we have lived in shallow, superficial times. And we’ve become so used to egocentrism, entitlement, and mutual exploitation that we barely notice the poverty of most relationships.
Having the capacity to relate in a truly loving way requires solid character. It’s what makes genuine intimacy possible. In our times, a person can have tremendous interpersonal skill. And adeptly using those skills can endear others. Of course, for some kinds of narcissists, that’s the name of the game: getting others to esteem them in some way. (See also: 4 A-Words Are Red Flags for Narcissism.)
I’ve said this before, but it’s worth saying over and over again. Looking good is relatively easy. All you need is the innate or learned skills that prompt folks to see you favorably. But being good, that’s another story! It takes hard, consistent work to fashion for yourself a character having the capacity to genuinely love and merit respect.
Learning to Trust Again
Covert characters are some of the most skilled impression managers. And the tactics they employ inherently induce the gaslighting effect. What survivors often realize is that they should have trusted their gut in the first place. But they usually come to this conclusion after much suffering. I wrote In Sheep’s Clothing to help folks who are in or have survived such relationships understand and heal. And I wrote Essentials for the Journey to help change the scourge of our times, one heart at a time. There are good reasons narcissism is so prevalent. For decades, the dominant values in culture have encouraged it and even rewarded it. When you reinforce something, it occurs more often. It’s that simple. And the solution is just as simple. When we make character important again, and reclaim what it takes to instill, encourage, reinforce, and expect it, relationships will become wholesome again.
A new series of podcasts devoted to this subject has debuted on Character Matters.