Recognize & Exit Gaslighting – 8 Signs (book preview).

Recognize & Exit Gaslighting – 8 Signs (book preview).


What is Gaslighting?

The term Gaslighting unlike most psychological phenomena, did not originate from clinical observation and definition, but was derived from a play by the British AuthorPatrick Hamilton (Original title: “Gas Light”) outtaken. Ingrid Bergmann won an oscar as main female actor in the worth watching Hollywood production Gas Light” .

In the movie, the male protagonist (Gregory), interpreted by Charles Boyer, tries to steal his wife’s jewels. This selfish goal determines his entire behavior, which is strategic throughout.
After he courts her, the couple spends a romantic honeymoon. They marry and he convinces his wife (Paula) to move in to the house in London, which Paula got from her aunt. There the jewels are located. Paula doesn´t have a clue about all this.

Gregory’s efforts revolve solely around psychologically deforming his wife´s perception until she falls prey to madness and eventually voluntarily seeks treatment. His goal: Having her out of the house enabling him to search for the jewels without being disturbed.

If we follow the definition of the true source of this term (the movie) consistently, then Gaslightingwould hardly occur in real life.
While there may be some husbands and wives who are Gaslighting to destroy their partners psychologically and to take advantage of them materially, they rather seem to be an exception.
Very few cases will demonstrate such a clear and egocentric intent. At best, such intentions are suspected or assumed, which brings up the question, how much projection might be involved in that. Very few cases demonstrate an evidence of such a clear intent as in the movie. And that’s a problem.

The original understanding of the term Gaslighting is a clear, manipulative behavior that involves psychological violence and is deliberately used to achieve a specific, self-serving goal.

These cases certainly exist! Such relationships inflict the most severe suffering on those affected and cause the most anxiety. Such an experience leaves the reverberations of deep-seated shock and existential confusion. The complete perspective on mankind and the world can be shaken to its very foundation. A long time after such an encounter, affected individuals may suffer from a general distrust in people. Simple utterances can immediately put these people on alert, make them think of manipulation, and drive them into retreat (e.g., when a friend says, “You look sick today…”). But there are also those affected by Gaslighting (= recipients), who couldn´t recognize consciousness or a bad intention in the initiator of Gaslighting (= sender). These cases also exist.

In my book Exit Gaslightingwe develop a new, more general and understandable definition of Gaslighting. With this, the overarching processes of Gaslighting can be made visible and an exit can succeed. Many people get caught up in the micro-processes: The perspective of an ant and the details. They lose contact with themselves and do not understand what is happening to them. In their uncertainty, they can no longer find a way out of the confusion of Gaslighting. Therefore, the book also refers to the macro processes – because at this level of an overall bird´s view the doors for the exit from Gaslighting can be found!

As long as you are stuck inside the confusion of Gaslighting, you are not in your power. So many people lose their zest for life in the Gaslighting universe and spend their lives in tension and anxiety. The book Exit Gaslighting wants to help all those affected ones to re-shape their lives actively and self-determined.

How do I recognize Gaslighting?

Affected ones of Gaslighting can definitely do something to leave the destructive game of psychic manipulation of their perception. The first step is to recognize Gaslighting as such. This article adresses that with an excerpt from my book. For this purpose, we observe how a sender of Gaslighting is acting to convey and enforce a specific image of a created an alternative reality. So it’s all about what he/she wants you to believe. This image of reality that a sender tries to impose I call an alternative reality. A constructed web of modified statements and information about reality that serves his/her purposes. The alternative reality (= AR) is typical for Gaslighting and has aspects that we can use to clearly identify Gaslighting as such (A video in german on the AR ofGaslighting can be found here).

Eight indicators of an alternative reality (book excerpt)

The following eight characteristics of an alternative reality should help you to recognize Gaslighting more clearly and to keep your distance from the so-called alternative reality of a sender.

  1. Claim for absolute validity of a subjective opinion. Deviating perceptions are denied, labeled as not plausible and their right to exist gets erased!
    If a sender stubbornly and unyieldingly insists on being right in the portrayal of reality and cannot let your view of things be, this indicator (and therefore Gaslighting) is very likely to take place.
    If the sender also presents reasons why his view is “right” and your perception, which deviates from his AR, is “wrong” (citing authors, scientists, etc.), devalues them, ridicules them, wants to sweep them off the table with arguments, or ignores them completely, you can be pretty sure that an AR is being imposed on you here.

  2. The sender naturally elevates and inaugurates himself into the position of a judge between “right and wrong.” There´s no more eye level.
    In the AR, a sender claims to be the judge in the relationship. Thereby he becomes the one who´s judging about what is “right” and “wrong” in general. This usually happens less obviously and insidiously. In a seemingly natural way, the sender acts as the judge. The more often the receipient (unconsciously) accepts these judgments, the more the sender’s command power grows on the relational level.

  3. As a judging judge, the sender reinterprets his subjectively distorted and incomplete AR into universally valid facts, while inappropriate facts are labeled as subjective impressions.
    In the AR, a confusion of facts and subjective perception takes place held. The sender (unnoticed by the receipient) has taken the judge instance. Because the sender now decides what is fact and what is not, he gradually rewrites reality turning it into his alternative reality. The subjectively distorted perceptions of the sender become incontrovertible facts. This is the source of the power imbalance we can find in Gaslighting which shifts more and more to the sender. If a recipient perceives facts (e.g. a devaluation), it is claimed that this is due to his subjectively distorted perception. I think you understand, don’t you? Senders come across as very credible in their portrayals. With fervent conviction they tell the recipient “what fact is!”.

  4. 4. In order to invalidate facts and aspects of perceptions that contradict the AR, the sender confronts the receipient with rules or generally accepted statements (e.g. “perception is subjective”). At the same time, the sender exempts himself from these rules. They apply to the recipient, not to himself (= unilateral rules).
    This indicator is very important! Senders often preach rules and make the receipient aware of facts that miraculously turn to be true for the recipient but do not apply for them. Statements by VIP´s, philosophers, politicians, scientists, or authors, etc., who are generally considered to be recognized, can also be cited here. The sender always embeds these statements in a way to a context just so, they serve his point of view. Sometimes these statements are taken out of their previous context and are cited as “proofs.” Mindful observation is indicated here!
    Facts, rules, quoted statements, and all sorts of moral guidelines are used by the sender to invalidate the receipient’s perception or concern and reinforce his position of power and judgment.

  5. In an AR, details, causes, and relations are modified. The sender picks out elements of reality, then asserts divergent interconnections and reasons. Real connections are severed and linked anew. This creates the AR, which can have strong overlaps with the recipient’s perception.
    One of the reasons so many people have trouble recognizing Gaslighting are the numerous, substantive similarities between their own perception of reality and the portrayals of the AR. An AR rarely consists of microattributions alone (“You’re insecure!”). More than that, the confusion is initiated by modified contexts, causes, and detailsthat are altered by the sender to his advantage in such a way that the AR becomes an authoritative and distressing distortion of reality for the recipient.
    Imagine feeling insecure and a trusted person names it. You will agree (at least internally) and not disagree. Imagine further that in a serene moment with friends you are cheerful, open and joyful (no trace of insecurity). The trusted person names that too and you won’t deny it. Why should you? You agree again (at least inwardly).
    From a purely mathematical point of view, you agree with both of these statements.
    Then all of a sudden this person claims that you are cheerful, open and cheerful because you are deeply insecure.
    A real connection is severed, for you are serene, open and joyful, because you are serene . In the AR, a new context was built. The new context links your open cheerfulness with your insecurity.
    This indicator is characterized by the fact that two things become linked, although they are not linked (at this moment). Even if we carry a certain insecurity within us, this does not always have to be causal for our behavior! Recipients are rarely aware of this mechanism and that is exactly why they become insecure and start to at least consider the sender’s statements.

  6. By “creating new facts,” the sender solidifies its AR. Mere assertions are presented as facts, reality is manipulated in such a way that it seems to prove the AR of the sender (things disappear, preparation of scenes, triangulation, proxifying people).
    Senders create new facts, picking out elements of situations selectively, overemphasizing them (a microprocess) and asserting a new link or cause. In this way, the recipient repeatedly gets pushed into the AR and enticed to engage with it.
    In my opinion, the manipulation of reality is only part of Intentional Gaslighting(full consciousness, specific intention) and thus corresponds to level 3 of the stage model (explained in the book).
    If this is applicable, objects can be removed and placed elsewhere to make the recipient look forgetful or stupid. Out of sight, the husband of one client was putting chosen pizzas back to the freezer from her cart while doing the grocery. Just to claim that she had not yet selected any pizzas!
    Interchanges are also possible (a carton of milk in the refrigerator is replaced by a bottle of wine). Senders can also initiate processes (e.g., subscribe to a magazine) making the receipient responsible for it. The manipulation of reality has many faces. By confronting the created facts, doubts and further confusion are created in the receipient, while the sender’s position of power is strengthened.
    On the recipient side, trust in one’s own perception of reality can be damaged. In contrast to verbal expressions, a material manipulation of reality suddenly causes a tangible and visible proofwhich appears to factually confirm the sender’s AR.
    Unconscious recipients, who until then resisted the sender’s presentation and the AR, often got so shocked, unsettled and ashamed that any rebellion and self-confidence subsides.
    The creation of facts has a particularly serious effect when third parties can testify this evidence and witness how the sender’s AR appears to be confirmed.

  7. The AR and the behavior of the sender keep the receipient busy via generated confusion and suffering. Contradictions to one’s own perception seduce recipients into a permanent confrontation with the AR.
    The indicators of AR described up to this point and the micro-processes of the sender leave the receipient confused, uncertain and enormously uncomfortable. In this context I like to talk about the fog missiles of micro processes, which create a wall of fog around the recipient. In this wall of fog it´s even harder to recognize the complex interrelationships or to name, what´s happening. Oftentimes a recipient is left with only the vague feeling that something does not match. Psychologists refer to this state as dissonance. And we humans do not like dissonance at all! We have a natural need to resolve dissonance because it causes stress and tension.
    In search of answers to these discrepancies, many recipients become entangled in the content of the AR. They reflect, elicit, think, think, think. They can spend hours and days wondering whether the sender’s statements and connections might or might not be true. This indicator is on the recipient´s end. When recipients end up in an endless soliloquy of two inner parts, I call that the monologue of inner evidence(described in detail in the book).
    – without ever reaching a satisfactory, verifiable clarification. The monologue of inner evidence starts from the wrong point.
    Self-reflection is basically an important element for clarification in any relationship! Except in Gaslighting . Here this applies to a limited extent. While the recipient is in the Monologue of inner evidence –busy with the details of the AR – he looses consciousness for the fact that the sender declaresassertions as facts generates links, judges “right” and “wrong” and usually eludes from a real clarification. The recipient loses sight of the macro level.
    Depending on whether recipients are in a state of believing their own perception or the AR of the sender – they alternately experience anger or self-doubt and insecurity. They are stuck in the monologue of inner evidence and do not realize that they´re running in circles.

  8. Sweeping condemnations take place in the AR. Directly or subtly, recipients are condemned for emotional states (e.g., sadness, anger), characteristics (e.g., forgetful, clingy, or sensitive), attitudes or statements.
    Here, the sender attaches a condemnable label to human characteristics. His subjective value system applies as standard for other people. The subjective becomes the objective.
    Adjectives are meant to work as description of states. Conditions we all experience at some times. Sometimes we are angry, sad or afraid, then again happy and curious. All these are human characteristics, states and feelings.
    What if a person forgets things (“You’re forgetful!“) or has) a need for closeness “You’re clingy!”)? What’s wrong
    with that?
    In the world of the sender (the AR), these properties are labeled. As if they were negative, bad and therefore have to be condemned. Many recipients adopt such judgments without second guessing and start to feel ashamed and guilty for these qualities. Some affected ones permanently scan their inner life for condemnable characteristics and even start to condemn themselves, feel ashamed and small.
    The condemnation of the sender then turned to self-condemnation (The Macro Process Auto Gaslighting sets in, the recipient gaslights himself).
    Very important: Shame and feelings of guilt do not arise here because a characteristic actually should be condemned, but because the subjective judgment of the sender was unconsciously adopted!

What You Can Do: Inner Work for Dealing with an Alternative Reality (book excerpt).

Those affected by Gaslighting can actually do something to stop the destructive game of psychological manipulation of their perception . The first step is to recognize Gaslighting . With the eight characteristics, you should now be able to do this. In addition to numerous other self-coaching elements described in the book Exit Gaslighting , the Inner Workhelps to deal with an alternative reality by the following steps :

  1. Befriend your unlovable traits – no matter how much you want to change them. First accept them for what they are: A part of you.

  2. There is no “right” or “wrong”. Always realize that you don’t have to accept a judge

  3. Understand that an indictment of the AR is always done out of self-interest (Don’t take it too personal!).

  4. You may reject or question the judgment of a self-inaugurated judge at any time!

  5. There is no need for an inner proof, nor for a justification or excuse of your qualities from anyone outside! You´re okay!

  6. Stop looking for causes and reasons exclusively within yourself when something feels incongruous. Switch to the macro level: “How does this person talk to me?” (see book).

  7. Check, whether self-reflection happens on a basis of equal perceptions. Does your counterpart also reflect himself?

  8. Does your reflection serve (self-)accusation, do you experience guilt and give in? If so – Stop it!

  9. Observe if and why you fall into the monologue of inner evidence and switch to the macro level (see book)!

  10. Always question silent rules and check whether you consider them as true for you and as yourself, if you want to approve them as valid. You always have the choice!

  11. You are the only person who can absolve yourself (from judgments). Practice being generous and mild with yourself!

Gaslighting is one of the most perfidious ways to throw people out of their balance. Gaslighting can occur in the context of narcissistic or emotional-instable personality disorders, but is not limited to it. On the contrary. Gaslighting is something we encounter again and again in numerous forms in our everyday lives. In personal relationships, but also collectively in the media, politics or social networks, we are presented with incontrovertible “truths”. We may pay attention and find our own truth, our own center. Again and again. Then we are prepared for the storms that rage outside and can confidently feel at home in our own perception of reality. Especially sensitive and empathic people are called upon here to train the contact with their own perception of reality.

That´s why the book Exit Gaslighting was written and – I hope it will help many people to find their power and truth again, to feel it and to live it.
If you are interested in the topic and want to be up to date with the publication of the english version, please subscribe to the Newsletter of psySOULgy on the newsletter page.

Yours Kristina

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