Beware Of The Gaslighter! Guest Blogger Lillian Ogbogoh

This is not the first time I have shared this piece on gaslighters but considering the times we find ourselves in, it is a good reminder for us all –  myself included.

The term “gaslighting” is defined by Wikipedia as “…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. It could look like harmless banter – but has aggressive undertones and insults. The perpetrator acts innocent and makes out to the public that he (or she) is clearly misunderstood and it was not their intention to do any harm…. Cue violins and angelic singing.

This concept came about from the Film Noir movie called “Gaslight.” The movie revolves around a conniving husband who wants to get rid of his wife and tries to make her think she is losing her mind by making subtle changes in her environment, including slowly and steadily dimming the flame of a gas lamp. This can happen in romantic relationships and even at work. You know that person who always wants to correct you, tell you that you are somehow wrong either in behavior or attitude. Then when you speak out about the behavior the person acts wounded and deeply hurt.

Gaslighting is a trick narcissists use to maintain control, to make another person feel off kilter. Constantly second-guessing yourself when an incident occurs with a gaslighter, thinking you are over reacting is a sign you might be a target of gaslighting. Robin Stern’s book, “The Gaslight Effect: How to Spot and Survive the Hidden Manipulation Others Use to Control Your Life” discusses the phenomenon.

The book reads, “The Gaslight Effect results from a relationship between two people: a gaslighter, who needs to be right in order to preserve his own sense of self and his sense of having power in the world.”  Do you know that person who always wants to prove him or herself right at your expense? They seem to be adept at making you look like you are overreacting to a simple statement whilst going behind your back to curry favor and discussing you and the incident with a third party trying to get them on their side by altering the history of the interaction in their favor….

This is part of the tricks to make you look like you are the one with the issue, now this can happen between different genders. It’s not a male- female issue. It’s a narcissist’s method of power play regardless of their gender, and the intention could range from self-amusement to something more sinister.  There are several ways that gaslighting can be accomplished. Ever heard of the expression “making a mountain out of a molehill”? The gaslighter can pass comment or judgment on a situation with such conviction that the other person begins to doubt their own perspective. Let me a explain this one a little further. Imagine you are in a meeting or discussion and next thing you feel is that you are under fire but you’re not fully sure what you have done or what caused such a level of vitriol. When you confront the person’s behavior, you are met with denial coupled with a display of righteous indignation. Bringing up historical facts that seem largely accurate but contain minute, hard-to-prove distortions and using them to “prove” the correctness of one’s position is another method. Anything that aids in getting another person to doubt their judgment and backing down will work. The gaslighter has another tool in their bag of tricks and that is going around behind the back of the person they are gaslighting to get people on their side making it look like they are somehow the victim.

So beware of the gaslighter in your midst, the narcissists in sheep’s clothing who is trying to make life all about them and would do anything come out smelling like roses.

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