Tagged: LGBT community

Gaslighting: The Stockholm Syndrome of Emotional Abuse and Manipulation

Gaslighting is a traumatic form of abuse by a psychopath, sociopath, or narcissist initially disguising themselves as a dear friend, a doting partner, a loving family member, or a supportive co-worker or supervisor. The main goals are to take away your power (usually with the hope of gaining it for themselves) and to deflect from their own issues and project them onto you.

The gaslighter might be a supervisor that thinks you’re gunning for their job, a partner or parent who wants to exhibit control over you, a friend who’s jealous of you, or a co-worker who thinks s/he’s in competition with you. They feel insecure and powerless and divert others’ attention from their own problems by focusing on, and exacerbating, yours.

Oftentimes, this makes them look like “the hero” because they “saved” you or have to “put up” with you and, over time, this gives the abuser more power and control. They’ll say things like, “It’s a good thing you’ve got me around looking out for you” or “What would you do without me?” It starts out seeming supportive and caring and the criticisms are very subtle.

The subtlety and impression of caring are what remind me of Stockholm Syndrome, because the victim not only doesn’t see it for the longest time, but can’t bring him/herself to think for a minute that the abuser would ever do anything to hurt them – let alone go to the extremes that they do. In fact, in most cases, the victim can’t imagine their lives without that person.

The abuser then begins to drop little hints here and there, saying, “Hmm…your partner has been running late an awful lot lately. I wonder why that is.” Or maybe something along the lines of, “Well, that presentation for work might not have gone that well but you’ll do better next time.” Only, you weren’t actually complaining (or noticing) that your partner was running late recently and you had felt your presentation was amazing.

Concern for you becomes the main focus, only the concern is imagined, or more likely created, by the other person to make you doubt yourself. The abuser will use a series of orchestrations to turn their allegations into “truths” to make the victim feel that s/he is the one imagining things, and that they’re “misinformed”, not remembering things correctly, not that bright, or even paranoid, delusional, or crazy.

So how do you know if this is happening to you?

1) You constantly second-guess yourself.
2) You find wedges between yourself and others you used to be really close to, yet you have no idea why.
3) You know that something is definitely wrong, but can’t pinpoint what or why.
4) You feel confused, hopeless, and joyless all the time.
5) You feel as though you can never do anything right.
6) You start to suspect the abuser is intentionally hurting you and are told by him/her that you are “imagining things” that are very clear and obvious.

If you think this is happening to you, it’s helpful to document the behaviors and activities. Keep a log of the things they say that seem degrading or dismissive or just don’t make sense. Look at the frequency and significance of the events and in what areas of your life they seem to be targeting, such as your relationship, your friendships, or your job.

Should you discover that you are a victim, immediately begin to break off ties. People who gaslight are either not aware that they’re doing it or have been doing it for so long, it’s become “normal” behavior to them. Most of the time, they don’t care and cannot be reasoned with. Don’t engage with them any longer and, when in doubt, review the documentation to reassure yourself that you are not going mad and that you are now back in control and aware of the situation.

Healing from abuse takes time. You can’t beat yourself up over it or take it personally. When this person is done with you, they will happily move onto someone else. You can’t blame yourself; they’ve done it before you came along. Therapy can help. Try your best to surround yourself with people who love and support you 100% unconditionally and activities that bring you joy.

Tis the Season…

…to be jolly! But it’s also the season to be completely stressed out and overwhelmed and privy to depression and anxiety. Putting up decorations, buying presents, accepting invitations, declining invitations, getting out cards, shopping, shopping, shopping…It’s important to make sure you take care of yourself during the holiday season and take time to stop along the way and smell the eggnog.

What do I recommend? Dr. Dave always recommends the Eat Right/Sleep Right/Think Right/Exercise model, which is particularly important during times of high stress. It’s pretty self-explanatory, but here are some tips to get you back on track.
Eating right is difficult, especially if you have a crazy busy schedule. Consider keeping healthy snacks on hand, such as apples and peanut butter, carrots and dressing or hummus, granola bars, peanuts, or small Tupperware containers of fruits or salads. Try to curb the carbs in the later evening hours and avoid eating dinner 3-4 hours before bedtime.

In order to maintain proper sleep hygiene, consider going to bed and waking up each night/day at the same time, even on the weekends! This technique essentially trains your body and your mind to do so and, before long, you might not even need your alarm clock. Watch your caffeine intake, eating, watching tv, and computer time before bedtime – those are all stimulants.

For the think right aspect of the model, make yourself aware of your negative thoughts, then rate the rationality of it on a scale of 1-10, then counter it with 3 positive thoughts. Our realities consist of what we notice and that on which we focus: Be careful what you choose to bring into your environment. If you’re feeling down and out, reduce the news and increase the comedy. Give The Cure a rest and try out some Motown or other more upbeat music.

Also, you can try our Mental Health Boot Camp, designed for folks who don’t necessarily need intensive therapy, but are just looking to recharge their lives in one respect or another. It’s an 8 week self-study treatment designed to help people better define their life goals and develop an action plan to achieve those goals. It involves daily wiring exercises that will re-awaken the passion for life and increase self-awareness. For more information, visit our website!

If exercise is a challenge for you, try signing up on meetup.com and join some fun groups, such as kickball, volleyball, pilates, yoga, or walking groups. Try taking your dog for a walk, or just walk around the neighborhood. Remember that movement is exercise: You can park in the furthest spot from the store, take the stairs instead of the elevator, and/or increase the housecleaning.

Most importantly, remember to take time to ENJOY the special times with your family, friends, and loved ones. Be thankful for what you have and try to focus on what’s RIGHT in your life. And Happy Holidays!