Tagged: mental health counseling

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.

The Powers of Positive Thinking

I know a lot of you think of this topic as a two day old pizza with extra ham and cheese, but I am here to tell you all that IT WORKS. And that it makes a difference. Before I started graduate school, I was a hard-core Negative Nancy. Back then, I would have told you I was “merely realistic”. No. I was downright cynical, complained all the time and, most likely, got on my friends’ last ever-loving nerves.

Once in school, a teacher “made” us watch “The Secret”. I vaguely knew about this as it had been popular once upon a time and was probably on Oprah’s book list – yada yada yada. I thought the whole thing was such rubbish that I found myself, in sheer boredom, practicing the philosophies of the Laws of Attraction, just so I could go back to my class and snidely report on its’ failings.

Boy, was I wrong!

This is how it works, these “Laws of Attraction”: This has NOTHING to do with religion, folks. It’s about asking the universe for what you want and, in turn, getting it.

Sound crazy? I can assure you, it’s not.

Let me put it to you like this: Everything you see is what you’re noticing. Everything you’re attracting to your life is what you’re accepting as your expectations of it. Everyone in your life is who you choose to be a part of it.

If all you ever do is look around and pine over the closed doors in your life, you’ll miss out on all the ones that are open. If you are in constant anticipation of that overdue bill or overdrawn credit card statement that’s coming in the mail today, you’ll miss out on the invitation to your best friend’s baby shower or that notification about the super cheap health insurance that you need. If all of your friends and family members are energy-sucking vampires and you focus all of your time on trying to “fix” them, you’ll completely neglect that awesome person that was trying to make small talk with you in line at the coffee shop.

THINK about it. All of our lives, we’ve been TRAINED to think negatively. Whether it’s guilt, the constant self-doubt given to us by our parents, the nagging partner who tells us we’ll never do better… You have to, first, be aware of those negative thoughts. Then you have to punch them in the throat, so to speak. It takes THREE positive thoughts to counter ONE negative. Think I’m wrong?

Have you ever gone to lunch/dinner/drinks with a friend who, for a full two hours, PRAISED you for how you handled that situation with your partner, told you how fabulous your new haircut looks, and how your personality is such a stellar fit for that job for which you just applied? “By the way,” this person says, nonchalantly, “have you noticed your face is kind of flushed? I worry you might have high blood pressure?” And then back to another hour of how awesome you are.

What is the one thing you remember about that conversation? (I don’t need you to answer, you KNOW the answer. And you know it, because it’s happened to you!)
Here’s how to put a STOP to the shenanigans:

1. Start by taking the time, every day, when you look in the mirror (brushing your teeth, combing your hair, washing your face, singing into your hairbrush, etc.) and MAKE YOURSELF AWARE of the negative things you are telling yourself.
2. Get pissed off at those negative thoughts! If your boyfriend/girlfriend/BFF/Mom were to say it to you, wouldn’t you be pissed? Have the same reaction when you say it to yourself!
3. Counter it with 3 positive thoughts: “I am a good person”, “I’m good at what I do”, “I treat others with respect”, “I have good hair”. This is for YOU to figure out! YOU know better than me how awesome you are!
4. Ask yourself: Is this something I would say to my daughter/best friend/partner/BANK TELLER?!?! If the answer is no, don’t you DARE say it to yourself!
5. ASK for what you want. Worst case scenario is that you get “no” for an answer. Last I heard, no one has ever died from being told “no”.
6. Use visualization. If you want that promotion, picture yourself being in that position. As you sit in that chair in that office, what 5 things do you see, hear, smell, touch, taste? VISUALIZE it. BECOME it. GO GET it!

I know I make it sound simple and it’s not, at first. And there are days when I still have to struggle with it. But let me tell you this, IT IS WORTH THE STRUGGLE. If you were trying to be a body builder and came to me for help and we sat around playing video games and watching reruns of The Golden Girls, are we going to accomplish that goal? NO. If you came to me to learn how to play guitar, but I never had one handy or taught you the chords, would you learn? NO. (By the way, don’t come to me if you want to be a body builder or learn to play guitar…I’m not equipped to teach you either, lol.)

But if you want to “train your brain” to get rid of that stinking thinking and bring some simplicity, peace, comfort, contentment, and enlightenment to your life, look no further. If you’re lucky enough to live in the Orlando area, give us a call and set up an appointment. If you don’t live in the Orlando area but have access to the internet, set up a Skype appointment. If you can’t be bothered with any of that, look into Mental Health Boot Camp – an 8 week intensive course life coaching program designed by Dr. Dave to empower and educate people to live their best lives.
Questions? Comments? No problem! Contact the lovely Sherrie at 407-963-5664 or visit us at http://drdavidbakerhargrove.com/index.php. We look forward to hearing from you!

FREE Tip of the Month!

Feeling Pissed Off? Frustrated? Overwhelmed? Try a 5-4-3-2-1!

Like I said, I’ll give this one to you free of charge. It’s a neat little trick that I have personally used to battle road rage (yes, even therapists get angry sometimes!) or even just when I’m nervous, like in a doctor’s office or job interview. It’s a technique designed to use both sides of our brains, therefore shifting our focus from that which is making us angry, frustrated, etc., onto something else. By the end of the practice, if you have REALLY concentrated on it, then you should feel relaxed and renewed.

Let me tell you a story about how this works: I once worked with a family, mainly a 12-year-old boy that we can call “Billy”. Billy had a great sense of humor and a LOT of rage. When he was raging, he would tear up Kleenex boxes, throw things, or sometimes even punch holes in the walls. He had been through therapy so many times that he was almost more therapy savvy than myself and he would often say to me, jokingly: “Ann, would you like to know how I FEEL about that?” and then laugh.

So this one day, he was in the midst of a rage. His mother and sister looked on in frustration as he paced around the room and began kicking and throwing things. I said: “Billy, let’s play a game! I’ll bet you can’t win at it”, which, of course, intrigued him, as he was a highly intelligent lad as well. He agreed and we began. I instructed him to name 5 things in the room he could see. He looked at me like I was crazy. “OK,” he laughed. “TV, curtains, couch, rug, dog”. “Great”, I said. “Now name me 5 things you can hear”. This is where it starts getting difficult. “The TV, the dog licking its butt…” Again, laughter. Then he began to struggle and that’s where his mom, sister and I began to help him out. He immediately and proudly continued. “Oh, and my sister tapping her nails on the table, mom clearing her throat and you clicking your tongue!” “Very good, Billy!” I beamed. “Now name me 5 things you can feel, physically.”

He had to think about this one, too. “The carpet under my feet…The shirt on my back…My glasses on my face…” He had to think harder and get more creative. He reached out and touched the coffee table and named that, then reached over to touch the TV and then named that. He became annoyed when I asked him then to name FOUR things he could see, not repeating any from before. “See? I told you you probably wouldn’t be able to win at this game”, I teased (It’s OK, we had that kind of rapport). This spurred him on in full force. So he continued to name FOUR things he could see, FOUR things he could hear, and FOUR things he could feel, without naming the same things as before. When he finished with that, we went down to 3, then 2, then finally to 1.

By the end of this exercise, he was laying on the floor, calmly and peacefully, like a little angel. So I said to him, jokingly, “So Billy, how do you feel about that?” And he grinned because he knew I had “got” him, laughed, and said “Calm”. Well then. I guess I DO know my stuff sometimes.

So just a run down: Name 5 things you see, 5 things you hear, 5 things you feel physically. When you’re done with that, go down to 4, without repeating. Then 3, then 2, then 1. Nine times out of 10, IF you really focus, you will feel calmer and more at peace. And we could ALL use some of that!