Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person (the victimizer) or a group of persons, covertly sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual (the victim), making them question their own memory, perception, or judgment. Gaslighting induces cognitive dissonance, making the victim question their own thinking, perception and reality testing, and thereby tends to evoke in them low self-esteem and disturbing ideas and affects, and may facilitate development of confusion, anxiety, depression and in some cases even psychosis. After the victim loses confidence in their mental capacities and develop a sense of learned helplessness, they become more susceptible to the victimizer's control.
For many years, electricity system in the village I used to live in, was a real issue. We were cutoff each time there was a big storm or snow was too heavy to be supported by the electrical wires.
I even remember one Christmas Eve, falling asleep at the light of candles as electricity was off for 3 days. You would say ‘’Romantic !’’, I say, ‘’Scared AF while waiting for Santa to come
Back in the days, my parents kept a gas lighter (just in case no more candles were to find around the house) and I can say it was very useful, but that it also gave me this feeling of heaviness and fog each time my father used it.
It was not until I started researching on some psychology terms that I realized this gas lighter was present ALL the time in our house, not only when electricity was down.
I started noticing this tactic during meal times, when my father would absolutely deny what my mother told him the day before and then, they would start arguing. A few days later, it would turn around, and then I would hear my mother deny my father’s truth. The thing was, I knew one of them is not telling the truth but could not understand why. I supposed it was normal at the beginning.
Another thing that I found to be extremely bizarre, was the disappearance of objects that would be found, days later, into another place than the one my mother or my father reclaimed to have put. I remember spending entire afternoons to search for a certain thing so that it appears the next day, out of the blue.
For a long period, I used to have nightmares from the orphanage (How I found out I was adopted at the age of 4), but each time I would talk about these to my parents, I would hear phrases like, ‘’It's just your imagination, you should stop watching T.V. !’’ OR ‘’That is not true, it never happened’’.
I think the worst was when, severely bullied by a colleague in the primary school, I went to tell my father. He asked me to never tell my mother, which I never did. Each time I attempted to re discuss the subject so that I can process it, he would tell me it was nothing, minimizing it over the years, up to the point it never existed. It made me feel ashamed and even question my own memory, perception and sanity. I was living in cognitive dissonance (this psychological stress of continually telling myself I was not crazy and continually being denied the fact). This very trusted person would shut down in front of me and tell me ‘’Forget about it, we don’t have anything to discuss, it never happened !’’ I know my story was real, as the bully moved out of the village shortly after the incident.
My father had to always have the last word and would get quickly angry if I or my mother would confront him and say he was not right. He would either stop speaking and ignore my presence, or leave the room and isolate himself for hours. At the end of that absence, he would come back and act like NOTHING happened.
He would often joke about my mother’s body and how he would feed her only vegetables so that she could lose weight, up to the point she would get angry and have a very strong emotional reaction. He would then tell her either that she is too sensitive and he cannot even make a joke or that he is concerned for her and her health and he only wants the best for her. It wasn't for nothing that I heard my mother calling my father a charlatan.
I understood, years later, why all these things happened in our house. It was (and still is), a coping mechanism used by two wounded people, with a very fragile self. It is a ‘’way’’ of living the day to day life.
It was only when I moved out of the house and stopped living this daily, that I realized it was not normal.
Even though, for years I felt incapable of trusting myself and my intuition, due to this ongoing situation, that feeling I was having in my gut was REAL and my body was sending me signs something was not right.
I now manage to see the positive aspect of it. It happened so that I can learn to recognise it and never let anyone dim my light.
What’s your story around this topic? Do you think you’ve already been gas lighted? How did you find a way to reconnect to your truth?