Lately I’ve been thinking about the little known type of abuse called gaslighting. Its name is taken from the play and the two subsequent screen adaptations where the husband attempts to convince his wife – and others – that she is insane by manipulating elements in her environment. I want to touch on this because it is such a subtle form of abuse – which is its entire point – that we may have no idea at all that it’s happening to us. Let me give you a couple examples.
It can look like someone having just poured himself a drink, with the bottle right there on the shelf, holding the glass in his hand and responding to your inquiry, “No, I’m not drinking right now.”
And it leaves you thinking, Well, he says he’s not. Maybe I didn’t just see him pour that. Maybe that bottle doesn’t have alcohol in it. Maybe the smell is all in my mind. I must be wrong again. What is the matter with me?
But then you find out that, yes, that was a bottle of alcohol that you saw him pour into his glass, and, yes, he was holding it in his hand, and, yes, he had been drinking for weeks leading up to your question, and, yes, you were smelling what you were smelling and, no, you weren’t wrong again, because he was lying to you.
Or it can sound like someone saying, in the middle of a conversation that’s becoming heated and you’re trying to find an out so you can go calm down, “Now, I know you get easily confused and that’s why you want to talk later…” with condescension dripping through the phone.
Which can leave you thinking, He’s right. I do get easily confused, and I don’t think quickly on my feet, and I usually can’t think of what I really wanted to say until after the conversation is over. I should just be able to handle staying on the phone right now. I am so stupid. And you take it all in as gospel truth because the mean stuff is easier to believe for some very sad reason.
And then you run that little patronizing you-get-easily-confused line by a friend and she yells an expletive because she’s so mad on your behalf, an emotion that hadn’t even crossed your mind to feel because you were so caught up in agreeing with him because you really do get easily confused in your frail little brain and he is always right and you are always wrong, except that he was trying to manipulate and control you.
I have found three remedies to being gaslighted.
One, ask God to give you great discernment. To help you know what is truth. To help you see your reality for what it really is. To give you the courage to handle what is going on in your relationship. To give you strength to stand up to lies.
Two, run the incidents by a trusted friend, mentor or counselor. I used to say that I wished a third person could just plain live in my house, in my marriage, and help me know what was right and what was wrong, because I was so confused for so long. As soon as you start speaking these words to someone, and you see their reactions, you will move to the place where you’ll be able to get real help and see the truth for what it is and experience real healing.
Three, put distance between you and the person who is doing this to you. Set up boundaries, minimize the emotional influence he has on you, or end the relationship. If it’s your spouse, get help.
God does not want us being conned and deceived at every turn. Let me be clear: God does not want this for you. Proverbs is full of verses encouraging us to not live like fools and to search after wisdom. He does not want us being blindly fed lies, especially by someone who claims to love us. If this is you, it’s time to do something about it.
Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding. –Proverbs 3:13-
If this post helped you, I would encourage you to check out “Surviving in a Difficult Christian Marriage”, found here.