Ever been in a situation where someone’s jerking you around baldly, brazenly, unconscionably? It’s called “gaslighting,” the process of someone’s messing with your perceptions and reality, but pretending, insisting they’re not.
Most people who gaslight know they’re trying to mess with your reality. They know they’re being confusing, invalidating, contradictory, elusive, prevaricating—usually, they know they’re mind-fucking you with conscious, or subconscious, intent.
More rarely, they may lack the self-awareness or insight to recognize that that’s what they’re doing; that that’s their impact, if not intent—to leave your sense of reality in critical condition.
One could ask, what’s worse—a gas-lighter with awareness they’re gaslighting? Or a gas-lighter so removed from their crazy-making behaviors/attitudes that it’s possible they may be not be fully conscious of the harm they’re perpetuating?
That is, one can wonder what differentiates the true gas-lighter from someone who’s just genuinely so deeply disconnected from their inner self, their motives, their pathological insensitivity, that “self-confusion” better explains their harmful behavior than gaslighting?
Here’s the thing—when someone’s aware they’re saying and doing things that aren’t reconcilable (to reason, or reality); that are blatantly contradictory and trust-crushing; that have the effect of rendering their “word” increasingly unreliable and meaningless, you know you’re in gaslighting terrain.
Add to this their invalidation of your incredulity, shock and hurt—that is, their denial that what they’ve been doing is having a gaslighting effect—and there you have it, a gas-lighter in action. Incidentally, invalidation that gaslighting is occurring is a neon sign that gaslighting is occurring.
Who gaslights? Only bad people?
This alludes to a question I posed above. A conscious gas-lighter will have pretty sinister hostility and sadistic motives driving him/her. A sub-conscious gas-lighter will suffer from deep deficits in self-insight and self-awareness that will almost certainly predispose them, periodically, to jaw-dropping displays of insensitivity in other interpersonal realms of their lives. Their cavalier, invalidating attitude when confronted with the hurtfulness of their behaviors screams primitive, rigid defense mechanisms at work.
So again, pick your personality poison?
We never want to believe that someone we love or loved, and who claimed to love us a lot (or claims that, still) could gaslight us with seemingly no mortification, no shame, their consciences seemingly on ice. Yet it happens. And when it does, it’s traumatic, always. And when it happens, it’s always about the gas-lighter and their psychopathology, not you.
Know that, as you work through the shock and sadness.