As a child, I often heard adults say: “Do as I say, not as I do”. It often made my mind go ‘tilt’ when I heard that. ‘Why should I do something you don’t do?’ The inconsistency in those words baffled me. I was being taught to listen to the words people speak, and ignore their actions. As an adult, however, I had to re-program my way of thinking. I had to learn that ‘actions speak louder than words’.
There is an old black & white movie I watched as a child which was called: ‘Gaslight’ (1944). It’s about a very controlling husband who attempts to isolate his wife from others and convince her that she is losing her mind. He tries to convince her that she is imagining things and as a result, the wife begins to question her own sanity. Hence, the term: ‘Gaslighting’ came into existence. It’s definitely a great flick for anyone who is in an abusive relationship with a narcissist.
A ‘Gaslighter’ has quite a bag of tricks. They are quite skilled in the manipulation of others. They, of course, are never at fault for there is always another to blame for anything that may go wrong. Rather than validate another’s feeling, they will more likely ask: ‘You don’t really believe that, do you?’ in such a way to imply that if you do, there’s something wrong with you. They are also quite skilled in lying. They can look straight into your eyes with a little smile on their face as they tell you a bold face lie without ever batting an eyelash. ‘Sincerity’ is almost a refined and well-practiced art form for them. They are usually quite persuasive and charming.
In my abusive marriage, these tactics occurred quite regularly. One day, I had set something on the dining room table where my ‘ex’ was sitting working on some project he needed to complete. For a few minutes, I was called away by one of the children. Upon my return, the object I had set down was gone. I naturally asked him what had happened to it. He looked up at me with this puzzled look and asked what I was talking about. I told him I had set… whatever it was… right here on the table just a few minutes ago. He let me know that I must be mistaken for surely if I had, he would have seen it. When such things occur on a regular basis, over a lengthy period of time, the victim of such ‘games’ does begin to question their sanity, their own personal judgement, and often begins to trust the ‘Gaslighter’ more than they trust themselves. It’s a very slow poison that erodes the very core of your being.
When they see they are succeeding in this little manipulative game they are playing, they will often take it public. By this, I mean, they will begin to spread their poison to friends and family members. They will begin to very subtly infer that the wife is always imagining things. They may even do it in such a way, that they convince these others that they are speaking to them very confidentially about something that is ‘just between you and me’… ‘I’m concerned about her’. Once the wife begins to notice that the others are beginning to treat her a bit differently than they had in the past, it only reinforces her feelings of self-doubt. If she happens to mention her feelings about what she is perceiving to the ‘Gaslighter’, he has more ammo to reinforce what he has been saying all along: ‘You’re just imagining that’.
Gaslighting is a very slow poison that drags one deeper down the rabbit hole.
When we are in grief, many grievers especially at the onset of this journey, experience things that are simply unexplainable. We feel as if we have one foot in this world and one in another. We become astutely aware of things we rarely took notice of before, perhaps never before. Our senses often become heightened. Often, many, will begin to doubt their own sanity. Those around us who are not grieving will often dismiss such things; few offer validation. They will perceive them to be aberrations. Many will suggest counseling, at such times, which causes us to question our sanity even more. What hits us even harder is when another griever discounts something we share with them that occurred. Most, however, in the grief community have had unexplainable things occur. Are we all crazy?
I have heard numerous grieving parents speak of dreams, some who have heard an audible voice or had a vision… and by numerous, I mean thousands over the eighteen years I have been on this journey. They all have come from different backgrounds, different levels of education, different social status. When I hear such things, even if I have never had such an experience, I do not doubt it. These folks are not dabbling in the occult or seeking out ‘mediums’, yet these things occur usually when they are not at all expected. Many not grieving will try to define, rationalize and explain such events so that they can make sense of them in their own minds. However, in the grief community, we receive the validation we need. Outside the grief community, we will often feel as one does who is being ‘Gaslighted’.
If one does feel as if they are ‘losing it’, a good grief counselor may be appropriate and very helpful. If the counselor specializes in grief and has walked this journey, they will not only be able to validate, they often can also help prepare you for what may lay ahead. We are walking in the ‘unknown’. Having one who has been down this road themselves come alongside us will greatly assist us in knowing that we are not ‘crazy’. I also recommend reading Scripture. He Who is ‘well acquainted with grief’ (Isaiah 53:3) is able to give us great comfort and calm our fears.
(((HUGS))) Jude Gibbs, Author of ‘Gifts from the Ashes’ available at:
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Please help spread the Word. TY! (((HUGS)))