Those who would try to control and hurt us can be so cunning in their cruel power grabs. An especially horrifying tactic is gaslighting. Since it may be at play during the festivities, I’d like to lay it on the holiday table (next to the fruitcake)…
…it’s a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. Cruelly, it’s done slowly so the victim has no idea just how much they’ve been brainwashed.
In the film, Paula Alquist Anton (Ingrid Bergman) marries Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer). What she doesn’t know is her husband is actually Sergis Bauer, who killed her aunt in a jewel robbery attempt when Paula was 14.
Seems hubby left the jewels behind because Paula interrupted the proceedings. Well, Gregory aims to finish the job, so he forces residence in the old homestead. He insists that auntie’s furnishings be stored in the attic.
Gregory’s mission is to have Paula declared insane so he can have her institutionalized and claim power of attorney. He’ll then be able to freely search for the jewels.
So Gregory’s psychological torture of Paula begins. And his tactics include isolation, accusations of poor judgement and paranoia, and inexplicable footsteps throughout the house. Gregory is responsible for all of it, but pounds home the point that it’s all in Paula’s imagination.
Finally, the biggie: gaslights throughout the house begin to dim and brighten, which is supposedly in Paula’s head. In fact, it’s really being caused by Gregory turning on the attic lights as he searches for the jewels.
Bottom-line: with the aid of a Scotland Yard inspector, Gregory’s power grabbing plot is uncovered. And the best part is, Paula regains confidence in her sanity and gets in a mighty taunt on Gregory as he’s tied to a chair – before being taken away.
So, then, the term “gaslighting.”
Dr. Stephanie Sarkis’ gaslighting angle
Dr. Stephanie Sarkis is an expert on gaslighting. In fact, she’s written a book entitled Gaslighting: Recognize Manipulative and Emotionally Abusive People – and Break Free. I’ll slip you a link to get to her at the end.
Dr. Sarkis’ definition of gaslighting: A tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality.
She goes on to say anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it’s a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. Cruelly, it’s done slowly so the victim has no idea just how much they’ve been brainwashed.
The gaslighter often presents one face to their prey and another to everyone else. It leads victims to assume their tale of manipulation won’t be believed, were they to ask for help.
Let there be no doubt, victims are targeted at their very core: their sense of identity and self-worth. So it’s no wonder that gaslighting can cause one to doubt their memory, perception, and even their sanity.
11 common gaslighting techniques
From her book, Dr. Sarkis shares 11 common gaslighting techniques…
- Telling blatant lies: With a straight face they’re setting up a precedent to keep you unsteady and off-kilter.
- Denying they ever said something, even though you have proof: It’s the beginning of you questioning your reality – and accepting theirs.
- Using what’s near and dear to you as ammunition: Usually the first things attacked are your children and identity – the foundation of your being.
- Wearing you down over time: A lie here, a lie there. Then a snide remark or two. And it all starts to ramp-up.
- Actions do not match their words: Look at what they’re doing, rather than what they’re saying. What they’re saying means nothing.
- Throwing in positive reinforcement to confuse you: After cutting you down, they’ll toss in a praise or two. It’s calculated to keep you unsteady.
- Knowing confusion weakens people: Knowing stability and normalcy are important, they uproot it to keep you constantly questioning.
- Projecting: They accuse you of all that they are. It’s to make you defend yourself so you’re distracted from their behavior.
- Trying to align people against you: They’re master manipulators, finding people they know will stand by them no matter what. They’ll quote these people saying bad things about you. It’s an effort to isolate you from everyone.
- Telling you or others that you’re crazy: One of the most effective tools because it’s dismissive. If they question your sanity, they know others won’t believe you when you present the truth about the gaslighter.
- Telling you everyone else is a liar: It’s all about having you question your reality. You’ve never known someone with this kind of sick nerve, so you figure they must be telling the truth. It’s manipulation, making you turn to the gaslighter for “truth.”
That’s enough, don’t you think?
It’s a wrap
I really hope you’re not anticipating having to deal with this cruel nonsense during the holidays. Anytime, for that matter. But it stands to reason that more than a handful of readers will.
If you’re one of them, could be you have a firm grip as to what gaslighting is, so this article can serve as reinforcement. But maybe you’re the one who’s known something isn’t at all right, but can’t put their finger on the dynamic. Well, now you can.
Gaslighting: one cruel power grab. Be aware and self-protective.
It’s really worth your time to check-out the work of Dr. Stephanie Sarkis. Start at Psychology Today.
Thanks to thecinephiliac.com and filmfanatic.org for the images.
Hundreds upon hundreds of Chipur mood and anxiety disorder-related articles await. Be sure to hit those titles.