Great article. I’m glad you posted this. I do have a few thoughts from experience.
Awareness is not enough to defend against gaslighting!
- I have seen gaslighting first hand in an abuse case. The abuser actually got his victim arrested for assault with a deadly weapon! I watched as the victim tried to complain about what the abuser was doing. He got in her face then described and mimed how she attacked him with a knife. It completely disoriented her and she couldn’t speak.
- Your workplace example is pretty good. I’ve been there.
- I was also gaslit as a child but was fortunate to have my mom there to protect me. Some local bullies accused me of throwing rocks at cars with them. They wanted to pin me as the ringleader. It didn’t work because my mom was smart enough to not let me talk to the police. Instead, she told them she knew where I was all day and I couldn’t have done it — which was true.
Gas-lighting is a form of hypnotism. People don’t understand what hypnotism is and I don’t have time to write a course right now, but you should research it. There is a way of inducing hypnotism quickly by shocking you (the emotional kind not the electrical kind.) There are some prerequisites to hypnotizing someone, including getting the person to accept you as an authority. It’s also taught that you can’t hypnotize someone involuntarily, but that may be because hypnotists experts haven’t witnessed gas-lighting.
When I was young and the police officer was telling my mom what I had done, my brain started putting together a story of how I could have been involved. I would have at the very least looked very guilty if not outright confessed. Authority + shocking lie that the brain doesn’t know how to deal with = brain starts doing weird stuff.
At work something like that happens and it’s the same equation. When you come to your senses, you will actually blame yourself and give up. You end up accepting it thinking you are incapable of standing up for yourself. That is a physical neurological response that the authority is taking advantage of.
I’ve written more than I meant to but let me conclude with this one thing:
- Knowing that gas-lighting exists is not enough to prevent it. Its the shock of someone in authority uttering a complete falsehood that confuses your brain in the moment and makes you vulnerable to suggestion. As a preventative, I would suggest practice. Make a game out of it and have people say false and true things about you. You have to immediately say “that’s true” or “that’s false.” I can’t guarantee that will work, but based on everything I’ve learned, that should train your brain to listen for lies about you and automatically object instead of getting disoriented.