To all the Gaslighters I’ve loved before. It’s over!

Suspense is defined as, “a state or feeling of excited or anxious uncertainty about what may happen,” according to Google. That nails romance too when you think about it. The floating stomach, the increased adrenaline that makes us—men and women—sweat over what will or won’t come next.

His call? Her rejection. A killer breaking in the front door and the midnight flight on a speedboat to escape said lovely.

We all react differently and expect different things. Some people find cooking suspenseful. I do. I’m not that good at it although I enjoy eating. Providence has kindly paired me with good cooks–women can be led by her taste-buds, too–so I’m covered. But whenever I venture into the kitchen to take the task in hand, you can bet on accelerated heart-rates and not just mine.

How we perceive an action is what renders it romantic or suspenseful. (That includes my kitchen forays.) The Look of Love can be pretty creepy if it’s cast by the wrong person. But romantic adventures much like suspense aren’t always outward experiences that involve bombs, bullets or big gestures–or even saucy messes on a stove-top. A quiet one-on-one with that special someone reading a line of poetry—poorly written and wincingly painful—can hit the mark.

The subtleties involved in eliciting the desired response are as varied as a spice cupboard. And some chef’s prefer to work outside the kitchen. Masters of suspense—some born that way others formed by toxic backstories—take pleasure in exercising their art in the mind. Yours, or whoever comes near enough to be of service.

Enter the Gaslighter. You may be familiar with the term drawn from the 1940’s classic Gaslight starring Swedish beauty Ingrid Bergman and the French import Charles Boyer who wooed the female half of Hollywood back in the day. If not, watch it. Forget a big meal. Order in and tuck up under a blanket to check out a timeless example of the head-gamer. The one intent on making a perfectly sane woman believe she’s anything but. And even if you’re not a writer, take notes.

We are our own heroines!

Identifying a problem is the largest part of solving it–or eliminating it before it can cause lasting damage. Not just in the kitchen. Psychology Today has provided a handy key code for identifying this particular menace.

  1. They tell blatant lies. You know it’s an outright lie. Yet they are telling you this lie with a straight face. Why are they so blatant? Because they’re setting up a precedent. Once they tell you a huge lie, you’re not sure if anything they say is true. Keeping you unsteady and off-kilter is the goal.
  2. They deny they ever said something, even though you have proof. You know they said they would do something; you know you heard it. But they out and out deny it. It makes you start questioning your reality—maybe they never said that thing. And the more they do this, the more you question your reality and start accepting theirs.
  3. They use what is near and dear to you as ammunition. They know how important your kids are to you, and they know how important your identity is to you. So those may be one of the first things they attack. If you have kids, they tell you that you should not have had those children. They will tell you’d be a worthy person if only you didn’t have a long list of negative traits. They attack the foundation of your being.
  4. They wear you down over time. This is one of the insidious things about gaslighting—it is done gradually, over time. A lie here, a lie there, a snide comment every so often…and then it starts ramping up. Even the brightest, most self-aware people can be sucked into gaslighting—it is that effective. It’s the “frog in the frying pan” analogy: The heat is turned up slowly, so the frog never realizes what’s happening to it.
  5. Their actions do not match their words. When dealing with a person or entity that gaslights, look at what they are doing rather than what they are sayingWhat they are saying means nothing; it is just talk. What they are doing is the issue.
  6. They throw in positive reinforcement to confuse you. This person or entity that is cutting you down, telling you that you don’t have value, is now praising you for something you did. This adds an additional sense of uneasiness. You think, “Well maybe they aren’t so bad.” Yes, they are. This is a calculated attempt to keep you off-kilter—and again, to question your reality. Also look at what you were praised for; it is probably something that served the gaslighter.
  7. They know confusion weakens people. Gaslighters know that people like having a sense of stability and normalcy. Their goal is to uproot this and make you constantly question everything. And humans’ natural tendency is to look to the person or entity that will help you feel more stable—and that happens to be the gaslighter.
  8. They project. They are a drug user or a cheater, yet they are constantly accusing you of that. This is done so often that you start trying to defend yourself, and are distracted from the gaslighter’s own behavior.
  9. They try to align people against you. Gaslighters are masters at manipulating and finding the people they know will stand by them no matter what—and they use these people against you. They will make comments such as, “This person knows that you’re not right,” or “This person knows you’re useless too.” Keep in mind it does not mean that these people actually said these things. A gaslighter is a constant liar. When the gaslighter uses this tactic it makes you feel like you don’t know who to trust or turn to—and that leads you right back to the gaslighter. And that’s exactly what they want: Isolation gives them more control.
  10. They tell you or others that you are crazy. This is one of the most effective tools of the gaslighter because it’s dismissive. The gaslighter knows if they question your sanity, people will not believe you when you tell them the gaslighter is abusive or out-of-control. It’s a master technique.
  11. They tell you everyone else is a liar. By telling you that everyone else (your family, the media) is a liar, it again makes you question your reality. You’ve never known someone with the audacity to do this, so they must be telling the truth, right? No. It’s a manipulation technique. It makes people turn to the gaslighter for the “correct” information—which isn’t correct information at all.

These qualities may intimidate and/or scare a person when they don’t see them coming, but forewarned is forearmed. Now go get ’em. Better still, leave them alone. Gaslighters tend to blow and that kind of reaction is best left to fiction.

Write on!


2 thoughts on “To all the Gaslighters I’ve loved before. It’s over!”

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