The Gaslight Effect : How to Spot and Survive the Hidden Manipulation Others Use to Control Your Life
Are You Being Gaslighted?
Check for these telltale signs:
1. You constantly second-guess yourself.
2. You wonder, "Am I being too sensitive?" a dozen times a day.
3. You wonder frequently if you are a "good enough" girlfriend/wife/employee/friend/daughter.
4. You have trouble making simple decisions.
5. You think twice before bringing up innocent topics of conversation.
6. You frequently make excuses for your partner's behavior to friends and family.
7. Before your partner comes home from work, you run through a checklist in your head to anticipate anything you might have done wrong that day.
8. You buy clothes for yourself, furnishings for your apartment, or other personal purchases thinking about what your partner would like instead of what would make you feel great.
9. You actually start to enjoy the constant criticism, because you think, "What doesn't kill me will make me stronger."
10. You start speaking to your husband through his secretary so you don't have to tell him things you're afraid might upset him.
11. You start lying to avoid the put-downs and reality twists.
12. You feel as though you can't do anything right.
13. You frequently wonder if you're good enough for your lover.
14. Your kids start trying to protect you from being humiliated by your partner.
15. You feel hopeless and joyless.
Your husband crosses the line in his flirtations with another woman at a dinner party. When you confront him, he asks you to stop being insecure and controlling. After a long argument, you apologize for giving him a hard time.
Your boss backed you on a project when you met privately in his office, and you went full steam ahead. But at a large gathering of staff--including yours--he suddenly changes his tune and publicly criticizes your poor judgment. When you tell him your concerns for how this will affect your authority, he tells you that the project was ill-conceived and you'll have to be more careful in the future. You begin to question your competence.
Your mother belittles your clothes, your job, your friends, and your boyfriend. But instead of fighting back as your friends encourage you to do, you tell them that your mother is often right and that a mature person should be able to take a little criticism.
If you think things like this can't happen to you, think again. Gaslighting is when someone wants you to do what you know you shouldn't and to believe the unbelieveable. It can happen to you and it probably already has.
How do we know? If you consider answering "yes" to even one of the following questions, you've probably been gaslighted:
Does your opinion of yourself change according to approval or disapproval from your spouse?
When your boss praises you, do you feel as if you could conquer the world?
Do you dread having small things go wrong at home--buying the wrong brand of toothpaste, not having dinner ready on time, a mistaken appointment written on the calendar?
Gaslighting is an insidious form of emotional abuse and manipulation that is difficult to recognize and even harder to break free from. That's because it plays into one of our worst fears--of being abandoned--and many of our deepest needs: to be understood, appreciated, and loved. In this groundbreaking guide, the prominent therapist Dr. Robin Stern shows how the Gaslight Effect works and tells you how to:
Turn up your Gaslight Radar, so you know when a relationship is headed for trouble
Determine whether you are enabling a gaslighter
Recognize the Three Stages of Gaslighting: Disbelief, Defense, and Depression
Refuse to be gaslighted by using the Five Rules for Turning Off the Gas
Develop your own "Gaslight Barometer" so you can decide which relationships can be saved--and which you have to walk away from
Learn how to Gasproof Your Life so that you'll never again choose another gaslighting relationship
Following in the steps of writers like Patricia Evans (The Verbally Abusive Relationship), psychotherapist Stern addresses gaslighting-emotional abuse and manipulation among family members, coworkers, friends, and lovers. The "gaslight effect" refers to the classic 1944 film Gaslight, in which a wife, eager for her abusive husband's approval, allows her self-esteem to be sabotaged to the point she believes she is losing her mind. The gaslighter, who may be male or female, though usually male in a romantic relationship, insists on being right and is always the winner; he may not be an intimidator but may threaten or be perceived as threatening. The gaslightee excuses and eventually feels responsible for the gaslighter's manipulative behavior. Focusing on gaslightees, Stern presents a three-stage model of gaslighting leading from disbelief through defense to depression, illustrated with examples taken from her clinical work. She describes types of gaslighters and shows gaslightees how to identify situations and feelings indicating that gaslighting may be happening. Her advice and strategies for "turning off the gas," making decisions for staying or leaving, and keeping future relationships "gaslight free" are practical and sound, emphasizing improving self-esteem and visualizing outcomes. Sidebars give scenarios, scripts, and indicators. Strongly recommended for self-help collections in public libraries.-Lucille M. Boone, San Jose P.L., CA Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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April 30, 2007
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Excerpt from The Gaslight Effect by Paul Voestermans
What Is Gaslighting?
Katie is a friendly, upbeat person who walks down the street with a smile for everyone. Her job as a sales rep means that she's often talking to new people, which she loves. An attractive woman in her late twenties, she went through a long period of dating before she finally settled on her current boyfriend, Brian.
Brian can be sweet, protective, and considerate, but he's also an anxious, fearful guy who treats every new person with suspicion. When the two of them go on a walk together, Katie is outgoing and talkative, easily falling into conversation with the man who stops to ask directions or the woman whose dog cuts across their path. Brian, though, is full of criticism. Can't she see how people are laughing at her? She thinks they like these casual conversations, but they're actually rolling their eyes and wondering why she's so chatty. And that man who asked them for directions? He was only trying to seduce her--she should have seen how he leered at her the moment her back was turned. Besides, behaving in such a manner is highly disrespectful to him, her boyfriend. How does she think it makes him feel to see her making eyes at every guy she passes?
At first, Katie laughs off her boyfriend's complaints. She's been like this all her life, she tells him, and she enjoys being friendly. But after weeks of relentless criticism, she starts to doubt herself. Maybe people are laughing and leering at her. Maybe she is being flirtatious and rubbing her boyfriend's nose in it--what a terrible way to treat the man who loves her!
Eventually, when Katie walks down the street, she can't decide how to behave. She doesn't want to give up her warm and friendly approach to the world--but now, whenever she smiles at a stranger, she can't help imagining what Brian would think.
LIZ is a top-level executive in a major advertising firm. A stylish woman in her late forties with a solid, twenty-year marriage and no children, she's worked hard to get where she is, pouring all her extra energy into her career. Now she seems to be on the verge of reaching her goal, in line to take over the company's New York office.
Then, at the last minute, someone else is brought in to take the job. Liz swallows her pride and offers to give him all the help she can. At first, the new boss seems charming and appreciative. But soon Liz starts to notice that she's being left out of important decisions and not invited to major meetings. She hears rumors that clients are being told she doesn't want to work with them anymore and has recommended that they speak to her new boss instead. When she complains to her colleagues, they look at her in bewilderment. "But he always praises you to the skies," they insist. "Why would he say such nice things if he was out to get you?"
Finally, Liz confronts her boss, who has a plausible explanation for every incident. "Look," he says kindly at the end of the meeting. "I think you're being way too sensitive about all this--maybe even a little paranoid. Would you like a few days off to destress?"
Liz feels completely disabled. She knows she's being sabotaged--but why is she the only one who thinks so?
MITCHELL is a grad student in his mid-twenties who's studying to become an electrical engineer. Tall, gangly, and somewhat shy, he's taken a long time to find the right woman, but he's just begun dating someone he really likes. One day, his girlfriend mildly points out that Mitchell still dresses like a little boy. Mitchell is mortified, but he sees what she means. Off he goes to a local department store, where he asks the personal shopper to help him choose an entire wardrobe. The clothes make him feel like a new man--sophisticated, attractive--and he enjoys the appreciative glances women give him on the bus ride home.