The Interpersonal Use of, and Psychological Abuse Called, Gaslighting

Gaslighting makes you feel insane for believing reality, because somehow reality is subverted, and an alternate reality is what appears to be real to everyone else.

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Gaslighting is the ultimate scapegoating experience.  I say ‘ultimate’ because when it is carried out and done so ingeniously, there is absolutely no sign of the wrongdoing having been done; so much so that the victim is leveled and dissolved from where they stood, their person and position completely disintegrated on a bed of lies.

Gaslighting takes place more often than many of us think.  It takes place whenever someone denies the truth that could’ve been observable by anyone had they been positioned to see, and yet they reduce the truth to a fact of nonexistence, confining the other party (the truthteller) to the reputation of myth-believer, even liar.  It is always devastating to be in that position where the record of history is changed in the blink of an eye, simply because the facts did not bode well for the gaslighter and they hence bore false witness.

Gaslighters change their story because it is convenient for them to do so.  They, therefore, reveal that their lies:

  • are more preferable to them than justice is;
  • are allowable to get them out of a fix (revealing entitlement);
  • are convenient ‘alternative facts’ (when the truth is crafted by a narcissistic artist);
  • are more important than another person’s reputation;
  • that include crucial omissions and exaggerations are often pivotal distortions;
  • are what they testify to be the right record of history (when they act like God).

… before God who cannot be fooled.

Gaslighting is the perverting of the course of justice.  It is taking justice on a journey far away from the truth.  It is criminal.  And it must be a person seared of conscience who does this, or so fearful of exposure that maintaining the façade is worth it.  Such a worldly gain is a burning of the Kingdom of God within the gaslighter.

WHAT IS BEING GASLIT LIKE?

The experience of having been gaslit is overwhelming on a number of fronts.  Part of us is incredulous that the facts are misrepresented, minimized, hidden, or denied — with deliberate intent.  This alone would be enough to throw us a curveball and confuse our thinking in such a challenging moment.  At the same time, this is being done, the person is attacking us even as they secure their own reputation in one and the same movement and moment.  We’re thrown under a bus.  And add to this, the dimension of the hearer.  They quickly judge the gaslighter as the truthteller, which so often leaves us with explanations to make, all the while the gaslighter looks innocently on.  The dynamic of the moment is pressure for judgment, because everyone is on a conquest for truth, and if we can’t answer the moment properly it only looks worse for us, whether we are the truthteller or not.  Of course, the gaslighter capitalizes on having thrown us the curveball, which in and of itself is another deception.

The experience of having been thrown under a bus is quite a devastating betrayal — lies in the full light of day with no regard for what that means for the innocent.  And get that right, there is no ‘it takes two to tango’ when it comes to gaslighting.  It is out-and-out an abuse.

Gaslighting makes you feel insane for believing reality, because somehow reality is subverted, and an alternate reality is what appears to be real to everyone else.

~

Now, this article is by no means a conclusive precis on gaslighting; entire volumes of books could be written and still not exhaust the dimensions of it.

Finally, Christians, as followers of Jesus, who came not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it, are bound by the ninth commandment to not bear false witness.  This means, in effect, that even in situations where the truth would work against us, we are to speak the truth.  Of course, this should not need to be said, but we are all in situations where we attempted to pervert the course of justice.  Where we’re infracted by Christians, yes gaslighting Christians, we’re forgiven for being thrown by such situations.  It would do us well if we were to see how there will always be people who will buckle under the temptation to lie.  I can think immediately of three biblical examples that show us that even supposedly godly people fall for it:

  • Achan who took plunder from Jericho and hid it was caught and killed (Joshua 7)
  • Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, who took plunder from Naaman, and when caught by Elisha was instantly afflicted with leprosy (2 Kings 5)
  • Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 lied to the apostles and died in judgment

There is justice for liars caught in the act in the Bible, and perhaps we can be encouraged to know that gaslighters will be brought to justice one day.  God sees all.

Here is something novel.  This may not be something that a gaslighter would do, but it is something for all of us to consider.  When we are in a situation where we may be tempted to burn someone for our own gain, perhaps we could consider the risk of faith required in being on their side too.  Yes, to opt for the good in their proposal.  Can you imagine what it does to the dynamic to have an adversary come and join your side?  I say that it is novel because it hardly ever happens, but we may find that the Kingdom is built on the foundations of this kind of selfless behavior.

 

 

 

This is an updated edition of a post originally published on epitemnein-epitomic.blogspot.com.

Featured Image by Etienne Boulanger

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About the Author

Steve Wickham is a Kingdom Winds Contributor. He holds several roles, including husband, father, peacemaker championing peacemaking for children and adults, conflict coach and mediator, church pastor, counselor, funeral celebrant, chaplain, mentor, and Board Secretary. He holds degrees in Science, Divinity (2), and Counselling. Steve is also a Christian minister serving CyberSpace i.e. here.