We have chatted about gaslighting here and there but realized, recently, that we do not have a formal post on the topic. So! Here is an informational post that will also, hopefully, enlighten many of our readers to this heinous tactic of abusers. Armed with knowledge, we know better how to fight the lies.
Gaslighting is a term often used to describe manipulative behavior that confuses people into thinking their reactions are so far off base that they’re crazy (“You’re so emotional.” “You’re crazy.” “Stop freaking out.” “It’s not a BIG DEAL.”). Gaslighting can make a victim doubt his or her own perception, memory and sanity. It can range from simple denial (“I didn’t do that”) to out and out staging of bizarre events with the purpose of disorienting the victim. The term was taken from a popular movie in the 1940s called Gaslight [Internet Archive link]1 (starring Ingrid Bergman), in which the husband works diligently to convince his wife she is insane so he can gain the upper-hand.
Martha Stout refers to gaslighting as a common tactic of sociopaths in her book The Sociopath Next Door [Affiliate link]. George K. Simon discusses the “denial” (a tool of the gaslighting abuser) used by covert-aggressives to confuse a victim in his book In Sheep’s Clothing [Affiliate link].
We may all have experienced this form of manipulation from time to time but it is especially, excessively damaging when a victim is being “gaslighted” on a regular basis.
Abuser: “I didn’t say that.”
Victim: “Yes, you did. I heard you say it. Why did you say that to the children?”
Abuser: “I didn’t. The children are just saying that. They are being manipulative. Trying to play you against me.”
Victim: “Wait…. The children didn’t say that!. I heard you say it.”
Abuser: “See? No one heard me say that. It’s YOU; it’s not ME. You’re hearing things again.”
Repeated gaslighting causes a victim to become isolated….wondering if she is crazy. The victim shuts down and doesn’t talk to others, afraid friends will think she is crazy, as well. Depression and darkness loom heavily over the victim as she loses her footing, doubts herself, and begins to believe that her mind is playing tricks on her.
Gaslighting is not new to this world. We have only just come up with a very handy and understandable term for the tactic. Gaslighting began at the very beginning of time….in the Garden, where the Master Gaslighter met Eve….
(1) He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (2) And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, (3) but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” (4) But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. (5) For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (6) So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:1-6 ESV)
So, right out of the chute, the Serpent is questioning Eve in a way that causes her confusion….”Did God really say….” I can just see Eve’s confusion in that split second. I wonder if there was a pause while she tried to stand back up on that rug that was just pulled out from underneath her. Wait a minute. What did God say exactly? Let me think. The Enemy lied to Eve and tried to cause doubt in her mind. To Eve’s credit, she spoke truth back to the Serpent. Having never known lies or sin, I wonder just how confused Eve was in this moment. And yet, she stood for truth. Still, the Serpent pressed her harder…. “You will not surely die….” Doubt doubt….lies lies….twist twist.
Eve…. You did not really hear that. God did not really say that. If God said it, that is not what God meant….
Eve was pummeled with gaslighting from the very beginning. Granted, Adam and Eve were responsible for their decision. I am not writing about that. I am writing about the fact that gaslighting is as old as time….literally. And that, it is evil. Pure evil. Used by the the Enemy, himself.
How many of us have slowly sunk into the spiraling insanity of the miry muddiness of gaslighting? I know I have. And it takes an army to help pull our minds out of the muck. But, it can be done. We are not crazy, friends. God has given us a sound mind. “You really did see it; you really did hear it. You are not losing your sanity.” Trust in the truth of God’s Word:
For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7 AKJV)
That’s truth right there.
1[We added a YouTube link to the full movie Gaslight. This is not the United States version that starred Ingrid Bergman. From the YouTube notes for this version of the movie Gaslight:
Gaslight is a 1940 British film directed by Thorold Dickinson which stars Anton Walbrook and Diana Wynyard, and features Frank Pettingell. The film adheres more closely to the original play upon which it is based — Patrick Hamilton’s Gas Light (1938) — than the better-known 1944 MGM adaptation. The play had been shown on Broadway as Angel Street, so when the film was released in the United States it was given the same name.
The Internet Archive link is a copy of that YouTube link. Editors.]
[August 6, 2022: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to August 6, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to August 6, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to August 6, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (August 6, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]
A Message to Women From a Man: You Are Not “Crazy” [Internet Archive link] — A great article on Gaslighting in the Huffington Post.
76 thoughts on “Gaslighting”
The counselor I saw after my abusive ex left four years ago called it “crazy-making.” And that’s exactly what gaslighting is about, making the victim feel crazy. For twenty years of my life I lived with a man who verbally, mentally, emotionally and spiritually abused me and our two sons. I felt like I was going crazy from the very beginning. Oh how he could twist things around to make me the bad guy. He often told me how controlling and abusive I was to him. .
Even to this day after being divorced from him for two years and not living with him for four, I doubt myself and have to constantly remind myself of the truth, God’s Truth.
Thanks for an informative post on a topic so common in abusive relationships.
Exactly!! The accusations that I was controlling! Yeah, I am controlling because I snuck out and paid the utility bills when you wanted to buy a new electronic device!! 😛
Thanks Megan! My eyes were opened to this term after reading some other secular blogs, but finally had a name for what my husband had been doing for years (and still is even though we are separated). I was telling my therapist about it and used the term gaslighting, she was unfamiliar with that term and promptly informed me that is was psycholical torture. And it is. Thank you for the very informative post!
YUP and it is still happening to with the children…….
“You’re hearing things again” boy is that a phrase I have heard WAY to many times.
He was very slick and would slowly re-write history with every re-telling. I was convinced that there was something wrong with my memory.
I really hated when we would be late for something and he would “loose” the keys or his wallet. I would search the house top to bottom while he set on the couch and waited for me to find it. Yelling at me the whole time about how stupid I was for not being able to find it!! Then finally when I was in tears he would calmly stand up and start “looking” for the lost item. Within a min he would find it in a spot I know I look a dozen times!!! It drove me CRAZY!! but it wasn’t until after we split and I was exposed to the term “gaslighing” that I realized that that is exactly what he was doing.
Oh Kathy- the denial is bad enough and I am VERY sorry that he did that to you! You are also amazing and I love your kind words 🙂
Bethany, That sounds truly awful!
whoa that is incredible. Purposely hiding an item and making you look for it! I only got the “denial” form of gaslighting – accusing me of doing something I didn’t do – or refusing to acknowledge something he had done – just outright denial of the truth of every situation. But I don’t remember him setting me up like that for a scavenger hunt.. yuck
((hugs)) you are amazing Bethany 🙂
If you can get hold of the movie Gaslight with Ingrid Bergman, it’s well worth watching, but be prepared for triggers. There is a scene which shows the abuser having hidden an object in order to make his wife think she has lost it – you’ll relate a lot there, Bethany. I found the DVD in the nostalgia section of my video store.
And here is a link to a secular domestic abuse site that discusses gaslighting.
‘Gaslighting’, stalking and intimate partner violence [Internet Archive link]
Fantastic post, Meg.
Thanks, Barb. 🙂
Amazon prime members can stream the movie for free. I plan to take the time to watch it soon.
Bethany, that is just horrible. My ex could be so manipulative and controlling, and was a master at turning everything around to be my fault. We lived together for about six months before we got married (BIG MISTAKE!) and I remember feeling so confused. I couldn’t put my finger on what was happening, but things he said and did could just leave me baffled. And when we were dating, not living together, he was the kindest, loving person, but I can actually remember the very moment when he changed…the night before I moved in with him. We were engaged to be married and we decided that instead of me paying rent for the duplex I lived in I might as well move into his house.
The night before we were going to move me into his place he decided to have a couple friends over for dinner that evening. He called me that afternoon at work and told me he was inviting a couple friends for dinner, one of them his ex-wife because he thought I should meet her. I was taken aback and simply said “okay.” After we hung up I got a horrible feeling in my stomach and called him back saying how I was not comfortable with her coming over for dinner, but he said it was too late he had already invited her and another friend of his. So, after work I headed straight over to his house and when I got there he hardly spoke to me. When his ex-wife and friend showed up he was suddenly very talkative to them, but the whole evening continued to ignore me. When the two left my ex promptly sat down on the couch and held the newspaper up so I could not see his face. He did not speak to me nor acknowledge me and I finally asked if he wanted me to leave or stay that night. Without putting the paper down, he simply said, “I don’t give a damn what you do!” I cannot tell you how stunned I was. I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. And that would only be the beginning of things to come.
The saddest part is thinking how I still moved in with him and married him to boot.
After I moved in, he scrutinized everything I did. He would be short with me, ignore me, if I asked him how he liked some new clothing I had bought he would tell me how “doggy-dog” it looked. He got mad at how I took the garbage out, how I put the vacuum away. If only I did things like “normal people” he would tell me, then I wouldn’t always do things wrong. Wow!
I remember one instance, actually only several years ago, where he got mad one morning after finding a pair of plant clippers in a drawer in the laundry room. These clippers had come free with a subscription to Sunset magazine years before and I always kept them in the laundry room no matter where we lived so I could grab them to trim up my houseplants. This particular morning he took them out of the drawer and hung them up in the garage alongside the outdoor clippers. When I saw them out there I simply took them down and proceeded to put them back in the laundry room when he walked by and saw me. He told me how those type of things were kept in the garage and I explained that these were just used for my houseplants and I had always kept them in the laundry room. He got visibly angry, almost shaking and said that they had ALWAYS been in the garage. I was trying hard not to counter him about it, but I was also frustrated because they were NEVER kept in the garage and only I used them around the house. He finally took them, hung them up in the garage and told me how I needed to stop always battling him on things. I honestly did not know what to do or say and just walked away. Those clippers stayed in the garage until he walked out the door about two years later…and it was one of the first things I did when he left…I took those clippers down and put them in the laundry room. And it felt so freeing just to do that one small thing. Crazy huh?
The saddest part of my story when I look back over it is how I never had the courage to stand up for myself. I allowed an a–hole like him to walk all over me and be abusive to our children too. Oh, I tried to speak up, but it only brought on more abusiveness from him.
I’m thankful now to not only be free from all of that, but to be with a man that treats me so well. I’m living what was only once a fairy tale to me…it’s what I used to dream of while married to that abusive bastard. I felt like a princess trapped in a tower waiting for her knight-in-shining-armor to rescue her. And He did…God freed me from that h-ll and me up from the pits that were devouring me. Praise God!
OH Amy! Thank you for sharing your story with me 🙂 I have wondered so many times why I didn’t stand up to him when I was a strong independent women before meeting him and even outside the home at work. I was a leader and a strong woman at work, why did I cower at home and not have the words to stand against him? It is scary how much power this form of manipulation gives our abusers over us.
As I was sitting here re-reading what I posted and your response something hit me. When I said I never had the courage to speak up to my ex when he said or did those things, well I suppose that isn’t really true. You see I did on occasion, many occasions actually, speak up to him. Just like with the clipper incident. The problem thought wasn’t NOT speaking up I suppose, it was about him “gaslighting” me when I did. When the crazy-making cycle started to spin out of control I finally had to shut my mouth because he would never give up until he had control of the situation. And most of the time it wasn’t hard to shut my mouth because it all became so dizzying that I literally would get to a point where I just did not have any more words.
I had a weird experience happen one time which occurred when I approached my ex about something that had happened between him and our youngest son. My son had shared with me the incident because he had been so upset, but he was terrified I would tell his dad. I decided though that I needed to talk with my ex about what had occurred with him and our son. And BAM, he started “gaslighting” me, as usual after I tried to talk with him.
Then it happened…I was standing in the kitchen and he was sitting at the kitchen table, and I remember that suddenly I felt myself leave my body. I could see his mouth moving, but the sound was suddenly muffled like listening through a wall or something. I felt very light and as if I were watching the scene from above. It probably only lasted a minute if that, but it felt like much longer. I eventually was back in my body and could clearly his words. I remember feeling dizzy and needing to sit down, which luckily he was done with his tirade of stupid, idiotic words and left the room. I sat down and just sat there, feeling so weak and stunned.
I never shared that with anyone except my counselor probably two years later after he had left.
She said that what I experienced is actually a real phenomenon that occurs to people in abusive or harmful situations. I cannot remember what she called it specifically, but she said it’s a protective mechanism in the body to help take the victim from the situation. I think that was the turning point for me too. It really opened my eyes to the destructiveness of that marriage and I believe to this day that God used that experience to start nudging me to get help and get safe. Of course, I stayed. I never left. My ex walked out four years ago only to prove to me that I could not survive without him. Hmmmm, guess that strategy didn’t work for him. LOL
Sorry for the long replies today….guess this has all opened up some major things in me even though we’ve been divorced for almost two years and have not lived together for over four. I’m still working through all of it even to this day.
Amy, I think the word your counselor used might have been ‘dissociating’. I have read about that out-of-body thing happening to people when they are being sexual assaulted. I think it is a protective mechanism of the mind.
Dissociative Identity Disorder is a term used in psychiatry – not that I think you have that disorder, by the way, but I’m just mentioning it because it also uses the word ‘dissociate’.
Oh Amy, there’s need to apologize here for long posts. We’ve all written our share. Reading your story was extremely helpful to me (and probably alot of other readers), thank you for being willing to open that part of you up to us. I had a teleconference with my husband and our case worker today and he used crazy making talk the whole time. My case worker didn’t buy any of it (military family advocacy is a blessing from God) and its amazing how right he still thinks he is. It’s so frustrating to have the most sound, logical, case put together to bring to a person and its like they don’t hear a word of it. Two hour conversations accomplish absolutely nothing. I didn’t realize until recently how horribly I was gas lighted, and now that I’m starting to see it I’m having to deal with a lot of anger and frustration over it. In his book “why does he do that” Lundy Bancroft says that survivors of the Water Torturer personality will deal with delayed rage for a long time as they continue to discover new layers of the abuse they were in. He was so right, and anyone who gaslights is definitely a Water Torturer.
Yes, Barbara, I believe that is the word she used. It was so freeing to finally share that experience with someone and she simply nodded as I talked and validated that it is a real thing that happens to those in terrifying situations. It protects our minds and helps us to cope.
Thank you, Kathy. Finding this site has allowed me to share some of my story and it has been good therapy for me.
It is so true that there is delayed rage. Even as these last few years have gone by and I’ve remarried and life is really good, I will get a little glimpse into other parts of the abuse and I find myself getting so angry. Oh, the story I could tell.
BTW, has anyone read the book, Love Isn’t Supposed to Hurt, by Christi Paul? Perhaps it has been mentioned here. I read it about six months ago when my husband told me he had heard about it on our local Christian radio station. It is an excellent book of this woman’s story of the abusive marriage she finally left. A quote from her book that I love and that certainly most of can relate to I think...”I felt like I was being shredded one painful, hateful word at a time.” Yep, for me that is exactly how it felt. I could not understand how someone that was to love and protect me, could be so hateful towards me. I used to tell him, “I wish you could just be my friend.”
And talking with someone so self-centered and self-absorbed is virtually impossible. Their thinking is so skewed and they will do anything to turn everything said around, upside down and inside out, just to keep their victim under their control.
I haven’t heard of that book, Amy. Thanks for sharing about it. Do you know whether the author is a Christian?
Yes Barbara, the author of the book is a Christian. She is a news anchor for CNN and a local network I believe. i think she lives in Atlanta. She shares in the book how her faith is what brought her through the abuse.
The hardest part of reading it were the flashbacks it caused in me. I would sometimes start crying and shaking.
The book is, Love Isn’t Supposed to Hurt.
thank you, Amy, I’m going to try to get in contact with the author of that book. If you have any tips about how to do so, can you please send me them by email? Blessings to you, sister. This is so appropriate for me right now.
Coco, I’m glad that God led you out of an abusive marriage and set you free. I had been in an abusive marriage for twenty years of my life when my ex walked out on me and our two sons four years ago. He only did it I came to realize a little later to show me how I could not survive without him. It was not about walking out on the marriage per se for he made it extremely clear to me and everyone else that he would NEVER divorce because Christians don’t do that, he’s motive were to try and get me to beg him to come back, and I see that so clearly now. When I didn’t he started turning up the heat on me and being very mean and hateful. He tried hard to get everyone at the church we had attended at that time to see how bad of a Christian I was for not reconciling with him. It was a tough situation for I had been a stay-at-home mom for all those years and now suddenly I was in a house with expenses and a mortgage and two kids to care for and no income. But standing my ground on not going back into an abusive marriage was the best decision I could have and did make.
Blessings to you as you travel this road.
Amy, Christy Paul’s book helped me immensely too! I had emailed Barbara about it awhile back, I think there is a link on the resources page. My mom showed me her interview on the 700 Club and when she was explaining why she stayed in her abusive marriage, I heard the exact words that I had used so many times. I’m so thankful for all the ways God led me out, even though I’m not officially divorced yet.
You’re right, Coco, and I did put it on our Resources page. Mind like a sieve, here.
Terrifying having to deal with this. And he wants to move out of state and take my teen daughter. This is the man that cannot deny himself anything, uses porn and sexually abused me for years..yeah, I am going to trust his manipulative personality with my teen daughter hundreds of miles away from any known friends!
Praying for you ladies! Glad we have this place to support each other!.
I suppose I should thank my ex for providing me with years of experience with this so I could spot it in my boss. His version of reality was rather fluid, always changing to fill whatever container he needed it to at the time. History rewritten, meanings of things said changing, my abilities questioned.
The boss does very similar things and my coworkers and I are constantly asking each other “didn’t she say X before she changed it to Y?” but the boss swears it’s always been Y. Unless someone she wants to gain favor with says X, then it’s our fault for Y ever even entering the picture. One that’s particularly eroding in the office is that she asks why something takes a certain amount of time, or why we did it a certain way. When we try to explain the reasonable reason behind it, there’s some far-reaching comparison – how do you think ABC company does it? (ABC company having more than 50 times our budget and resources, and dedicated staff to doing one part of the process while one or two of us are doing 3-4 jobs on each project.)
I’m amazed at how they can seem like they’re saying something so logical but when given a second look it’s just gibberish! (But good gravy, don’t question them!!!)
You have no idea, how much I needed to read this today. I just thank God, that He always brings me what I need to know, when I need to know it. I spend so much time being so confused and wondering what is happening, but this post enlightened me today, as to the truth about what is really happening, and it is not me.
No, it is NOT YOU, dear friend!
Mine was an absolute genius at gaslighting. I’m pretty sure he has taken some of my things, but can’t prove it. Also, I can’t count how many conversations we would have where he would say something-then deny saying it, then when I would recount it word for word, he would either change the subject or deny that what he said meant what it obviously meant. Ex. he might say something like “the sky is blue”. and I would counter with “so , it’s not red?[‘ and he would say “I didn’t say that or mean that, I just meant the sky is blue” He would continuously refuse to admit that to say the sky is blue, automatically means that he is also saying it is not red. He would do this until I was an emotional wreck. Also the constant contradictions in any conversation with him were/are maddening, with absolutely no acknowledgement of it from him.He really seems to think he can make two totally opposite statements that have the same meaning! These are only a few of the reasons why I will not have a conversation with him other than email or text unless I simply cannot avoid it.
Jodi — I can SO relate to this. My ex would use the words “misinterpret”, “misunderstand”, “mis-hear” over and over. Years of that takes a toll on one’s sanity. I should have also added (in the post above) that, when caught — and I mean, when an abuser just absolutely cannot deny what he has done because there are too many witnesses — an abuser will often choose another tactic to confuse the victim even further. Mine would tell me that he knew what he had done but just felt so horrified that he was capable of doing such wickedness, that he would deny it HIMSELF and refuse to face the fact that he could be so monstrous. I would have pity for him and excuse everything. And then the cycle would begin again. It took me years to completely understand that he wasn’t just a “broken man” but a calculated abuser who had mastered my vulnerabilities.
That’s why they are forcing face-to-face conversations post-separation. I have a friend with an ex who constantly demands that she meet with him to discuss their son – even though there’s nothing to discuss. He knows that if he forces her to talk to him he can manipulate and play more games.
Exactly! And if he can’t get me to speak to him in person or on the phone- most of the time he won’t communicate with me at all.
Yes, Katy. I had this, too. I remember, when I was separated and before the divorce, my ex would say (in a sinister and scary voice), “You need to SEE ME. I want you to LOOK IN MY EYES.” I was terrified. I couldn’t have labeled it “emotional abuse” but I knew that he wanted to finish the job of convincing me I had lost my mind. 😦
When my ex left me four years ago he too would do ANYTHING to get me to talk with him. I finally told him that I would only communicate through email, he was not to call me. He did agree to that, but unfortunately his emails were almost worse. He rarely communicates with me now, but on occasion I will get a stupid text from him. My husband tells me when I start letting get to me how that is exactly what my ex is hoping to accomplish.
Megan, That IS terrifying. It gave me chills down my spine. What an awful man.
I had the face-to-face meeting request “to talk about the children” too. I knew I didn’t have a choice, either, because if I refused he’d accuse me of not cooperating with him on the issues with them. Via email when setting it up I tried to set up the boundaries, saying we would ONLY discuss them, nothing more.
Of course the conversation turned, and he ended up saying he believed I would use the children to try to hurt him (I’m sure he thinks this counts as diescussing the children). I spent about a half hour in complete deer-in-headlights mode while he said all these terrible things about me and how awful I am.
If I ever get another request I’ll tell him we can figure it out in writing or we need to have a 3rd party there.
that is smart Still Scared! I will have to remember that when I have to get into contact with him again (when I file for divorce) I will make sure it is all in writing and I cc someone 🙂
I won’t even send or receive emails that are not cc’d to my pastor and a friend. He just twists everything. It’s safer this way.
That’s smart, SS.
Megan C.– you are so right. My poor ex was the most “misunderstood” man on the planet, who actually agreed when I said sarcastically “so, you would have me believe that you NEVER have negative thoughts or meanings to your words- your intentions are ALWAYS pure?” I then would say “well, congratulations on being the only perfect person in existence!”
There were two times that he called me a B%$#^ to my face. The first time, I said,
“I can’t believe you just called me a B%$#^.”
“No I didn’t. When?”
“Yes you did. Just 2 seconds ago”
“No I didn’t. Are you calling me a liar? I can’t believe you’re calling me a liar! I have never lied to you!”
I ended up thinking I was hearing things and was crazy. It happened again a few weeks later. Enter the same exact conversation only I insisted that I heard what I heard. He’s never done it since (to my face. I’ve heard some muttering). But the “Are you calling me a liar? I would never lie to you” conversation has happened many times since.
OH, I dealt with that so many times. I remember hitting myself on the head with my fist because I was so convinced I was crazy. 😦 The gaslighting even put me into emotional comas 2 times….I truly was beginning to think there was something deeply wrong with me. Another way he would gaslight was to do it through a friend. If a brother (his or mine) spoke to my ex, asking why he did thus and such, my ex would explain that he didn’t….that I “misunderstood”, laughing it off. Very demeaning.
Megan mine did that all the time too. He would say something to someone and then when it go back to me he would deny he ever said it and convince me that I had misunderstood the other person. It is “crazy-making”
mine had me on anti-depressants for post-partum depression about 4mos. I never thought about it but I bet it wasn’t post-partum at all! Thanks Still Scared.
Mine had a counselor totally convinced I had post partum depression when such and such incident occurred. Umm, no. Really, I can remember everything else from that time period, a close friend who is a nurse verified I did not have it. It’s another of his made up delusions but he totally convinced the counselor( who is not longer my counselor in any way)
I took antidepressants for years, too. When I was diagnosed with depression it was considered post-partum though it was a year later. He would later ONLY refer to it as “post-partum,” leaving off the depression part. I would insist that it was simply depression, and asked him many times to call it that, because I believed it was caused by something other than childbirth. (Wish I knew then what I know now!)
It’s almost comical, though – he always wanted me to look and feel crazy but when there was an actual diagnosis he wouldn’t acknowldge it.
Mine is trying to convince everyone that I have ppd and that’s what’s causing my crazy behavior. In a teleconference today between me, him and our case worker on base he was telling her that my symptoms matched ppd and she asked for examples. “Getting irritated over little things, being extremely emotional and crying all the time” I’m irritated with you because you’re being an *%#, I only cry when I’m on the phone with you (same reason). She asked for an example of my irritation and he said “this conversation! My wife has never spoken to me like this before.” Ha! The case worker was almost speechless, she asked if he viewed my tone as angry and disrespectful and he said yes he did. He demonstrated all of his classic manipulations today and was convinced it would result in her telling me how bad of a wife I’m being and that I need to stop this nonsense. It blew up in his face. He even admitted to reading my diary. The conversation was horrible for me because of the triggers, but I’m glad it happened because now I have a witness. And the most frustrating part is that he came away as self-righteous as ever.
Kathy, he may have came away as self-righteous as ever but you came away with someone on your side and that is VERY valuable! You can’t change him and you can’t change how he is going to see himself but with the Victim Advocate who has now seen his behavior first hand you can get validation and help. I wish the civilian world worked more like the military when it comes to DV, a lot more victims would receive the help they need.
I’ve also had retroactive gaslighting. He told me a couple years ago that he had been worried that I was suicidal after our first child was born. Suddenly he’s telling me this maybe 8 years after the fact? Even though I had been diagnosed with depression after the birth, I thought that was really odd that he was saying anything so much later, because at the time he never before mentioned that level of concern at the time, not even to the counselor I had (I made him go for a couple seeions but he weaseled his way out of it saying it was clearly all my problem).
So I broke down and asked a “friend” if he had ever mentioned that concern to her, or if she ever had the same feelings/fears for my safety. She said no, not at all. I said good, because I wasn’t suicidal or in danger of self-harm at that point.
I can only guess that his point was to make me question the foundations of my sanity from long ago. Funny thing is that even with the depression diagnosis his actions included pulling away and finding more things to do outside the home, leaving me isolated with our child even more. What kind of person does that, especially if he had been truly concerned for our safety?
We all know what kind of person does that.
I had the same experience-depression several months after my first daughter’s birth that I thought was PPD, but now I know better.
I endured years of crazy making attempts from my husband, but I learned that it wasn’t me, and that he had serious issues. My children would listen in on arguments he had with me and would later comment that he made no sense. Because of this, my son became interested in logical fallacies and bought a book on the subject so that he could identify them in his father’s rages!
After bringing the abuse to the church, I endured the worst of crazy making. The pastor, who informed me that he wasn’t for either of us-just for the marriage, proved to be a gas-lighter. I trusted him and wasn’t expecting that from him. One major example is that he insisted that we go to expensive mediation despite the documented infidelity, abuse, and the fact that I was afraid of my husband and did not want him back. He said that if I paid for roughly half of it, the church would pay the balance. He confirmed it to me twice. On the last day of the mediation, when the bill was due, he flatly denied that he would pay any of it! He pushed back from the table dramatically claiming he never said that! I thought that I was losing my mind.
Months later when I wrote a letter of complaint to the counseling service about the inappropriateness of their service and high prices, the supervisor replied the church was supposed to pay for half. I would recommend to anyone dealing with the church to get everything in writing.
Oh, TPW, how horrible! Honestly…I know there are good people out there and godly people who are seeking the Lord, but when I hear these stories I just have to cry like Habakuk.
Love that your son did that, though it’s sad that he had to!
I had that same thought, LMM. Sounds like her son is a fighter. 🙂
Persistentwidow, I don’t know why I would be shocked that your pastor would offer you a blatant lie, but I am! Imagine telling you that he would pay for half the counselling and then tell you that he didn’t say that…awful. And your advice about getting everything in writing when dealing with the church is a very good idea with a pastor you cannot completely trust.
My covertly abusive tobe-x gaslighted me so often that I just can’t even mention any of it now…it would really trigger me. But I will say I was relieved when I finally woke up and found out that there was nothing wrong with me, that he was the one who was the bad character and the evildoer.
Voice recorders are wonderful wonderful things. But STBX would still deny that it was that bad or that it was an accurate portrayal of our interactions. Doesn’t matter. I recorded him to prove to ME what he said. He can deny it all he wants, but I know and I can rewind it all I want.
yes – my recommendation is that you wear a recorder under your shirt. One of my other friends did that and tried to use it in court to prove the abuse, but unfortunately the recordings were so muffled and unclear that they couldn’t really hear his words, just the ranting and raving… and then the judge handed her child over to the abuser. Because she couldn’t “prove” the abuse and the judge thought the boy was better off in his childhood home with dad.
Talk about nightmare. I testified in court on her behalf, and when the judge handed down the decision I think we both almost died. I wasn’t right for a long time after that – I was so angry at God. I think I still have some issues regarding that.
But anyway – yes. Wearing a recorder is an excellent idea as long as sound quality is good. Don’t lock yourself in the bathroom and try to record him screaming at you through the bathroom door – the sound doesn’t come through well. 😦
Smart phones have a voice recorder app.
Barbara I just finished watching Gaslight. The last line: ”This night is a long night, but it will end, in the morning when the sun rises sometimes its hard to believe there ever was a night” Fit the movie and the feeling of leaving the “fog” so well. It was a hard movie to watch but I am glad I did.
Yes, hard to watch I agree; but worth it because it showed the cunning and malice of an abuser so well. And Ingrid Bergman’s acting was superb. There used to be a segment from the movie on YouTube, showing the scene where he hid the watch and made her think she had lost it, to intensify her feeling that she was going crazy. But last time I looked, it was taken down. 😦
I wish it was still there 😦 I was amazed at how similar his tactics were to my abuser. The scene where he said that they could go to the theater but then it was her fault when they couldn’t go, and then the scene where she stands up to him and says that she is going out with or without him so he then makes the scene in public with the watch in order to embarrass her into not wanting to go out again…both SO VERY familiar.
Sounds like a movie I have to see.
Thank you for this post. I have been a victim of gaslighting in my marriage for 18+ years. My husband wouldn’t set up events for this purpose, he is a manipulator or words.. He would say I said things I didn’t, exaggerate what I did or didn’t do or say, tell me I’m crazy, my emotions were invalid, I was making things up, he didn’t say what I heard him say, etc., I distorted what he said, misunderstood, etc. I now see it for what it is, but only for the last few years. The devastating results of living with gaslighting for me has been confusion, self-doubt, feeling I might be crazy and loss of confildence leading me to fear social situations and making new friendships (when I didn’t before) and actual loss of memories (even though initially I had a great memory which my husband relied on in our personal life, ministry and social life). I reached a point a few years ago where I have lost many personal memories, not just of abuse, but happy memories as well and I am unable to retrieve them. There was no one “trauma” but I believe it is a mental or emotional wearing down from the ongoing verbal abuse, which included gaslighting.
What a clear description of gaslighting and the effects it has on the victim. Thank you for sharing this, Anon, and welcome to our blog. 🙂
Wow…I don’t…even know anymore. I was really giving him the benefit of the doubt on his motivations and things but…..a lot of this is sounding way, way too familiar. I am really kind of upset here.
Especially the part about trying to get her declared crazy – he went to some counselor who diagnosed her, based only on things my dad told him about her, with OCPD, and then tried to get her to come in for ‘couple’s counseling’ and be labeled as such and validate it herself. The thing is, all of the things he was saying that were symptoms and that she did were things that HE does, all of it sounded exactly like him, and I could never figure out why he was so sure – still is, as far as I know – that she is OCD in a dangerous unhealthy way and that it is damaging his reputation and limiting his ministry because she is….all these things…which she’s not….
She never admitted that she was or let him make her believe it, and fortunately that was the one thing the church sided with her on after they found out he was having an affair, but now I am questioning a lot of things that he’s done and wondering if he was actually trying to pull this kind of manipulation with it. God knows he makes ME feel crazy, but I always thought it was just because I try to use logic on him and HE’S crazy–well, I was more generous than that, I say crazy but I just thought he’s incredibly unself-aware and has a lot of cognitive dissonance. Maybe the contradictions aren’t that benign….? I have no idea if he’s done more of this kind of stuff to her, and I’m not sure she’d know what I mean if I tried to ask her.
I really need to talk to somebody about this.
For years my husband has said I said things I didn’t. Really stupid things a lot, like saying I said to get bread instead of milk or to go to a further store instead of a closer one. Or denying I ever told him about something. We had a car loan through relatives and I had planned to have it paid off before I stopped working for pregnancy. I kept asking if he was making payments and he said yes. Found out after I quit work that he had not made one payment from the time he took over the checkbook. I cashed out my retirement (a decision I now regret) and paid it off. For years he would accuse me of giving HIS money (my retirement account) to my family and even though I still had the notarized loan paper say there never was a loan.
Somehow, over the years, I’ve held my own, and most of the time he has kept whatever this is in check. But, now I am going through cancer. He convinced my doctors I was severely depressed. I totally could not function on antidepressants, lost weight dramatically because I was nauseated, had panic attacks, emotions numbed. I quit them on my own and have learned to not ask him for any comfort, and not cry even if there is physical pain. When I had sought comfort because of how mutilated and ugly I felt instead of reassuring me of love, these are his exact words: “The alternative was to be dead. Would you rather be dead?” He has also moved into the guest room and withholds all affection and physical contact. But, he goes to all my appointments and is “so concerned.” After all his triangulating, to the family, I am “ungrateful” to him.
I recently inherited a rather large amount of stocks. I tried to talk to him about them and he refused saying it was my money. I wanted to set aside a portion to go to our kids so they could pay off student loans and the rest to him when I die, and while I live get a steady income from them. But in our state to have another beneficiary on even a small portion, the spouse has to agree. Would you believe he refuses to allow that. Anyway, the gaslighting and criticism has gone into overdrive since I got this inheritance and know he has already manipulated one of the kids (so it isn’t coming from him) into calling the doctor that I am terribly depressed. I think he wants me on antidepressants again now that he knows how they incapacitate me so he can take over that inheritance. I know if he does, instead of a steady income for life, it will go for a new oversized truck, guns, hunting equipment, an even bigger bigscreen TV, etc.
By the way, he must be the world’s greatest Christian. (sarcasm) There is not a church good enough for him, all pastors are frauds, including mine who has never met, and it’s all my fault that our youngest only occasionally attends church and is “worldly.” (At least she goes about once a month – he never goes.) But he claims to be a born again Christian!
Welcome to the blog, Elizabeth 🙂
Your husband is indeed a serious gaslighter, and this financial/emotional/social abuse he is doing to you, and has done for years, is evil. Have you thought about seeking help from a support service for domestic abuse? Or elder abuse? Or both? I think that especially with your medical condition, they would be very concerned about the situation you are in. And they would be able to offer you suggestions and support for how you might best respond to your husband’s tactics and protect yourself financially and emotionally.
[…] crazy, and the church institutions that blindly defend them, it’s easy for us to suffer from gaslighting, and start to believe that, “Hey, maybe we should just submit harder, or do something different, […]
Readers, this post by Taylor Joy [Internet Archive link] will be helpful for those who grew up with abusive mothers.
I just followed a link from another post to this discussion on gaslighting. I still kind of feel stupid that I didn’t know what it was until a few months ago. I’m only beginning to realize the damage he’s done. I often wonder if I am wrong about anything I’m doing. I don’t trust any one. I avoid social situations because I don’t know who I am any more. I’m not even sure anyone would like me plus it’s hard to be social when you know you’re keeping a big fat secret (abuse).
The comments above reminded of the times after the birth of one of my kids he went around telling everyone that I had post-partum depression. I was never diagnosed with it nor have I ever been depressed.1 He even warned the other children to “watch” me. Several years later I asked one of the kids who was tasked with “watching” me if I had PPD why didn’t dad ever see I got help? Why was he willing to leave me alone with young children? Child had no answer.
1In fact, I’m the opposite. I’m so in love with my baby and I love that time so much. Hence, the problem— I’m not attending to him.
Anyway, one day after the birth of that baby and I was so tired of being labeled PPD I saw an article in the paper about PPD because a local mother had killed herself and her baby. This article listed 20 signs of PPD. I made a list of the words they used to describe PPD signs and told the oldest child (over 10 years old) we’re playing a game–read this list and tell me what words describe me. Child read words thoughtfully then shook head “no, none of these are you. But…” “But what?” “Several of them describe dad.”
I now realize that many things he accuses me of doing he does. I know so typical! But I’m struggling with the damage. I know I’m not selfish and mean but there’s still that little part of me that thinks maybe I am sometimes……? In my head I can be rational but emotionally it’s hard to break out of those patterns he’s grinded into me.
I think accusing me of doing the same things I would complain about him doing and all his other gaslighting tricks have been the most damaging.
I appreciate having a place to share. It’s amazing how real it makes it to actually write it. But I also hope that my stories are helpful in the same way I’ve found reading others stories have been to me.
Thank you for sharing.
As you probably realise, many many survivors say that they have a lot of self-doubt and recursive self-scrutiny. I think this is part of the way we have responded to the abuse. The abuser accuses us of many defects and character disorders. His accusations are false, but he makes them seem so convincing. And because we have healthy consciences and, we want to have godly charater and conduct and become more and more sanctified, we want to listen with an open mind to any feedback we get about our character or conduct. These aspects of our personality are praiseworthy and laudable. The trouble is, they make us prime pickings for abusers. Abusers take nefarious advantage of our good qualities. 😦
I want to spend time thinking about this today.
And then I’m going to list all my good qualities and decide how I can (safely) allow myself to feel those things again.
I’m really hard on myself. My kids tell me my good qualities so I know I have them but I don’t feel like I do.
My mother recently gave me a portrait of me taken when I was around two years old. I was so happy in that picture. At first I didn’t know what to do with it then I put it up over my dresser and look at it it everyday. She didn’t deserve to be abused. I see that happy face and remind myself I owe it to her to good to myself.
My stbx used gaslighting so frequently that by the end of our marriage I was researching online to try and figure out if I might have early onset dementia (I’m just over 40 yrs. old). It is amazing how my memory returned and I stopped losing things when he left. It has been almost a year and I still sometimes doubt what I see and hear, but I’m learning again to trust my senses.
I’ve not heard that before, but I can well believe it! Sounds like he had a PhD in Gaslighting!