Weekend: Mental Health Moment

By LINDA STOCKTON
Do you often feel confused or even crazy around a particular person, perhaps because he/she has as much as told you that you are crazy? If so, it is possible you are being “gaslighted.”
This term was made popular in the 1938 play and its 1944 film adaptation, “Gaslight,” starring Ingrid Bergman. The plot involves a man intentionally dimming the gas lights of their home. When his wife comments on it, he tells her she’s imagining it. He tries to make her think she’s mad even though she’s not crazy.
Gaslighting describes a variety of passive-aggressive behaviors that a person engages in to gain control. It is accomplished by manipulating another person’s perception of reality and by systematically tearing down their self-confidence.
They are commonly inflicted by sociopaths, narcissists, and those with borderline and/or antisocial traits.
Here are some examples:
• You’d swear she agreed to keep the boat but she sold it. When you confront the discrepancy, she doesn’t remember saying that. Discrepancies happen so often you’ve considered tape recording conversations.
• You see your husband kiss another woman, which upsets you. When you confront him, he tells you “everybody greets this way” and accuses you of overreacting and being paranoid or hormonal. You start wondering if something is wrong with you.
• You ask your partner a reasonable question only to have him call you a nag. You end up wondering if he’s right.
• You’re so confused by the mixed messages you get that it leaves you wondering if your partner really loves you.
• Your loved one behaves badly and you make excuses to cover it up.
• You are so disoriented and overwhelmed with trying to figure things out that you end up depressed.
This destructive pattern is verbally and emotionally abusive and you need to take steps to stand up for yourself and stop being manipulated and abused:
• Keep a log so that the frequency and the pattern of these behaviors become clearer.
• Stand in the truth of who you are and don’t lie for him/her.
• Pay attention to your intuition and trust your instincts.
• Regain confidence and trust in your perception and memory by recognizing you don’t have these issues with other people, only him/her.
• Learn to communicate assertively. Don’t take the bait when the passive-aggressive person tries to twist things around to make it your fault or get you off track.
• Don’t allow yourself to be isolated.
• Bounce things off a confidant if you’re second-guessing yourself.
Stockton is a professional clinical counselor and owner of Inner Peace Counseling, Findlay. If you have a mental health question, please write to: Mental Health Moment, The Courier, P.O. Box 609, Findlay, OH 45839.

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