Saturday, December 24, 2011

For Christmas - from a previous post

Excerpts from a previous post to ponder.

This section appears in Alice Miller's “The Truth Will Set You Free” in the epilogue entitled “From Ignorance To Knowledge and Compassion.”  (In my edition, this section appears starting on page 190 and concludes with a section appearing on page 195.)  The book speaks of “generational faithfulness” as old patterns of dysfunction, of how parents unknowingly use their children to medicate their old pains of the past.  The whole chapter speaks respectfully of the Bible, but it draws into question the traditions of men. 

The figure of Jesus confounds all those principles of poisonous pedagogy…  Long before his birth Jesus received the greatest reverence, love and protection from his parents…  His earthly parents saw themselves as his servants… Would it not make eminent sense to encourage believers to follow the example of Mary and Joseph and regard their children as the children of God (which in a sense they are)?

[T]he members of the upcoming generations will have the courage to call evil by its name…It is high time to relinquish the destructive models and to mistrust the principle of obedience.  We have no need of docile children brainwashed by their upbringing to be ideal targets of seduction by terrorists and lunatic ideologists, ready to fall in with their commands even to the extent of killing others.  Children given the respect they deserve from their earliest years will go through life with open eyes and ears, prepared to fight injustice, stupidity, and ignorance with arguments and constructive action.  Jesus did this at the age of twelve, and the scene in the temple (Luke 2:41-52) demonstrates eloquently that, if need be, he could refuse the obedience his parents asked of him without hurting their feelings.

With the best will in the world we cannot truly emulate the example of Jesus.  None of us were carried by our mothers as the child of God; indeed, for far too many parents, children are merely a burden.  What we can do, provided we really want to, is learn from the attitude displayed by Joseph and Mary.  They did not demand docility from their son, and they felt no urge to inflict violence on him.  Only if we fear the confrontation with our own histories will we need to have power over others and cling to it with all our might.  And if we do that it is because we feel too weak to be true to ourselves and our own feelings.  But being honest to our children will make us strong.  In order to tell the truth we do not need to have power over others.  Power is something we only need in order to spread lies and hypocrisy, to mouth empty words and pretend they are true.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Turning Off the Gas of Gaslighting

As mentioned in the previous post, a person must change their response to manipulation in order to disable it.  Gaslighters are manipulators who use a particular tactic to get what they want. Manipulators do what they do because their tactics work, and it generally involves little effort on their part. By stopping the cycle of giving a manipulator the response that they desire, a person can break the system. 
This will not happen overnight, and it generally takes a great deal of consistency and practice. If you're the person who has decided to stop giving into manipulation, remember that as you take on the challenge of teaching your manipulator the new system, you are also learning new skills yourself. Be gentle and kind to yourself, but don't give into the manipulation. You can learn to “turn off the gas” if you are willing to walk away from the manipulator to be free. That doesn't happen overnight.
Also remember that emotional growth and healing is never "linear."  It may seem like you have as many setbacks as you will successes, and often it seems as though you are taking steps backward. Remember that this is the nature of emotional healing and growth.  Remind yourself that this is how progress comes about.
Refer to the helpful hints and reminders about how to engage a manipulator. Be assertive, focusing on “I statements,” explaining how you feel, what you hope to accomplish, and what need. “You statements” tend to aggravate conflict and can imply that you know how he other party feels. By remaining focuses on your feelings and needs, you are better able to exercise self-control. 
Focus on what you will tolerate and decide that in advance of gentle confrontation. Define your boundaries, and remember that a boundary that you do not defend is not a boundary but merely an idea. Remember that you are the only factor that you control in the situation. Focus your attention on self-control. You may even wish to practice stating your boundary on a particular matter to return to it as a measure of defending it. You've got to teach your manipulator that you've established a new boundary, and they will need time to absorb the new information. Practice repeating your “bottom line” requirements.
It is usually a good idea to evaluate your own hot buttons and those of your manipulator in advance. Avoid them! :) And remember that there is no struggle for power if you do not contribute to the struggle. Opt out by sticking by your own boundaries and limits to disarm a struggle. Try to avoid the discussion of who is right and who is wrong and the details of the particulars, because this just fosters the competition, one that has no resolution. A manipulator in deep denial generally will not be swayed by objective facts, though this may be very hard to comprehend and accept. Focus on communicating how you feel and how you are affected when your perceptions are challenged. If the other party dose not respect you and how you are affected by their behavior, walk away from the conflict.
Consider the ideas about confronting a narcissist (by avoiding direct confrontation) and the posts about resisting influence and manipulation from the Under Much Grace site. They are archived HERE, and pay special attention to George Simon's list about “Tactics of Manipulation.”

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Why People Tolerate Gaslighting

Before a person can disarm a gaslighter and resist the repetitive cycle, they must prepare for the challenge by examining the dynamics that hold them in the relationship.

*Essentially, that gaslighter has a driving need to be right, and the person who stays with them has a driving need to be accepted by the gaslighter.*

As it is highly unlikely that the manipulative party will magically give up their obsession and need to be right, it falls to the manipulated to disengage from their desire to gain acceptance. That is more easily said than done, and I continue to recommend Harriet Braiker's book, Who's Pulling Your Strings, as an excellent source and one of the best teachers to help those with these types of struggles.

Those who are regularly manipulated by a gaslighter must search their heart and soul to discover the reasons why they tolerate the behavior. Sometimes, people just do so out of habit and a desire to maintain an illusion of peace. It may not worth disturbing the system and inciting the wrath of the manipulator, or the the person may lack the time and energy required to confront the situation.
For the adult children who were raised under the rules and requirements of a religious system that employs gaslighting within the family, the common fear of abandonment that people outside of the system tend to feel to feel becomes magnified.

The consequences of non-compliance affect not only that person's status with the family, it also results in God's abandonment and God's punishment for rejecting the "divine umbrella of protection" allegedly provided by parental authority. Under this system of belief, the manipulative, gaslighting parent holds that adult hostage by threatening their relationship with God. In many situations where gaslighting is employed as a manipulative tactic, people can be unwilling to leave the relationship because of the threat of violence. In patriarchy, that threat is divine, one that is built right into the theology.

Many people remain in abusive relationships because they lack the resources to leave and provide their own support. This problem affects the quivering daughters of patriarchy who have been denied training outside of the home. If they were raised in a “Character First” homeschooling situation that turned out to be “character only” with weak academic training, they may have very limited vocational training options and opportunities. Mothers of large families may not be able to find an alternate home if they leave the family and take their children with them.

And many people will remain in a relationship because they are unwilling to abandon the fantasy that they have about how great and rewarding the relationship seems to them. I often hear people who are unfamiliar with patriarchy and the difficulties faced by women within the system ask why the women just don't pack up and leave. It's not that simple in terms of financial support, but it is often harder to give up the dream of what you would like that relationship to be. People tend to believe that if they have enough faith and can just get into a better place in the relationship, one day it will work. It is the carrot of hope that is dangled before the horse. It can also be humiliating to leave the relationship, because leaving seems like complete failure.

Ultimately, so long as a person needs the approval and acceptance or the benefits of the relationship with the person who uses gaslighting against them, and if they are unwilling to relinquish what they derive from the relationship, the dynamics will persist. By developing an internal locus of control, one can get free of the need for the approval of manipulators and their tactics.

Check back for one more post on the topic of gaslighting.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Signs That You Might Be Subject to Gaslighting

Do you feel that something is very wrong, but you just don't know what is going on?  Do you feel like you should not have any cause for concern, but you still feel sad, hopeless, joyless, confused, or numb?

Do you find yourself second guessing yourself, lacking confidence, or always apologizing?  Do you frequently ask yourself, "Am I too sensitive?"  Do you withhold information to avoid conflict?  Do you feel like you're "bad" if you voice concerns?

Do you wonder whether you are "good enough," or fear that you are not doing enough?  Do you obsess over what you could possibly have done wrong in anticipation of error (what some authors call "predicting fear")?

Do you demand perfection from yourself?  Do you base your choices on what will please others, even though this may not be your own choice or might even be a choice you find unpleasant?

Do you have a great deal of difficulty making even simple decisions, and does the process produces a great deal of anxiety for you?

Do family members offer perceptions of you that differ dramatically from your own perception of self?  Do they insist that you adopt and share their opinions, even though you don't? 

Does your family accuse you of behavior or attitudes that you don't believe that you have?  Does your family treat you as though you were stuck in your childhood role, as though you'd never grown up?  Do you find yourself defending your perceptions?

Do family members put you down or find other ways of treating you with contempt, either in front of other people or when the two of you are alone?   Do you find yourself repeating explanations about why you feel the way that you do, obsessing with anxiety and frustration as you try to prove to others that you are right?

Do others use silence, guilt, blame, shame, obligation or fear, either to get their way or to punish you when your behavior displeases them?  Are you threatened with displays of anger?  Do you find yourself feeling fearful in their presence or at the thought of them?

Do you feel mocked or teased, and are these responses downplayed when you express your pain or embarrassment? Is there any name-calling or exaggeration of matters, introduced in such a way that helps them win the argument?

Do they threaten to abandon you?  Are criticisms introduced to evoke shame to shift the focus off of matters that are important to you onto your unrelated or peripherally related past faults or errors?   Do they invoke your worst fears about yourself? 

Do you find that you are required to consider only the other person's feelings at the expense of your own?  Could you be mistaking the other party's sorrow, anger or frustration incorrectly, attributing them as true regret and contrition?

Do you experience feelings of dread, heightened sensations, or physical complaints when thinking about or while actively facing the conflict?  Are you having sleep disturbances or bad dreams?

Does they use your ideals against you?   ("Isn't our relationship about unconditional love?" or "Aren't we called to be patient and forgiving with one another?"  "Honor thy father and thy mother."  "Submit, woman!")  Are these arguments offered to you in a context where you cannot easily respond? 

Are matters framed as no win situations for you so that you are "damned if you do and damned if you don't"?

Does they make you doubt your own perceptions, memory, or sense of reality?  ("I never said that, you must have imagined it."  "Don't you remember promising me...."  "Everyone thought you were laughable and were embarrassed for you.")  Do you ever have problems recalling the details of events regarding what transpired during a conflict or over disputed events?

Do you defend them to convince yourself and others of how good the troubled relationship really is?  Do you avoid friends or the discussion of the your relationship with others? 

  Do you feel that you are tolerating treatment that compromises your integrity?  Are you under pressure to always be in agreement with everyone ("The Urge to Merge")?  Are your differences in perspective or convictions always defined as sinful when they don't conform the desired standard, even if they are not issues of morality but merely reflect personal preference?

Is everything that happens in the relationship interpreted as all your doing while everyone else seems free of responsibility for the cause or source of conflict or problems? 

Is it unthinkable to consider that he is unreasonable and impossible to please as opposed absorbing all of the blame for conflict? 

Do you try to convince yourself that you are unaffected or should not be affected by another person's behavior under the guise of automatic forgiveness and unconditional love?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Primed by Parents for Future Exploitation and Abuse

The Power of Fantasy

Many of us remain in difficult relationships because of the fantasies we have about our gaslighters and about ourselves. . . And when it comes to families, our fantasies are especially powerful.

Many of us have intense feelings about the parents or siblings who have known us from early days, seeing them as people we owe everything to, should be able to depend on, or can be especially close to.

Even after we grow up and move out, we may feel lost because we've left them but not the fantasy. . .

The roots of this effort reach back to childhood.  Parents who are disappointing and unreliable put their children in an emotional corner.  To face the truth about them -- that they sometimes behaved like self-absorbed children -- would be overwhelming.

What two-year old, four-year old, or even twelve year old can bear to realize that her mommy can't protect her, that her daddy might not come through?  How terrifying to be a child with unreliable, unloving parents.  We know we're not old enough or strong enough to take care of ourselves, so if they won't do it who will?  And if even Mommy or Daddy won't love us, we must be so unworthy and unlovable that no one else will.

So instead of seeing things with such terrible clarity -- instead of realizing that our parents can't take care of us or love us the way we'd like because of their own limits -- we begin to blame ourselves.  ("It must be my fault"), just as we'll later do with our gaslighter.

But we don't stop there.  We make up fantasies to compensate for the reality of neglect and disappointment, fantasies that seem to give us more control.  If we are strong enough and powerful enough, maybe it won't matter that our parents can't come through for us -- we can take care of them instead. . .

We try to see ourselves as strong, tolerant, understanding, forgiving -- anything to make our parents' failings irrelevant.

Excerpts from the Kindle Edition of
Robin Stern's
The Gaslight Effect:  

Monday, November 28, 2011

Dr. Robin Stern's States of Gaslighting

Stage 1:  Disbelief

Your "gaslighter" says something unbelievable and outrageous, and you think you must have misunderstood what was really said.  You seek the gasligher's approval, but you are not very desperate to win their agreement.  You let the matter in question go without investing much effort in self-defense.

State 2:  Defense

You become obsessed with self-defense and argue with your gaslighter to prove that they are in error and that your assessment is accurate.   You make a grand attempt to gain your gaslighter's acceptance and good opinion of you.  Consequently, they demand that you admit that their assessment of facts is correct, generally insuinuating that you should feel ashamed for being detached from reality and unreasonable.

This demanding behavior may be hard to put into perspective, because the gaslighter can also be paradoxically tender and warm, and it makes their confusing behavior more difficult to put into perspective.  (Similar behavior can be seen in domestic abuse.  The abuser can act out and then compensate by swinging to a drastically different approach, one that seems inconsistent.

They generally swing from intense anger into exceptionally tender and kind behavior, provoking guilt in the abused because the two vastly different responses seem so very incompatible in a way that cannot be easily explained.)

There is generally some benefit, reward, or "bait" offered to keep you hooked into the relationship.  The gaslighter may also be obsessed with proving that they are the "nice guy," by attributing all fault and blame to you (even if it's not appropriate to lay blame on anyone).

The author states:

"Being gaslighted by someone whom you've trusted for years can be even more debilitating than entering into a gaslighting relationship from the start.  Because your trust has a solid foundation, it's all the more bewildering when you find yourself being badly treated -- and you may be even more likely to blame yourself.  How could the problem be with him?  It must be with you."

Stage 3:  Depression

Becoming confused in self doubt, you start to consider and perhaps prove that the gaslighter is right, as this is clearly the only way to finally gain their agreement and approval.  You become so hopeless, numb and fatigued that it is easier to agree with the person than it is to keep advocating for your own point of view.  When you give in and begin to agree with the projections of the gaslighter, they become much kinder and easier to deal with.  This pleasant reaction becomes your reward for selling out your perspective.

From Chapter 5:
"To me, the worst aspect of Stage 3 is the hopelessness.  Like all gaslightees, you have idealized your gaslighter and wish desperately for his approval.  But by Stage 3, you've pretty much given up on believing that you'll ever get it.  As a result, you think the worst of yourself."

Excerpts from the Kindle Edition of
Robin Stern's
 Crown Archetype, 2007

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Gaslighting and the Profound Power of Denial Mixed With Overt Parental Control

The term "gaslighting" derives from the British film (and the play that preceded it) that was remade in the US in 1944 staring Ingrid Bergman.  The husband in Gaslight wants to convince his already neurotic and previously traumatized wife that she is insane, so he sets up situations that convince her that she's literally lost touch with reality.

The term came to represent the behavior wherein one person challenges the perceptions and memory of another, though in dysfunctional families, it's not as malicious as portrayed in the old film.

As part of the disease of extreme denial, a controlling parent often believes their own press.  As many adult children of dysfunctional homes will tell you, "That never happened!" or some variation of it was a phrase they heard regularly.

Within dysfunctional families, denial exerts a powerful force that drives abusive family members to force their version of reality upon others.  By withdrawing love and affection or by instituting punishment for those who do not accept, agree, and comply with the fantasy, it becomes much easier for everyone else in the home to just agree and enable the gaslighting.  Might makes right, and it may be an automatic way of coping for the parent, not a willful choice to be deceptive.

Not only must children of Botkin Syndrome Families forfeit their rights and their wills to their parents, quite often, they must also forfeit their ability to perceive reality.  Truth must become what the parent says that truth is, one of the ways that the religious addiction of the parent affects children.  Can you imagine the tremendous sense of confusion, stress, and anxiety that this creates for a young child?  They grow up believing that they can't even be sure of what they've experienced or what goes on around them.  The become pre-groomed for manipulation and exploitation through bounded choice.  They can effectively "test reality" (the technical term), but they're never permitted to trust it until their perception of reality has been approved by the parent.

I cannot recall if this appears in Hillary McFarland's book, Quivering Daughters, or whether I read it in an early edition of the book publication.  The personal account left a profound impression on me.  As I recall, a young woman wrote to Hillary, explaining how her mother had to be right at all costs.  If a mistake had been made or if something was forgotten by the mother, this daughter was required to falsely admit to the mistake, or there would be chaos and great turmoil in the home.  The daughter may have been punished directly if she didn't claim responsibility for her mother's error, usually something of little importance such as failing to put something away.  Essentially, the daughter had to lie by owning up to an error that she knows that she did not make in order to preserve her mother's sense of well being which was too heavily dependent on performance.  It was not just a rare event but was a very disturbing chronic problem and a duty that this woman learned as a very young girl.

This is gaslighting.

At one point in the Bergman version of the film, the husband character named "Gregory" places his mother's broach in his new wife's handbag, and they leave for an outing of sightseeing.  "Paula," his wife, is the protagonist in the film.  The staff, the personal maids and housekeepers, also note that the wife looks healthy and fine (and she is!), though they note that the husband keeps telling others that she is ill and forgetful (though she is not!).  Note what happens in the next scene after Gregory slips the broach into Paula's purse.  Though Paula has done nothing wrong, her husband reinforces the idea that she is forgetful and is automatically at fault for losing the broach.  He seems very helpful and supportive, but he is actually trying to convince her that she is in error by distorting things and projecting false assessments ("you're tired, you're so forgetful," you lost the broach...").

Eventually, the husband begins to isolate his wife, and he steps up the pressure that he places upon her, continuing to more strongly challenge her ability to perceive what is real and what she has done.  He willfully creates situations that cause Paula to doubt herself, then uses social pressure and embarrassment in front of others to gain her compliance.  "You're far to ill to go to the theater!"  "How did the painting get there?  The maid didn't move it!  You'd better go to your room."  (This reminds me of a tactic that I'm told Scott Brown of the NCFIC uses by saying to people quite flatly and authoritatively, "You are confused," to gain control of conversations when his opinion is challenged.)  Slowly and systematically, Gregory tries to convince his wife that she's insane, his attempt to drive her out of her mind with doubt, anxiety, and direct fear.

The protagonist, Paula, is befriended by Joseph Cotten's character who validates her perceptions, encouraging her to believe in herself.  Without this kind of input, people like Paula often agree with the deception used against them, making such encouragement vital to surviving gaslighting behavior.  Paula begins to trust herself all the more when she observes paranoia in Gregory.  In one scene, he frantically asks Paula, "Why did you open my desk?"  She eventually stands up to Gregory, encouraged by the objective evidence also witnessed by Joseph Cotten's character, giving the film and the behavior its name.  The house is lit throughout by gas light fixtures, and when Gregory goes into the supposedly barricaded attic, Paula sees the flame of the gas fed sconces on the wall begin to flicker and dim.

Check back again in a few days
for more ideas about gaslighting and how to resist it.

What Are the Effects of Child Neglect?

Some Child Neglect Facts

from the Child Abuse Effects website

  Many neglected children feel unworthy to interact with peers, may isolate themselves and may encounter peer rejection (Lowenthal, 1996, p. 221).

  Among the different groups of maltreated students, child neglect was associated with the poorest academic achievement (Lowenthal, 1996, p. 222).

  More children die from neglect than from abuse (Mosher, 19943).

  Child neglect was a significant factor in 74 of 100 deaths of children in Ontario from January, 1994 to December, 1995 (Gadd, 1997, A24).

  The significance of child neglect should come as no surprise, given that a lack of parental care and nurturance--hallmarks of child neglect--poses one of the greatest threats to children's healthy growth and well-being (Rutter & Stroufe, 20005; Sameroff, 20006).

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Revived Altar of Molech and Eternal Seeking of Parental Approval

Sacrificing Children to Molech

The tradition of sacrificing children is deeply rooted in most cultures and religions.  For this reason it is also tolerated, and indeed commended, in our western civilization.

Naturally we no longer sacrifice our sons and daughters on the altar of God, as in the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac.  But at birth and throughout their later upbringing, we instill in them the necessity to love, honor, and respect us, to do their best for us, to satisfy our ambitions -- in short, to give us everything our parents denied us.

We call this decency and morality.

Children rarely have any choice in the matter.  All their lives, they will force themselves to offer their parents something that they neither possess nor have knowledge of, quite simply because they have never been given it:  genuine unconditional love that does not merely serve to gratify the needs of the recipient.

Yet they still continue to strive in this direction because even as adults they still believe that they need their parents and because, despite all the disappointments they have experienced, they still hope for some token of genuine affection from those parents.

 Excerpt from pp 37-38
Alice Miller
The Body Never Lies:  The Lingering Effects of Hurtful Parenting
WW Norton, New York, NY (2004)

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Long Term Costs of Abuse

Health Effects of Child Abuse Continue for Decades

A long-term study of more than 3,000 middle-aged women discovers women abused as children spend up to one-third more than average in health-care costs.

“What’s remarkable is that women with an average age in their late 40s still suffer consequences from abuse that occurred decades ago,” said Amy Bonomi, associate professor of human development and family science at Ohio State University, who led the study at Group Health in Seattle.
“No other study has found that before.”

Women who had no history of abuse spent an average of $2,413 a year (in 2004 dollars) on health care costs. Women who were sexually abused only paid an average of $382 a year more, those who were physically abused spent $502 more, and women who suffered both types of abuse spent $790 a year in additional health care costs.

Read the full article HERE.