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