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.