There’s a reason governments utilize psychological torture techniques on suspected terrorists.
It’s a way of controlling somebody discretely. Without obvious threats or harm. Simply by controlling their reality and steering their perceptions. Planting seeds of doubt and carefully nurturing them until a dependence upon the manipulator is created.
And you don’t have to be a prisoner suspected of treason to face this torture.
It can happen in your own home.
In your own marriage.
Only there, it’s not called torture (although maybe it should be).
And here’s the top ten reasons why it’s the worst-
10 Your Protector Becomes Your Persecutor
It’s horrifying when you realize that the person you love, you trust, has been slowly and intentionally lying and manipulating you. It’s like that nightmare you had when you were 5 where Santa Claus suddenly turned into a monster. Only this monster is real and you shared a bed with them.
9 It’s Invisible While It’s Happening
The whole point of gaslighting is to control somebody and distract them from what is really going on. As a result, it’s very difficult to identify when you’re in it. Generally, all you recognize is a sense that something is off and perhaps a sense of generalized anxiety. In some ways I’m glad I never spent time in a “bad” marriage. But then again, it’s scary to only realize after the fact that I was in one.
8 Your Memories Are Tarnished
I have 16 years of good memories with my first husband. And at least part of that history is false. But I have no idea what parts. So it’s all damaged. Ugly water stains on beautiful wedding photos. Was any of it real? I’ll never know.
7 It Doesn’t End When the Relationship Does
Some of this is by design. Often the abuser defames your character to others, leaving you in the position of either trying to convince them of a new truth or cut them out. But even without the character assassination, gaslighting persists. It’s in you, an unwanted tattoo imprinted upon your doubting brain.
6 Impact Is Hard to Recognize Until It Builds
The flood of feelings that led to my emotional hangover the other day was building for some time. But I couldn’t see it. It becomes very difficult to separate the implanted thoughts from your own. And sometimes the false ones take the lead for a time.
5 It’s Difficult to Explain to Others
Because until you’ve been there, you don’t believe that somebody can really have that much influence over your thoughts. Like much abuse, gaslighting starts slowly, ramping up the distortions until your reality is altered. And when you try to explain it, you either get judged or dismissed.
4 Words Are Meaningless
When somebody does try to comfort you or convince you of something, you find that words have become meaningless. Because you’ve learned that words can be used to paint a picture of a fictional reality. And although we should always trust actions more than words, it’s hard to communicate when you immediately shrug off somebody’s utterances.
3 Over Analyzing Becomes Second Nature
Determined not be a victim of gaslighting again, you over analyze everything. It’s like being a detective 24-7, always looking for proof and validation. It looks like A to me. But is it really A? Or do I only think it is A because that’s what I was told for so long? And here’s the crazy part, some of what allowed you to be gaslighted is that you ignored your intuition. And now the excessive scrutiny can cause you to fail to observe your gut again.
2 It’s Difficult to Trust Others
Because the abuse was invisible while it was carried out, it’s hard to trust that others are not trying to do the same to you. It’s tempting to wall off, to refuse vulnerability. Trust becomes a daily intention and a huge leap of faith.
1 You Don’t Trust Yourself
And this is the worst. You don’t trust yourself to recognize if it’s happening again and you don’t trust your perceptions and conclusions. There’s a skepticism and a confusion woven into your very fabric. And you have to slowly tease it out. One little thread at a time.