To see the other articles in my series, click on the category of Narcissistic Personality Disorder on the right side of my blog page. For more articles on Gaslighting click on that link.
Be sure to read – Gaslighting: Epilogue.
Victims or “targets” of Narcissists are often nurturing, sensitive, forgiving human beings. It is precisely those character traits that make she/he (more often victims are females rather than males) more vulnerable to abuse from the Narcissist. As a result of their relationship, the victim or “target” can suffer from depression, drug/alcohol abuse and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Psychological abuse is very serious; it leaves emotional scars. Scars, that no one can see, but they are as real as any bleeding wound.
Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse. It involves an increasing frequency of systematically withholding factual information from, and/or providing false information to the subject, having the gradual effect of making the victim anxious, confused, and less able to trust his or her own memory, perception and judgement. A variation of gaslighting, used as a form of harassment, is to subtly alter aspects of a victim’s environment, thereby upsetting his or her peace of mind, sense of security, etc.
The term was coined from the 1940 film Gaslight and its 1944 remake in which changes in gas light levels are experienced several times by the main character. The classic example in the film is the character Gregory using the gas lamps in the attic, causing the rest of the lamps in the house to dim slightly; when Paula comments on the lights’ dimming, she is told she is imagining things. Paula believes herself alone in the house when the dimming occurs, unaware that Gregory has entered the attic from the house next door. The sinister interpretation of the change in light levels is part of a larger pattern of deception to which the character Paula is subjected.
Altering My Environment –
In my “relationship” with the N, his gaslighting deceit started subtlety at first. Occasionally a file would be missing from my desk. Later I’d find it in another office. The copies I had just made would be back in the copier, when I was sure that I had removed them from the tray. Things in my office would be moved, sometimes briefly missing…not where I had left them. After a few months, the frequency increased to nearly every day. My only respite was during the summer.
There is a line of dialog in “Pirates Of The Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl” that I identified with. When the character William Turner says…”not where I left you…” in regards to his sword…that was something I said nearly every day.
Sometimes the game took place when my shift was over. I remember I had left something on my desk and the next morning it was gone. Later that day, I returned to my desk to find it in the same place I had left it the night before. It became very frightening. I was afraid that maybe I was going crazy.
Often when I returned to work in the mornings, there was a sense that something was not right; in regards to my work space/ environment, but I could not pinpoint the cause. I never reported this to anyone. The brainwashing by the N was already damaging my ability to think for myself. Dr. Sam Vankin calls this “Ambient Abuse.” I didn’t think anyone in authority would believe my claims of someone removing things from my office. Rather they would think that I was inept and incapable of doing my job. Those were all ideas that the N planted in my head.
The few times that I voiced my frustrations to the N in regards to things being moved, things not where I had left them…his response was, “Well if you weren’t so stupid you’d know where you put them!” I learned to not share my concerns with him, but it was too late, the damage had been done. He would occasionally ask, “Lose anything today?”
I remember one late afternoon when I was frantically searching for a file. It was information that I could reprint, but I was so confused that it was not where I had just left it. The N appeared at the edge of my desk; the strange thing was I had not even heard him come in. He had a smirk on his face when he said, “Looking for something?” “No,” I lied, “just cleaning up.” It was about that time that I started thinking that he had something to do with things being missing. But I dismissed the thought. I had been so brainwashed by him that I would never accuse my “friend” of sabotaging me.
At the end of the “relationship,” things were stolen; items that were in locked file cabinets were gone, cabinets, to which he had a key. He denied ever having seen the missing items, denied that they even existed. My only real proof that he was using this “technique” was that when he finally left my life, (because he stayed on long after the ‘major’ D&D,) it was only after he had finally been removed from my surroundings, did the gaslighting stop.
When he left, there were many things missing….my self esteem, self worth, confidence, my personality, my trustful nature and the thing I missed the most, the person I thought was my best friend…aka “Pretend Guy.”
The N frequently questioned my ability to perform my job. This was done covertly. Often he would appear, supposedly coming to my rescue, while I was dealing with a situation well within my capabilities. The following scenario happened repeatedly, it got to the point where I only felt capable of doing my job when he was around. This was exactly what he wanted.
Once, as I tried to explain to an individual, for the third time what I needed her to do, she continued to look at me with a blank, confused expression. The N stepped into my office and the conversation and said the EXACT thing that I just had. Suddenly, the clouds parted, the sun shone, the angels sang, and this person understood the N’s instructions and left to take care of the task. The N turned to me with a very smug expression on his face. Stupidly, I was very appreciative, thanking him for helping me. Never once did I wonder if these events were orchestrated by the N.
I have replayed events like this one in my head – as sick as it sounds, I am certain that the persons in the situations were his proxies. They were all part of the game. This is a variation that Dr. Sam Vankin calls this “Incapacitating.”
Verbal Abuse –
N said some of the most bizarre and suggestive things to me. Things that one friend would certainly not say to other. Things that should not have been said in a working relationship. I tried to excuse his abuse and bad behavior with the knowledge I had of his childhood. Truthfully, I always excused his ‘bad behavior’. I was very supportive of him…the need that I felt…my desire to protect him…this desire was ill placed. I should have been protecting myself – from him.
Sometimes, he would actually admit to having said something strange or extremely inappropriate. “Oh, that’s just something I say,” would be his response. I know at some point in this insanity, my subconscious was screaming to be heard…”Really?! That’s just something you say?! There are other people that you are this abusive to? Maybe I should start a support group for people who have suffered from having any contact with you!!
Sometimes he would make an outrageous comment or suggestion to me. Once, out of the blue, he said, “I know lots of people who are married, and they have affairs.” After I was able to shake out the “fog” his words had put me in, I asked him, “What do you mean by that? Are you seriously suggesting that our friendship take a different path?” He looked at me and denied ever having made the statement. Less than a minute had even passed! My confusion at this point was beyond extreme. I had no way to “take a step back” and see him for what he really was.
When the “friendship” finally reached its grotesque conclusion I didn’t know who or what to believe. I didn’t trust anyone. Looking back now, that was what he wanted. He didn’t want me to trust anyone. He didn’t want me to talk to anyone, to tell them the details of what I had suffered through…he didn’t want me to tell anyone about what kind of an alien life form he was…excuse me, is. I call him an alien, because I can’t bring myself to say he’s a human being. He’s not.
Read – Gaslighting: Epilogue for the conclusion to this post. Click on the link below