If you have ever made a complaint about a public body the chances are your valid complaint will be referred to at some point as a ‘perception of injustice’ as if your experiences are just illusionary. Gaslighting is commonly used to deflect criticism and deter persistent complaint. So when you are up against authorities in collusion to deny the facts, knowing that others can validate your experiences with their own life events is vital to maintaining your mental stability.
Tactic #1: Gaslighters override your reality.
At its heart, gaslighting is overriding your reality to the point that you question your own judgment. Like most things, there are degrees. It can be as small-scale as telling a child, “You can’t be hungry—you just had a snack,” or as large-scale as denying fully obvious facts, such as this 2015 story about a man who got married, posted the wedding photos on Facebook, and then told his long-distance girlfriend it was a figment of her imagination. To sum up, if the gaslighter had a mantra, it would be, “If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes truth.”
Tactic #2: Gaslighters aren’t out to destroy you; they’re out to make things easier for themselves.
Unlike in the movie, most gaslighters aren’t pursuing anything as concrete as a treasure chest of jewels. What they want is more psychological. The gaslighter wants control of the target on a specific set of terms, with the gaslighter in charge. For the same reason, gaslighting isn’t always conscious. Indeed, gaslighters don’t sit around stroking their goatees or petting a white cat while plotting to undermine your sanity. Instead, gaslighting comes from the need—conscious or unconscious—to control. Gaslighters work to undermine you so you can’t challenge them. Then the relationship can go the way they want. They get to have their cake and eat it, too, without the inconvenience of having to discuss things, compromise, or work together.
Tactic #3: Gaslighting is often fueled by sexism.
Of course, gaslighting can be used by anyone against anyone—it’s not always gendered. But it’s often used as a form of emotional abuse against women. It “works” in part because it feeds off sexist stereotypes of women as crazy, jealous, emotional, weak, or incapable. For example, in an excellent 2014 paper published in Philosophical Perspectives, Dr Kate Abramson of Indiana University details a story where a female grad student discovers the male grad students have made a list ranking the female grad students by attractiveness. When she expresses that such a list is inappropriate, she is told she’s overly sensitive, that she’s policing innocent conversation among male friends, and really she’s just insecure about her ranking on the list, isn’t she? By not allowing their sexist behaviour to continue unchecked, the male students suggest she is acting like the stereotypical “crazy woman.”
What just happened there? If a woman rings the alarm on sexist behaviour, gaslighters use sexist stereotypes to undermine the woman’s complaints. Instead of taking her seriously, each of her complaints might be refuted as a silly misinterpretation or dismissed as her being too sensitive. In this way, the sexist stereotypes are used to reinforce themselves—an uninterrupted pattern of circular logic: “See, she’s just another insecure, overly emotional woman we don’t have to listen to.”
Tactic #4: Gaslighters make disagreement impossible.
Once you are discredited, any argument you may have is casually written off. When credibility is undermined — you’re crazy, a liar, unstable, a failure, or have lost your mind—anything you say is automatically suspect and builds the case against you. Therefore, you can’t disagree or protest. And the louder your objections, the more your gaslighter can smile smugly and say, “See, I told you so.”
Tactic #5: Gaslighters make you agree with their point of view.
Gaslighters need the world to conform to their standards. And they need the very individuals they gaslight to agree with them. Therefore, it’s not enough for gaslighters, for example, to insist that sexual harassers were just having a little fun. They need the target of the harassment to agree that it was all just a little fun. Ideally, the target would not only agree but also believe that she deserved to be undermined because she was being crazy, overly sensitive, or imagining things. Now, refusing to witness or substantiate your reality is invalidation. But gaslighting means getting you, the target, to invalidate yourself as well. Not only does no one take you seriously, you wonder if you can take your own experience seriously: your common sense, your feelings, your memory, even what you’ve seen before your very eyes. In other words, gaslighting not only invalidates your experience, it also makes you question your capacity to trust your experience in the first place. At this stage, your gaslighter has you right where they want you: beginning to doubt yourself and your ideas even when they’re not there to continue enforcing the message.
As for Ingrid Bergman as Paula, she is validated in the end and Gregory is arrested, but not before she dishes out some gaslighting revenge of her own as he sits tied to a chair. In a final attempt to manipulate her, Gregory tells her to get a knife and cut him free, but as she pulls his knife from a drawer she proclaims, “There is no knife here; you must have dreamed you put it here,” before tossing it away and quipping, “I am always losing things.”
Whether in Hollywood or your own household, gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse. Isolation is a key ingredient to gaslighting, so if this article spoke to you, reach out. Having just one person validate your experience can be a lifeline that begins the process of reeling yourself in from all the lies to believing your own truth again.
Also don’t forget the tactic of ghosting. This is done to ignore anything you write to a NHS Trust that hits the mark. If I get ghosted I know I am on the something. I have never felt gaslighted because deep down I have always known that I was right such was my conviction. My previous NHS experience also meant that I could get one step ahead of the Trust and PHSO because I had the knowledge they didn’t and knew the processes that should be followed. This meant that I knew the clinical guidelines needed to prove my case, the relevant legislation plus the Trust policies and procedures that should be followed. In other words I became a nightmare for the Trust and PHSO to deal with by always going back to them, holding them to account and wearing them down.
Well done caroline but it shouldn’t have to be this way. Why are we fighting a system which is meant to protect us?
“Wirral in it together “. Well done. I am hopefully following your example. I used to call it “buck passing” but now prefer the term “gaslighting” I assume this is similar to “moonlighting ”
In my fourth year of my efforts and still going.
Oh yes! Gaslighting! Brilliant discussion here and an essential read for anyone having dealings with the PHSO or wanting to learn of their dangerous and harmful methods. This is exactly what their system is and no doubt ‘effective gaslighting’ courses are top of the list for PHSO staff training. These are the tactics as described here without doubt, done methodically, bit by bit to cause confusion and frustration, thus sending you in circles. Anything they can do to weaken and undermine the complainant and take control for themselves. This is very scary stuff especially for anyone managing it alone. The support of a group and getting the truth out of what happens at the PHSO is essential. Excellent descriptions.
Reblogged this on Wirral In It Together and commented:
Been there. Twice. Thought I was losing my mind. I wasn’t. Just gaslit. Lost my career twice. Two separate sets of bogus “gross misconduct charges”. Both employers concluding “You are out of step with the rest of the team”. This was true. Everyone else was anxious, compliant, scared, exactly where they wanted them. Some “team”, eh? September 2019 will be the ten-year anniversary of my most recent victory at Cheshire West Council. Both sets of dreamt-up charges collapsed, in 2003 and 2009. Gaslighter Simon Goacher, the Monitoring Officer, met more than his match and banned me from making Freedom of Information and personal data requests, stripping away my statutory rights for 20 months – it is still possible to do this under threats and coercion. Hugh Tomlinson QC smacked his backside and got them restored. I wiped the floor with the “team” of ‘respectable’ directors and gaslighters and retired on my 50th birthday. You can win, with knowledge, support, care, friends and a determination to win justice.
Well done to you for holding out against them. They don’t make it easy. The more we share the truth on social media the more people realise the scale of the corruption.
Funnily enough our recent request for a PHSO review of their decision included concerns about gaslighting… What was even more interesting was the PHSO had used the authority of clinical advice to hide behind. But why ever would an independent ombudsman seek clinical advice on matters that were not clinical? Tbh professional gaslighting is now so common that everyone sees through the tactics used: deflect, deny, defend. It’ll be interesting to see the response we get 🤔
Brilliant comparison.. My experience with NHS Trusts a G.P. Practice AND the PHSO is exactly as described.
With permission I shall print off this article and use in in my next evidence bundle.
Keep going. !
Excerpt which spoke to me: ” Gaslighters work to undermine you so you can’t challenge them. Then the relationship can go the way they want. They get to have their cake and eat it, too, without the inconvenience of having to discuss things, compromise, or work together”.
Which speaks to you?
Sadly, looks like quite a few “Gaslighters”around particularly at PHSO, Thanks for wonderful description Della,a wonderful piece.
I feel that I have been gaslighted for the past four years. Each time we get close to a resolution in my favour, the public body is permitted to come up with a new objection to the provisional report, which, no matter how unreasonable, results in the PHSO spending another year or so considering it until the next objection is made. And so it goes on. So far, despite issuing four provisional reports in my favour, there is still no sign of any final resolution. To give the public body so much control in a process that sells itself as even-handed is abuse.
Corruption appears to have tentacles in every public body, and this gas lighting is a serious detriment to those who stand alone, even when there are others who can verify your very visible claims of wrong doing justice still is ignored. ‘When honesty and justice are denied there is no recovery for the victim’.
A wonderful description of the PHSO journey. Once beckoned and take up their sly invitation, then find it is all for ‘them’ not for a complainant or in any way to improve matters for progress and transparency etc. Complainants merely keep receiving the tired old recycled stuff regularly spewed. That is why I particularly love the theme of Tactic #2 – although it has an element of destruction and does its best to destory the truth, with a goal of making it easier for themselves. Although there are times when you wonder if the antics have become an addictive and unecessary habit. It really cannot be all that easy to keep up the twisted stories (pr).
A refreshing, humourous piece, easily understood and conveyed with memorable humour.
This would make a great and fitting Forward for a book on the subject… and I wonder if a forward-thinking university would then like to publish (Fforward pun intended 🙂
This little gem of a read epitomizes the struggle I experience when I am trying to explain about Killings in the NHS for Organs …The Govt s smear Campaigns have been stepped up…
I’m not going mad, but ‘they’ would like me to think I am…..If I am going mad, what services are available for my mental health? we know….none.
Excellent description of this abuse