Those are the words that My Cookie said to me when I was finished explaining the situation.
“Dude! You know what that is, don’t you? It’s Gas Lighting,” Cookie said to me.
“What the hell is Gas Lighting?” I ask.
“The term comes from an old movie starring Ingrid Bergman …” and as My RE(tard) went on, I listened and all of a sudden, I realized, HOLY HELL. My Cookie was right.
Okay, so what is Gas Lighting, you may ask just as I did? Let me give you the Wikipedia response to that:
From the film’s title, “gaslighting” has come to describe a pattern of psychological abuse in which the victim is gradually manipulated into doubting his or her own reality. This can involve physical tactics (such as moving or hiding objects) or emotional ones (such as denying one’s own abusive behavior to a victim.) The effect is to maintain the abuser’s self-image as a sympathetic person, while simultaneously priming the disoriented victim to believe that he or she is to blame for (potentially escalating) mistreatment.
Yep, I was Gas Lighted.
It is hard for me to say I was psychologically abused, because I honestly do feel uncomfortable saying that. I can say however, quite comfortably, that I was led to doubt my own reality. That I was led to believe that this other person was sympathetic to my needs, while having me believe I was to blame. Never once did this person say my feelings were real or give any validity to them. Instead, I was told I was to blame and was never given an apology. And that my friends, is a classic case of Gas Lighting. Yep, My Cookie made a damn good point.
And now that I see the action for what it really is, I’m amazed at just how much it actually happens in real life. How someone can make you doubt your own reality, to see their actions as heartfelt and sympathetic when really, it’s simply a way of denying their own guilt at the reality. It dawned on me though that the problem is, gaslighting is crafty. It plays on our fears, our anxiety, our wishes to be understood, appreciated, and loved. When someone we trust, respect, or love speaks with great certainty – especially if there’s a grain of truth in her words, or if she’s hit on one of our pet anxieties – it can be very difficult not to believe her.
So it was hard for me to admit to myself, truly, that I wasn’t to blame. Yet when I did, I stopped all of the what if’s and the doubt. That my feelings were valid and that her actions were disheartening.
I think though, more importantly, is that now that I recognized what Gas Lighting truly is, I can stop doing this myself.
Yep, thanks to My Cookie, maybe today I am a QT with a two car vagina that is just a bit smarter.
[Theatrical poster courtesy of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaslight_(1944_film)]