Gaslighting: Messin` with your mind/Victims and Survivors of Psychopaths

Posted on August 1, 2011


Victims and Survivors of Psychopaths

from victim to survivor

Gas lighting: Messin’ with your mind

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 Gas lighting is written about in Women Who Love Psychopaths:  Inside the Relationships of Inevitable Harm.   J. Reid Meloy writes about it in The Psychology of Stalking:  Clinical and Forensic Perspectives.  The term “gas light” comes from the 1944 movie Gaslight, in which a gold-digger sweeps a woman off her feet, marries her, then deliberately sets about making his new wife and other people doubt her sanity.

Gas lighting is a form of psychological warfare that is deliberate and progressive in nature.  Gas lighters first start with subtle psychological warfare to diminish the victims self-confidence, to upset their sense of reality, and to make them doubt themselves.  They want to break the victim down a bit before engaging in more direct attacks, so the victim is in a weakened state and will be less likely to figure out what is going on and take action to protect themselves.

Occasionally you may mention something the psychopath has said and he may deny ever having said it.  Perhaps you can’t find your purse, and the psychopath helps you look for it.  Finally it is located in the refrigerator.  He laughs and gives you an affectionate hug,  telling you that you just must be stressed.  A week or two later you’re hunting your car keys that you are positive you left on your computer desk because that is where you always leave them.  After searching for an eternity, you finally find them still in the car ignition.  Dear God, the psychopath says, someone could have stolen the car right out of the driveway due to your carelessness and forgetfulness!  You scratch your head and begin to think Hhhmn, maybe my memory is slipping.  It must be you, right?  Because who would ever suspect someone who professes to love you is deliberately doing these things to you?  But psychopaths are masters at gas lighting.

Gas lighting is written about in Women Who Love Psychopaths:  Inside the Relationships of Inevitable Harm.  The authors, Sandra L. Brown, M.A. and Liane J. Leedom, M.D.,  say the psychopath will do all sorts of devious things to try to make the victim think they are mentally deficient or having a nervous breakdown, and that the psychopath enjoys the process of inflicting psychological damage.

J. Reid Meloy writes about it in The Psychology of Stalking:  Clinical and Forensic Perspectives, giving an example of a 70 year old man stalking his 71 year old girlfriend.  One of the things this man did was to gas light his girlfriend by sneaking into her backyard in the middle of the night to rearrange her patio furniture.  Meloy also asks the reader to imagine the frustration of a victim of gas lighting trying to convince the police that a perpetrator broke into her home, yet did nothing more than move the candlesticks to the bathroom.

Eleanor White has written a review of a book by Victor Santoro:  Gas lighting:  How to Drive Your Enemies Crazy.  In the review she points out that the harassment techniques are both subtle and devious and indicates stalking victims will immediately recognize the techniques.  Some of the techniques in the book talk about how to cause disorientation in the victim by sneaking into their home and subtly moving items around, or stealing an item then putting it back at a later date.  There is advice on starting a whispering campaign against the target, so multiple people help damage the target’s reputation.  There are also techniques in the book designed to alienate the target from family members, friends, neighbors, employers, etc. and to make them doubt the target’s sanity.  Here are a few chapter titles from the book:

Gas lighting Philosophy

Causing Disorientation

Building Paranoia

Destroying Your Target’s Reputation

Provoking Confrontations

This is nasty stuff and the psychopath does not need a book to go by, as he is a natural at it.

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