Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A Gaslighting Primer

What is gaslighting?

Gaslighting or gas-lighting is a form of psychological abuse in which a victim is manipulated into doubting their own memory, perception, and sanity.
The term owes its origin to the 1938 play Gas Light and has been used in clinical and research literature.

Though gaslighting is a tool often employed by abusers -- the most classic gaslighting scenario (and the first one our minds jump to) is an evil, mustache-twirling man gaslighting his naive female lover.  The truth of gaslighting is more nuanced: it can occur anywhere from anyone.  Gaslighting is a form of passive-aggressive behavior.  In order to identify it, it is useful to look at the goals of the gaslighter.  

The goal of gaslighting is to force a person who opposes the gaslighter’s will into doing what the gaslighter wants because it seems like the only way to regain order, peace, happiness, or sanity.  

Gaslighting Example A

A classic example of gaslighting is the bully of the schoolyard, office, or family party who makes a deliberately upsetting statement and then backpedals with “I was only joking.”  If the victim does not go along with the joke, the bully accuses them of having no sense of humor.  However, if the victim manages to turn the joke on the bully, for instance, replying with, “Were you born an insufferable prick or do you have to work at it?”  The bully will react by either sulking or outright violence.

Gaslighting Example B

Another form of gaslighting is to question the victim’s past, for example “Your mother must have hurt you bad for you to hate women so much.”  The gaslighter loves to reframe incidents he or she does not know the first thing about, assuming a mantle of expertise in order to appear more authoritative, and in doing so will show any number of his or her own biases.  Though the best strategy is to avoid responding, one can always return by tactfully questioning the gaslighter’s past, for instance, “Your mother must have dropped you on your head before she threw you in the dumpster with the other wannabe abortions, it would explain SO MUCH about your personality.” The ultimate gaslighting behavior is the "but the world we had before you went vegan was NORMAL and now you are RUINING it!" form of gaslighting, which is the type parents often inflict upon their children. This form also happens among groups of friends. For instance, when a person decides she is no longer going to eat, wear, or use animals, her friends and family will react by: 1. Accusing the vegan of ruining get-togethers when it is they who have made gatherings a battleground due to the presence of a few veggie hot dogs 2. Making veganism the butt of every joke, because it is just so darn unusual 3. Making trés original statements like "you can't save all the animals in the world from suffering, so why even try?" Once again, avoiding a response is highly recommended, but if you have to interact because oh I dunno, maybe you enjoy having family and friends, you must learn not to talk to them. At least sometimes. What I mean is that at some point, you have shown the people you love videos like Forks Over Knives, Earthlings, Vegucated, Blackfish, and How Not To Die; you have given them materials, cookbooks, website links, and everything it takes to make a positive change, and yet they don't. Perhaps they are still in that ugly place where they are gaslighting you in a feeble attempt to make you believe their exploitation of animals is "normal". Don't fight them. Put on a serene, beatific smile. Do nice things, be polite, be courteous. Now sit back and watch as they go bonkers trying to make you as angry as they are, trying to get that reaction that never happens. Let them give you the silent treatment. When they begin talking to you again, act like it never happened. Ask, "Are you feeling okay? I haven't heard from you in awhile." In this way, you will turn the gaslighter's portrait of you as "abnormal" or "unbalanced" into their Kryptonite... into that which they fear the most: A MIRROR. Perhaps you, with your pleasant demeanor and sweet disposition, are not the insane one after all. Could all of that cognitive dissonance be their own??? Is it possible the VEGAN IS RIGHT???

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