Emotional Abuse|Family Gaslighting
First, I'd like to express my gratitude to the Millennial generation for promoting awareness of this expressively named form of aggressive control. The expression "Gaslighting" refers to an emotional abuse where one or more person gradually invalidates and undermines another's perception of the world by asserting that the victim's understanding of any particular situation is irrational, delusional and does not align with reality.
Named after the 1944 film starring Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman, the term "gaslighting" refers to the slow undermining of the victim's sanity through gradual manipulation involving, but not limited to, lying, denial and confusion with the aim of persuading the victim that they are delusional.
Millennials generally recognise this form of emotionally abusive coercion as happening in their romantic relationships. However, gaslighting is a domination tool being used within families up and down the country - quietly, unnoticed and unexplored, resulting in mental health issues in children, young people and adults throughout their lives.
Emotional Abuse: Gaslighting Example
Imagine a family where one young child - let's call her "Jane" for the purposes of this example - sees, hears and/or experiences something out of the ordinary at the hands of her mother. Jane is confused enough by this behaviour that she mentions it to her father. Jane's father, alarmed, questions his wife about it.
Jane's mother denies it ever happened and perhaps begins right then to assert that Jane "made the whole thing up", perhaps even going so far as to add "you know what she's like".
Jane's father accepts this, since Jane is only 7 or 8 years old, a time when children are exploring their imaginations and are often making up stories to amuse themselves and their friends.
However, Jane's father doesn't forget, but files the incident in the back of his mind, as parents do, under quirky behaviour that might be a useful funny story for later at a dinner party.
A few months later, Jane again comes to her father with something confusing she observed in relation to her mother. The mother again denies it, adding "you know what her memory's like".
As the years pass, these incidents become more frequent, now being raised at the dinner table perhaps, in front of all the family. The mother's reaction to them is mockery and disdain. Slowly but surely Jane's siblings and father are trained to treat Jane's memory as unreliable, even delusional.
Jane's father accepts his wife's denials, laughs, joins in with the mockery ... and the children follow suit.
Under these circumstances, Jane grows into adulthood in a world where she is never believed about anything.
Childhood Emotional Abuse Affects All Relationships
Jane's relationship with her mother becomes increasingly dysfunctional. Jane develops a progressive dependence on her mother's version of reality, while at the same time becoming more and more angry.
Jane is now dependent on her mother telling her what is real as a result of the mother being the one who is believed.
Of course, Jane marries a man who behaves in a controlling and emotionally abusive manner towards her. Of course no one believes her when she tells them about it.
Emotional Abuse by Gaslighting Affects Lifelong Mental Health
Her mental health is now a major issue. She is institutionalised several times ... and when she is not institutionalised, she is heavily medicated.
Now, having been gaslighted all her life, Jane really is delusional - unable to discriminate between what is real and what is not.
Her husband divorces her. No one is surprised - instead they are sympathetic. How could anyone be expected put up with all that?
The Evil That Men (Or In This Case Women) Do Lives After Them ... (with apologies to Shakespeare)
Even after Jane's mother has died the effects of emotional abuse linger.
Jane - not to mention her children - still live with the consequences of her mother's gaslighting. The death of the perpetrator does not magically break the spell, particularly when siblings are still living the perpetrator's training.
It should be noted that the reality of Jane's siblings has also been affected by their mother's behaviour, particularly with respect to their relationship with their sister.
Overcoming Emotional Abuse
Would it be too late for Jane, now approaching her 70s? I don't think so. In the hands of a trained practitioner, skilled in both psychotherapy and EFT, the layers of emotional abuse by gaslighting can be peeled off to reveal the excited and creative child. But, in extreme cases like these, it's a long process and requires the most delicate of touches
Fiona is knowledgeable, good-humoured, strong and kind. She approaches her work with great sincerity and integrity, and she definitely produces good results. I would certainly recommend her.
Jason HandbyOwner, Corestar Ltd and Computer Software Consultant
You can find some of my published case studies here:
- PTSD relief after witnessing an underground train suicide
- Pre-birth work to ameliorate dyslexia
- Lingering back pain
Have you ever been on the receiving end of this type of emotional abuse? How are you doing - let us know in the comments below.
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