Updated: Dec 5, 2019
Gaslighting can merge two unlike worlds of mental reality/deception like a Venn Diagram intertwining the center parts so tight that it squeezes the sanity out of your head. (simile) Ha. It is one of the narcissist's favorite tricks. I was made aware of gaslighting in 2016 when the documentary I was producing kept unraveling each day like a Dateline episode, BUT with no murders. It was very exciting, but peculiar to be in the real time-ness of it all. My documentary was about a man with a psychopathic spouse whose story was being completed in front of our eyes.
Gaslight is used as an expression, or as the psychological term gaslighting, which describes a form of psychological abuse in which the victim is gradually manipulated into doubting his or her own sanity. It was written into a play, then film in 1944.
For our documentary, we flew in an astute and highly educated author, I'll can Dr. Breen (not actual name), who had written many books on the subject of gaslighting, He consulted for us on our documentary, and we would use his expert commentary on camera. Dr. Breen challenged us and asked if we ever had a situation where we felt as if we were losing our minds, because it felt as if reality changed daily and no one could validate these changes.
Example: Every night before Sally goes to sleep, she removes her watch and charges her cell phone at her bedside. Each day Sally wakes up to find her watch gone and cell phone uncharged. When she shares this information with others who know her, they tell her that she never wore a watch, and that she always told people how watches gave her wrist a rash, and that Sally never ever even owned a cell phone. When she looks for her cell phone, it's gone. At first Sally just laughs at the prank, but then more and more things happen, day by day things disappear, change, are altered, etc., and the evil people who "know" Sally, continue to contradict her reality, eventually challenging Sally's sanity. -gaslighting
Back to the documentary: As I produced this documentary, someone began gaslighting me.
One day I had been invited to attend a cocktail party in the town in which we were shooting. It was hosted by the town's mayor. Mayor Campos, six or so town-council members as well as local bankers and attorneys attended and a good time was had. People were friendly and enjoyed a relaxing after work get-together. I was told of the several celebrities, and producers who had also come to this small town. I was impressed. Mayor Campos was a man of large girth and kind of waddled when he walked. Our conversation was casual, yet I was graciously complimented for my work which I felt was odd, because I knew Mayor Campos had not seen my work. Other conversations were mostly non-work related.
Before the night was through, I was asked by several town's leaders to see if I was interested in doing future work with my production company. Some of the media work was chamber of commerce and promotional in nature, and some was building a business plan for a future media production business project. I was amazed how interested these people were with me, and the work I did than I had anticipated. I was given a business card by chamber president Jim Anderson and told to stop by the chamber office the next morning at 9AM. The cocktail party broke up around 8PM. On the way to my rental car, Jim called out from across the small community street, telling me not to forget to come by his office tomorrow at 9AM because he had other meetings from 9:30-noon tomorrow. I thanked the mayor for inviting me. I recall that Mayor Campos laughed heartily and told me to come back next week, because this group met socially every Thursday evening. Before falling asleep, I made sure to set my alarm early, get up and prepare for the next day's meeting.
The next day, I arrived 5 minutes early at village hall. As I entered, I told the receptionist my name, and that I was had a 9AM meeting with Mr. Anderson. Within minutes, there was Jim entering the doorway.
I greeted, "Hi JIm. Good morning. Great get-together last night"
Jim just looked at me and looked puzzled. He set his coat and briefcase on the floor. Jim told me that he hadn't attended a cocktail party the night prior, and he hadn't met me before. I thought he was kidding or perhaps he had too much alcohol at the party, or maybe he even had a twin. To know me, is to know that I asked him ALL 3 of those scenarios. He told the receptionist to call security if I didn't leave. He told me he was busy. I didn't cause a fuss, but left his office confused. Once in the hallway I saw Mayor Campos reading a memo posted in the hallway, just two doors down. I greeted Mayor Campos and told him that I was sorry I hadn't remembered his first name, but thanked him for his graciousness at last night's get-together. Mayor Campos' face became sober and tight. He asked if I was there for the consultation bid on the town's bridge rebuild. I told him that was not why I was at city hall. He squinted as he told me that he did not have a get-together last night or ever. He told me that he did not like to hob nob with the people in town.
"Too gossipy!" he exclaimed. He told me that a lot of people probably look like him.
I said, "Mayor Campos, I met you at your house last evening. YOU and I talked quite awhile about editing and writing. It WAS you. ... Here in THIS TOWN. Jim from the Chamber was there too!"
Mayor Campos sort of dismissively smiled at me, and he waddled away & entered his office.
Initially I was somewhat spooked, Later in the week, I made two more phone calls to Jim, I even gave him an out and told him that it was okay if they did not care to do business with me, but to please tell me that this cocktail party actually happened. Immediately, I knew that I should not have said that. Why? This was because I was very aware of my sanity, and I felt as if I just gave him permission to say, "I don't know who you are, but you must be losing your mind."
I never believed or fell for it this odd experience. It was gaslighting pure and simple. I had come from the world of in the classroom education, where students and other teachers would challenge your reality with humorous pranks, or just non-truths daily for fun. I was now managing production of this shoot, payroll and keeping a crew of five running & on-schedule filming our documentary in town. I knew that I might have been work weary, but not delusional. Plus, I would never endanger or do anything hinky in a town in which I am producing a media product. It is bad business. If anything, I always try and make lemonade out of lemons and cast a positive shadow.
We completed our work in town and flew out, still very confused. I daydreamed about producing another new documentary or at least finding an interested news reporter to do a segment aimed at the gaslighting leaders in this town. I was never able to consult our expert on gaslighting. He fell ill and was in bed for most of his time in town.
Until today, I had only shared this true story with just two other people. One friend who is a psychologist guessed that this might just be a common accepted behavior of the leaders of this small town, kind of like a psychotic game. If they all do it often enough, it becomes a normal act, or a game like situation. So, we have Narcissists playing games.
Odd. Gaslighting....Just plain odd.
Arriving at the cocktail party...little did I know what was waiting for me. Narcissists playing games.
Listen here: Blustering Browbeating Bully Boy on Life's Learning Curve podcast
-My old friend. . . Won't you think about me every now and then.?