What Is Gaslighting?!
Gaslighting is highly destructive behavior that impacts most loved ones
of gambling addicts. While you may never have heard of this
term, once you understand what it is, it's highly likely that you'll
recognize that you've been a victim.
What is Gaslighting?
It's actually a form of emotional and psychological abuse that involves
the addict presenting false information, half truths, or outright
lies. For the most part they tend not to be outrageous, but
actually quite believable. Also, it's
important to note that the loved one (typically the spouse) really
wants to believe the stories they're being told. We love
them, and truly don't want to believe that our spouse would lie and
deceive us, so we're abnormally receptive to being convinced.
But gaslighting is more than being lied to or deceived. They
make us doubt ourselves, and our own perception of reality.
They may even literally tell us that we're so mistaken that we should
seek counseling because our perception is off! Over time
we end up doubting our perceptions, our memories, our overall judgment,
and even our own sanity. Keep in mind that this happens even
to those of us who are overall very competent and emotionally stable
Had I read about this before it ever happening to me, there's no way
that I would ever think it could happen to me. I'm far from
perfect when it comes to remembering things, and I know my perception
can differ from what reality actually is; however, I'm pretty damn
emotionally stable, and good and keeping things in my environment in
perspective. That said, the emotional abuse is a gradual such
that you don't see coming until it hits you.
I read an interesting analogy that involves boiling a frog in a
pot. The water heats up so slowing that the frog doesn't
realize that it's approaching its death until the last
second. In that sense, gaslighting is a slow process that can
easily happen to the best of us even when we become educated about
it. It truly is unbelievable!
For me, it got so bad that I literally told myself to take on the
default assumption that everything I did, said, and recalled was likely
wrong, and to believe everything that I was being told. You
can see how dangerous that can become, particularly when dealing with a
loved one who is pro-actively deceiving you! Another aspect
to keep in mind is that gambling addicts in particular tend to be
highly intelligent. These are not dumb people who do dumb
things. These are very capable, highly intelligent people,
and they use that to support the lies and deception. When you
think about it, you really have to be sharp to keep track of the web of
lies to remember all the Peters they stole from to pay Paul, and to
recall who you told what lies to.
What Can You Do About It?
Now that you know about gaslighting, you're already light years
This awareness will not prevent it from happening, but will definitely
provide a means to help protect yourself, and to start the recovery
process. We often don't have a trusted adviser (whether
friend or therapist) with whom we can describe in detail what's been
going on. That would be a fantastic means of helping to
reduce the self doubt by having someone who can tell us that we're
recalling correctly, or that our thoughts and actions are natural and
logical. Assuming the lack of such support, what I did to
help myself was to change my default way of thinking. What I
mean by that is that I trained myself to assume that everything I
and recalled was correct, and that my loved one was mostly likely
me. I suspended disbelief in myself, and reassured myself
that I was not crazy, and that I was being deceived.
Doing this doesn't feel natural, for as mature, well-adjusted
know that we're not perfect, and that our perceptions can be wrong, and
we can make mistakes remembering things. However, I was so
emotionally distraught that I became incapable of deciphering the truth
from the subtle lies and manipulations. This swing to the
other extreme, where I had to tell myself that I was always right,
enabled me to regain my self-control. The degree of my
emotional breakdown had led me to have migraines. And to put
that in context, I had NEVER previously had a migraine, and rarely even
got headaches unless I was very sick. I later learned that
the emotional and intellectual stress that I was under was the cause of
my migraines. These quickly dissipated once I came to the
understanding that I was not crazy!
All that said, I truly believe that the only long term solution is to
get therapy for yourself. Whether or not the addict in your
life gets therapy, comes to understand their addiction, and commits to
the recovery process, or whether or not you stay together or part ways,
you NEED to get therapy to regain your sanity, as this type of
emotional abuse is likely to linger even long after you escape the
throws of the addict or relationship.
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