Many times in my office I hear this from women “My boyfriend/husband is/was gaslighting me.” I will respond by saying “So, he was trying to make you believe something that didn’t really happen?” Often times they will say “Well, no.” Sometimes they have looked this up and are very clear what it means. The term Gaslighting originated from the 1944 film “Gaslight,” starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer. In this film, the husband (who would actually be diagnosed with Anti-Social Personality Disorder) is trying to make his wife believe she is going insane. For purposes of the title, he “goes out” for the day/evening, though he is actually going into the attic and he dims the light switches in his wife’s bedroom, so that only she sees this and not the housekeepers. He also moves pictures on the wall, hides a watch that he gives to his wife, many, many other things. This is Gaslighting. Making someone believe something happened that did not. It could be the statement of a pathological liar, in which case this is a reality they believe, or it could be like Charles Boyer’s character where he is purposely setting up the stage to torment his victim.
Personally and professionally, I have dealt with narcissistic men in relationships, as family members, as clients, and in business. I like to study patterns that I see that continue to appear over and over again, as a psychotherapist and began to reflect on this when it came to the narcissist specifically; for this post. This is not research, just an observation that I have seen, heard, learned of. I do not work with the narcissist (except when they are part of one of my couples), so I often hear it from the partner. If I am working with a couple, I am able to listen to them when I do a family history and glean more from them with the questions I ask. You have read many articles on line, most likely, about the narcissistic relationship to the wife/girlfriend. This article is going in a different direction.
Disclaimer: As we are two humble therapists, all discussion you see between us in the video/podcast is based on our training and education, therapeutic work in our practices, and thoughtful opinions formed over our years of working with the population we discuss. We are not the last word in this discussion, and we commit to providing ongoing resources beyond ourselves to enlarge your understanding of this complex subject. Thank you for viewing and we hope this will be helpful in your recovery process.
Over forty years ago, hundreds of people went to their death in a country called Guyana. Back in 1978, I was a teenage girl in high school and two years later wrote my first paper on the topic of “Religious Cults” which would transform my life. On May of
FILE – This Jan. 1976 photo shows the Rev. Jim Jones, pastor of Peoples Temple in San Francisco. Dozens of Peoples Temple members in Guyana survived the mass suicides and murders of more than 900 because they had slipped out of Jonestown or happened to be away Nov. 18, 1978. Those raised in the temple or who joined as teens lost the only life they knew. (AP Photo/File)
2011, I published “The Child of the Narcissist,” on my blog post and began working with survivors of narcissism in my practice. There are different phases that I see. One is the denial phase which is when the person has not yet let the person go. Second, is the acceptance phase which is when they are in realization stage and feel angry, frustrated, duped, taken, had, and wonder “How could I have been so stupid?” Or the child of a narcissist will say “Can they be helped?,” or “Am I destined to become this way?” Thirdly, I see the healing stage when they begin to set boundaries and take back their power and their life. The third stage is a place that they will be in the rest of their life because you must always be conscious, mindful and awake when you meet someone that seems to have certain qualities.
The people of Jonestown are no different than a woman who meets up with some guy who is playing her. People who fall for a narcissistic type are vulnerable, desperate and yearn to be loved and accepted. These type of people (parents are a different category because you aren’t choosing them, though this could be argued from a metaphysical perspective), are very aware of their power over men and women. They have learned – from the cradle – that they are entitled in some way. This can be from a self-imposed entitlement to protect themselves (by self-soothing) or an entitlement given to them by a parent. I have known and learned of parents who say their child is perfect and will do whatever it takes to protect them. This takes away from a child learning when they make a mistake. It takes away from a child growing and evolving over time. A friend’s father was a criminal attorney in Los Angeles and he once told me that mother’s would take second mortgages out on their homes, sell their cars, jewelry, whatever assets they could give up to pay his fees and get their kids off. When I watched the movie “Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones,” I remember noting that he was engaged in animal cruelty as a boy.