Gaslighting: What Does This Look Like?

Now your just somebody that I used to know.

Gotye (A song about a narcissistic partner)

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.

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Corridor of Mirrors: Portrait of a Covert Narcissist

Last night, I watched a 1948 British classic, “Corridor of Mirrors.” I started by looking on Kanopy, at various films and kept seeing “psychological” thriller or mental health issues and I said to myself “not in the mood for psychology tonight.” Then I see this film and it says it is about a man who thinks this woman is his reincarnated lover from 400 years ago. Sounded intriguing to me and I set about to watch it. The sound was horrible and I had to re-start it three times and finally, put on closed captioning so I knew what they were saying. I was a little confused with the storyline in the beginning too, but kept at it. Then, we get to the character Veronica, who “is allowed” to live in the basement of the mansion. It is where the main male lead, Paul, lives in. Veronica spells out his personality, almost like she is giving the description of a covert narcissist. I thought to myself, “Oh, well now, I have to sit up straight and pay more attention to this storyline.” I just can’t get away from my specialization at the office. And, I knew this was going to be a film I would be talking up to my clients. And, it is an amazing film. It is different from Gaslight, which is focused on the title. This film, bares a lot more explanation to the average person. So, here we go.

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Preparations to be Together… A Hungarian Film

This is a Hungarian film, with a very very long name: Preparations to be Together for an Unknown Period of Time (2021). It is a film that many women can relate to. The man who isn’t who he says he is. The man who cons us into his disguise. The man who is avoidant and we take on the challenge of falling in love with him and gaining his trust and love. Then he turns into another person. He lies. We try to win him back by being persistent and devout. In the movie, this goes in an interesting direction. A very artistic path. Yes, she does get him back in the end. Only, in real life, this rarely happens.

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Transpersonal Notes: Lies, Betrayal and Forgiveness

Psalm 64:1-10

Hear me, my God, as I voice my complaint; protect my life from the threat of the enemy. Hide me from the conspiracy of the wicked, from the plots of evildoers. They sharpen their tongues like swords and aim cruel words like deadly arrows. They shoot from ambush at the innocent; they shoot suddenly, without fear. They encourage each other in evil plans, they talk about hiding their snares; they say, “Who will see it?” They plot injustice and say, “We have devised the perfect plan!” Surely the human mind and heart are cunning. But God will shoot them with his arrows; they will suddenly be struck down. He will turn their own tongues against them and bring them to ruin; all who see them will shake their heads in scorn. All people will fear; they will proclaim the works of God and ponder what he has done. The righteous will rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in him; all  the upright in heart will glory in him!

How can you read this and not recall the ending of “Dangerous Liaisons,” when Glenn Close’s character, the Marquise Isabelle de Merteuil, is being laughed at, after she walks into the opera house. The movie shows us the conclusion of her lies and deception being flaunted in her face. How often though, does this reality occur for us? What is more typical is that the real life bad guys walk away laughing at us, having felt that they have won the day and thinking they reduced us, the victim, to a piece of trash which they have now taken out with the garbage. Take your power back. Walk away with your head held high. Leave with dignity. Fighting back will make you equal to them and you are much better than this. You deserve better.

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